Progressive Democrats in Congress slammed over letter calling for US-Russia talks over Ukraine

The letter calling for US-Russia talks over Ukraine was widely condemned

Andrew Feinberg
Tuesday 25 October 2022 16:26 BST
Ukrainians queue for water after Russians cut off city's main supply

A group of 30 members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus has had to quickly retreat after a letter calling for direct US-Russia talks to resolve the war in Ukraine touched off a firestorm of criticism.

In the 24 October letter to President Joe Biden, the 30 signatories – including CPC chair Pramilla Jayapal of Washington, former CPC chairs Mark Pocan of Wisconsin and Barbara Lee of California, Democratic “squad” members Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Cori Bush, and other high-profile progressives such as Maryland Representative Jamie Raskin – called for the US to mount a “proactive diplomatic push, redoubling efforts to seek a realistic framework for a cease fire” as a condition of future military support for Ukraine.

The letter lays out a series of concerns, chief among them the fact that the US has not maintained a bilateral dialogue with Moscow as part of efforts to bring the war to a close. The lawmakers relayed these concerns to Mr Biden despite months of statements from the administration stressing that the US would not engage in direct talks without participation from Ukrainian officials.

A Ukrainian journalist, Anastasia Lapitina, took to Twitter on Monday to slam the letter, writing that the signatories seem not to understand that Russian “operates on a completely different set of assumptions about the world and this war” than the progressives who spearheaded the missive to Mr Biden.

“They [Russia] have never accepted our independence, and they won't start now. Our subjugation is their fundamental goal. Diplomacy will not change that,” she wrote.

A former commanding general of US forces in Europe, Mark Hertling, wrote in agreement: “These 30 [members of Congress] are exceedingly naive about this crucial point”.

The backlash against the letter was sufficiently intense that Ms Jayapal was forced to issue a statement to “reaffirm” the progressive caucus’ support for Ukraine just five hours after the letter became public.

“Let me be clear: we are united as Democrats in our unequivocal commitment to supporting Ukraine in their fight for their democracy and freedom in the face of the illegal and outrageous Russian invasion, and nothing in the letter advocates for a change in that support,” she wrote.

She added that the progressive caucus continues to support the Biden administration’s policy of “nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine”.

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