Left-wing Democrats invite Joe Biden to direct talks with Vladimir Putin

Left-wing Democrats invite Joe Biden to direct talks with Vladimir Putin

A group of liberal Democrats in the US Congress is pressing President Joe Biden to resume direct talks with Russian leader Vladimir Putin, opening a new front of pressure on his Ukraine strategy as his administration tries to maintain domestic support for Kiev.

The letter, sent to the White House on Monday by 30 House Democrats, comes as some senior Republicans warned that there would be challenging that Congress maintain full support for Ukraine if the GOP takes control of the House, as polls predict.

“As lawmakers responsible for spending tens of billions of American taxpayer dollars on military aid. . . we believe that such involvement in this war also creates a responsibility for the United States to seriously explore all possible avenues, including direct engagement with Russia“, the Democrats wrote in the letter.

Talks with Moscow have the potential to “reduce damage and support Ukraine in achieving a peaceful resolution,” said the letter signed by lawmakers including Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib and Ayanna Pressley — a group of liberal congresswomen known as “The Squad.”

The lawmakers called for an approach that could include “incentives to end hostilities, including some form of sanctions relief,” as well as an international arrangement to “establish security guarantees for a free and independent Ukraine that are acceptable to all parties.”

However, they acknowledged that talks with Russia would be difficult given its decision to attack Ukraine.

John Kirby, a spokesman for the National Security Council, confirmed that the White House had received the letter. The Biden administration appreciates “their thoughtful concern about what’s going on in the war in Ukraine,” Kirby said, but added that it was up to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to decide when to engage with Putin.

“[Zelenskyy] he doesn’t believe now is the time to sit down and negotiate with Putin,” Kirby said. “What we will remain focused on is making sure that he and his troops can succeed on the battlefield, so that if and when the time comes for him to sit down at the table, Mr. Zelensky can succeed.”

Putin’s recent actions such as mobilizing new troops, holding fake referendums and targeting Ukrainian civilian infrastructure illustrate the Russian leader’s disinterest in talks with Kiev, Kirby said.

Pramila Jayapal, chairwoman of the House Progressive Caucus, which sent the letter, clarified later Monday that it was not intended to convey division.

“We are united as Democrats in our unequivocal commitment to support Ukraine in its fight for democracy and freedom in the face of an illegal and outrageous Russian invasion, and nothing in the letter advocates changing that support,” she said.

Both parties show signs of division over Ukraine ahead of November’s midterm elections and a potentially tough winter on the battlefield, although administration and congressional officials say they believe they still have enough support to push more aid to Ukraine in the coming months.

Last week, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said he expected difficulty in getting additional aid to Ukraine if his party wins the House of Representatives in the midterm elections. But Mitch McConnellthe Republican leader in the Senate, said he supports additional aid to Kiev and wants to provide even more.

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