A Progressive Reversal on Ukraine Letter

Washington Rep. Pramila Jayapal


Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

Congratulations to Democratic leaders for taking on a progressive revolt in Congress and causing a reversal of a statement suggesting reduced support for U.S. aid to Ukraine.

Vladimir Putin

watches American politics closely, and this was a sign of U.S. retreat that needed to be beaten back.

Washington Rep.

Pramila Jayapal,

chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, withdrew on Tuesday a letter that 30 Members of the caucus had sent a day earlier to the White House. The letter had urged President Biden to pursue diplomacy with Russia to end the war in Ukraine. The missive was a terrible message to send while Mr. Putin is bombing civilian targets in Ukraine even as his troops retreat from territory they occupied early in the invasion.

“The letter was drafted several months ago, but unfortunately was released by staff without vetting,” Ms. Jayapal said in statement. She also blamed the timing as too close to a recent statement by GOP House leader

Kevin McCarthy

that aid requests for Ukraine won’t receive a “blank check” if Republicans take Congress.

That strikes us a too-convenient excuse, since the progressives had clearly drafted and signed a letter with an intent to release it at some point. The better explanation is that many senior Democrats, in Congress and the White House, were furious at this message of appeasement to Russian aggression. They also didn’t like the timing of a letter that divides Democrats so close to an election when their majority is imperiled. But then, divorce from political reality has been the hallmark of progressives during the 117th Congress, and one reason Democrats are in election trouble is that Mr. Biden didn’t reject their demands.

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Every war ends in diplomacy of some kind, but negotiating with Russia over the heads of the Ukrainians, who are doing the dying, is immoral and not in America’s interests. No useful diplomacy is possible as long as Ukrainians want to fight for their homeland and Mr. Putin refuses to cede territory. The quickest way to change Mr. Putin’s mind is to continue supporting Ukraine so it can keep rolling back Russian forces. A Ukrainian defeat will make Mr. Putin that much bolder, and NATO’s frontline states will be next on his target list.

As for Mr. McCarthy, his “blank check” remark was ill-advised, though it committed him to nothing. He was doing what Mr. McCarthy usually does, which is to give himself flexibility to follow wherever his caucus leads. Senate GOP leader

Mitch McConnell

responded by saying Republicans on his side of the Capitol want aid to Ukraine to be “expedited.”

Budding GOP isolationism is a growing danger to U.S. security, but the good news for now is that the revolt on the left has been put down. One lesson for the White House from this episode is that Mr. Biden will have to devote more time and effort to explaining to the public why American support for Ukraine is in the U.S. national interest.

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Wonder Land: Joe Biden’s foreign policy is about protecting Democrats’ domestic spending, not U.S. security (01/19/22). Images: Getty Images/KCNA/Reuters Composite: Mark Kelly

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