The letter was led by the Progressive Caucus chair, Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA). The document echoed sentiments expressed last week by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), who said U.S. aid to Ukraine should not be a “blank check.”
The signers of the Monday letter credited Biden for his support for Ukraine. They said the United States should push for a diplomatic solution to the conflict soon because of the increasing threat of nuclear weapons, however. Toward that end, the U.S. should begin pulling back financial and military support for Ukraine, the Democrats said.
“Given the destruction created by this war for Ukraine and the world, as well as the risk of catastrophic escalation, we also believe it is in the interests of Ukraine, the United States, and the world to avoid a prolonged conflict. For this reason, we urge you to pair the military and economic support the United States has provided to Ukraine with a proactive diplomatic push, redoubling efforts to seek a realistic framework for a ceasefire,” the letter says.
The letter brought swift condemnation from the signers’ Democratic colleagues. Some of the letter’s endorsers walked back the document amid the backlash as the group was accused of trying to appease Russian President Vladimir Putin. Jayapal released a statement attempting to soften the letter’s claims, saying, “we support President Biden and his administration’s commitment to nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine.”
“Vladimir Putin would have signed that letter if asked,” a member of the House Democratic leadership team told Politico, “That bone-headed letter just put Dems in the same league as Kevin McCarthy, who said in the same week that Ukraine funding could be in jeopardy.”
McCarthy said last week that Ukraine’s time with a “blank check” from the U.S. to fight Russia would be over should the GOP take over the House next year.
“I think people are gonna be sitting in a recession and they’re not going to write a blank check to Ukraine,” McCarthy told Punchbowl News. “They just won’t do it. … It’s not a free blank check.”
McCarthy’s comments were a noticeable break with what had been the general Washington consensus: that Ukraine would take the lead in deciding when hostilities would end. Foreign policy experts have questioned that consensus and said it was never a viable long-term solution.
George Beebe, director of grand strategy at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, endorsed the letter and said Biden’s current approach to Ukraine is untenable.
“President Biden said quite accurately that if present trends continue, we could be headed toward the most dangerous crisis we’ve faced since the Cuban missile crisis. The question then is, what do we do about that?” Beebe told The Washington Post. “Simply saying it’s up to Ukraine to decide is abdicating the responsibility America’s leaders have to safeguard the security in all of this.”