WASHINGTON — As the risk of nuclear war increases, fighting in Ukraine escalates, and global economic insecurity deepens, 30 members of Congress urged President Biden to pursue direct diplomacy for a negotiated settlement to end Russia’s war in Ukraine.

In a new letter the lawmakers, while recognizing the “difficulties involved in engaging Russia given its outrageous and illegal invasion of Ukraine,” urge the President to pair the U.S. military and economic support provided to Ukraine with a proactive diplomatic push to seek a realistic framework for a ceasefire, consistent with the President’s own recognition that “there’s going to have to be a negotiated settlement here.”

The lawmakers propose an approach that could include “incentives to end hostilities, including some form of sanctions relief,” and an international arrangement to “establish security guarantees for a free and independent Ukraine that are acceptable for all parties, including Ukrainians.” “The alternative to diplomacy,” they warn, “is protracted war, with both its attendant certainties and catastrophic and unknowable risks.” In addition to the war’s harm to the people of Ukraine, they highlight the conflict’s impact on additional tens of millions worldwide, as skyrocketing prices in wheat, fertilizer, and fuel spark acute crises in global hunger and poverty.

The Members cite President Biden’s concern that Vladimir Putin “doesn't have a way out right now,” and former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen, who recently argued that Putin is acting as a “cornered animal,” a situation that he said “speaks to the need [to] do everything we possibly can to try to get to the table to resolve this thing.” “As is typical in any war,” he added, “it has got to end and usually there are negotiations associated with that.”

The majority of voters also support this call for diplomacy. Recent polling shows that 57 percent of Americans approve of U.S. negotiations to end the war in Ukraine as soon as possible, even if it means making some compromises with Russia. 57 percent believe that Russia’s war in Ukraine will end in a negotiated peace, not a total military victory for either side, and 59 percent largely agree that the U.S. has a leading role to play in negotiating an end to the war.

The lawmakers conclude by appealing for “vigorous diplomatic efforts in support of a negotiated settlement and ceasefire, direct bilateral talks with Russia, exploring prospects for a new European security arrangement acceptable to all parties that will allow for a sovereign and independent Ukraine, and reiterating the goal of a rapid end to the conflict as a chief American priority.”

The letter can be found online here.

Signatories include: Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), Alma S. Adams Ph.D. (NC-12), Earl Blumenauer (OR-03), Jamaal Bowman, Ed.D. (NY-16), Cori Bush (MO-01), André Carson (IN-07), Yvette D. Clarke (NY-09), Peter A. DeFazio (OR-04), Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11), Jesús “Chuy García (IL-04), Raúl Grijalva (AZ-03), Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18), Sara Jacobs (CA-53), Henry C. “Hank” Johnson Jr. (GA-04), Mondaire Jones (NY-17), Ro Khanna (CA-17), Barbara Lee (CA-13), Gwen S. Moore (WI-04), Marie Newman (IL-03), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14), Ilhan Omar (MN-05), Donald M. Payne Jr. (NJ-10), Chellie Pingree (ME-01), Mark Pocan (WI-02), Ayanna Pressley (MA-07), Jamie Raskin (MD-08), Mark Takano (CA-41), Rashida Tlaib (MI-13), Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12), and Nydia M. Velázquez (NY-07).

The letter was endorsed by the nonprofit groups Campaign For Peace Disarmament and Common Security, Just Foreign Policy, Friends Committee on National Legislation, MoveOn, Peace Action, Physicians for Social Responsibility, the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, and Win Without War. Organizations issued the following statements:

"This letter marks the first time prominent Democratic elected officials have publicly called on the Administration to pair support for Ukraine's self-defense with a strong diplomatic effort to seek an end to the fighting," said Marcus Stanley, advocacy director for the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft. "Their leadership is crucial and welcome– without diplomacy the war risks turning into an extended, bloody stalemate with ongoing and increasing damage to the world economy and to Ukraine itself. Even worse, it could easily escalate into a broader or even a nuclear conflict.”

"Ukrainians have inspired people worldwide with their courageous resistance to the illegal Russian invasion. Empowered by unprecedented U.S. weapons and intel support, Ukrainians dealt Putin a humiliating defeat that few had thought possible," said Erik Sperling, executive director of Just Foreign Policy and former Ukraine policy staffer in Congress. "This victory, however, has also come at a heartbreaking cost for Ukraine's people and economy. Meanwhile, the economic impact of the war and sanctions has millions around the world facing starvation, and escalating U.S. involvement has sapped money for urgent domestic priorities while increasing the odds of apocalyptic nuclear war with Russia. Our government should heed the call by this level-headed group of Representatives and immediately prioritize dialogue that can save lives in Ukraine and around the world." 

“The progressive position on the invasion of Ukraine has been clear from the start: we support the Ukrainian people’s struggle against the Russian government’s illegal, imperialist invasion, and we recognize that the U.S. has a special role to play both in supporting that struggle and in working to reduce nuclear risk in the conflict — a risk borne disproportionately by people in Ukraine,” said Sara Haghdoosti, executive director of Win Without War. “This letter reflects this position, and emphasizes that during an appropriate diplomatic opening, the U.S. will be an indispensable partner for Ukraine in securing an end to hostilities that preserves Ukrainian sovereignty and prevents further Ukrainian deaths. We look forward to continued collaboration between the White House and congressional progressives to push for a just peace in Ukraine and the pursuit of nuclear risk reduction between the U.S. and Russia.”

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