Left-leaning Democrats urge Joe Biden to speak directly with Vladimir Putin

A group of liberal Democrats in the US Congress is urging President Joe Biden to continue 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 Kyiv.

The letter, sent to the White House Monday by 30 House Democrats, comes as some senior Republicans have warned it will be hard for Congress to maintain its full support for Ukraine should the GOP take control of the House, as the polls predict.

“As lawmakers responsible for spending tens of billions of American taxpayer dollars on military assistance. . . 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,” House Democrats wrote in the letter.

Talks with Moscow have the potential “to reduce damage and support Ukraine to reach a peaceful settlement,” according to the letter, which was signed by lawmakers including Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib and Ayanna Pressley — a group of congressional liberal women known as “the Squad.” .

Lawmakers advocated 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 be acceptable to all parties”.

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

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

“[Zelenskyy] don’t think now is the time to sit down and negotiate with Mr. Putin,” Kirby said. “What we’re going to stay focused on is making sure he and his troops can succeed on the battlefield so that if and when it comes time to sit down at the table, Mr. Zelenskyy can succeed.”

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

Pramila Jayapal, chair of the House Progressive Caucus, who sent the letter, clarified later Monday that it was not meant to convey a split.

“We are united as democrats in our unequivocal commitment to support Ukraine in its fight for its democracy and freedom in the face of Russia’s outrageous and illegal invasion, and nothing in the letter advocates a change in this support,” she said.

Both parties are showing signs of division over Ukraine ahead of November’s midterm elections and a potentially tough winter on the battlefield, though administration and congressional officials say they believe they will continue to have enough support to be able to channel more aid to Ukraine in the coming years. month.

Last week, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said he expected difficulty passing additional aid to Ukraine if his party won the House in the midterm elections. But Mitch McConnellthe Republican leader in the Senate, said he supported more aid to Kyiv and wanted to provide even more.

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