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Group of Democrats call for direct US-Russia talks

While the party has been unanimous in arming Kiev, a small caucus now wants President Biden to pursue negotiationsGroup of Democrats call for direct US-Russia talks

Group of Democrats call for direct US-Russia talks

FILE PHOTO: Joe Biden speaks on the phone during an Oregon Democrats event at in Portland, Oregon, October 14, 2022 ©  AFP / Saul Loeb

Some 30 Democratic representatives in Washington have urged President Joe Biden to pursue diplomatic means of ending the conflict in Ukraine, including “direct talks with Russia.” However, the Democratic Party leadership is still set on arming Kiev for the long haul.

In a letter to the White House on Monday, Congressional Progressive Caucus chair Pramila Jayapal (Washington) cited the “destruction” of Ukraine, the threat of nuclear war, and the economic turmoil visited upon Europe as reasons to pursue a negotiated settlement.

While the ultimate decision on when to return to the negotiating table remains Ukraine’s, Jayapal added, the fact that the US has poured tens of billions of dollars into keeping Kiev afloat “creates a responsibility for the United States to seriously explore all possible avenues, including direct engagement with Russia, to reduce harm and support Ukraine in achieving a peaceful settlement.”

The letter concluded by again urging Biden to open “direct talks with Russia,” without suggesting what kind of compromises the lawmakers think Ukraine should make for peace.

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Among the letter’s signatories were prominent progressives Ro Khanna (Pennsylvania), Ilhan Omar (Minnesota), and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (New York). 

The Biden administration has to date allocated upwards of $60 billion in military and economic aid to Kiev since February, and Congress is likely to pass another $50 billion aid package before January. Democrats in the House and the Senate unanimously voted in favor of a $40 billion assistance package in May, but Jayapal’s letter suggests that Biden may now face opposition on his Ukraine policy from the left, as well as from the vocal minority of Republicans who voted against the $40 billion aid tranche.

However, Biden himself has vowed to keep the arms spigot open “for as long as it takes,” and has declared that Ukraine will decide its own terms for peace. Democratic leadership is in lockstep, with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi telling a pro-Ukraine summit in Croatia on Monday that the US’ “support for Ukraine is bipartisan” and “will not stop.”

Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky has also promised not to negotiate with Russia as long as Russian President Vladimir Putin is in power, and has vowed to seize the four regions that recently joined the Russian Federation, as well as Crimea, which voted to rejoin Russia in 2014. 

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