Progressives in Congress call for talks with Russia to reach a cease-fire in Ukraine
Today 30 members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, led by Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), called on the Biden Administration to pair support for Ukraine’s self-defense with a diplomatic effort to pursue a negotiated cease-fire in the war in Ukraine.
This represents the first concerted effort by members of Congress to call for prioritizing a peaceful, diplomatic resolution to the conflict.
The letter praises the Biden Administration’s policy of supporting Ukraine’s self-defense while simultaneously avoiding direct U.S. military engagement with Russia. The signers say that this policy should be combined with “vigorous diplomatic efforts in support of a negotiated settlement and ceasefire” through “direct talks with Russia,” and that the conditions for such a cease-fire should include security guarantees to protect a “free and independent” Ukraine.
The letter comes against a backdrop of increasing warnings of potentially disastrous escalation resulting from a prolonged conflict. President Biden has stated that the world is closer to nuclear catastrophe than at any point since the Cuban Missile Crisis 60 years ago. Retired Admiral Mike Mullen, the former chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, recently called for negotiations and remarked that Russian President Vladimir Putin is a “cornered animal” and that the U.S. should “do everything we possibly can to try to get to the table to resolve this thing.”
While Ukraine appears to have enjoyed recent successes on the battlefield, Russia has committed to mobilizing three hundred thousand additional troops, more than doubling the combat power committed to the conflict. It has also escalated its attacks on Ukrainian civilian and energy infrastructure. This increase in the intensity of the war, and the availability of resources for further escalation, make any near-term prospects for a decisive military victory by either side very doubtful.
Indeed, administration officials have recently indicated to reporters that neither Russia nor Ukraine is capable of winning the war outright. This implies that the only alternative to diplomacy is an indefinite war of attrition.
The letter also arrives at a charged time in the domestic political debate on Ukraine. House minority leader Kevin McCarthy and Republican Senator Marco Rubio have recently stated that Ukraine should not continue to receive a “blank check” from Congress if Republicans take power in the upcoming midterm elections. This has led some current members of Congress to advocate for a massive $50 billion package during the lame duck session, before any new members of Congress take office. Opening a diplomatic track to pursue a cease-fire could offer an alternative to the “blank check” opposed by some in Washington while still seeking terms that protect Ukrainian independence and security.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov recently said that Russia is open to negotiations but has received no serious offers. However, the U.S. rejected this statement as “posturing,” and there is no question that the two sides would begin negotiations with a great distance to bridge.
Acknowledging this reality, the CPC letter states that signers are “under no illusions regarding the difficulties involved in engaging Russia given its outrageous and illegal invasion of Ukraine,” but that negotiations in pursuit of an acceptable framework for peace are nevertheless preferable to continued war and devastation.