30 Democratic Lawmakers to Biden: ‘Talk to Putin’

Ahead of the U.S. midterm elections, some members the president’s party urged him to pursue ceasefire talks as Medea Benjamin and Marcy Winograd write. But on Tuesday they withdrew the letter. 

U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal in 2017. (AFGE, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons)

By Medea Benjamin and  Marcy Winograd 
Common Dreams

In a dramatic break with the Biden administration on the eve of the midterm elections, 30 House Democrats have sent a letter to President Joe Biden urging him to engage in direct talks with Russian President Vladmir Putin to end the war in Ukraine.

[Update: the Democrats withdrew their letter on Tuesday.]

In addition to bilateral talks, signatories to the letter, initiated by Progressive Caucus Chair Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, urge the White House to support a mutual ceasefire and diplomatic efforts to avoid a protracted war that threatens more human suffering and spiraling global inflation, as well as nuclear war through intention or miscalculation.

Despite Biden’s recent acknowledgement that we have never been closer to nuclear Armageddon since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, Biden has not met with Putin since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24 and he recently told the press he will refuse to meet with Putin next month when the two attend the G-20 Summit in Bali.

In addition to Congresswoman Jayapal (D-WA), the Democratic signers of the letter are Representatives Adams (NC), Blumenauer (OR), Bowman (NY, Bush (MO), Carson (IN), Clarke (D-NY), De Fazio (D-OR), DeSaulnier (CA), Garcia (IL), Grijalva (AZ), Jackson Lee (TX), Jacobs (CA), Johnson (GA), Jones (NY), Khanna (CA), Lee (CA), Moore (WI), Newman (IL), Ocasio-Cortez (NY), Omar (MN), Paine (NJ), Pingree (ME), Pocan (WI), Pressley(MA), Raskin (MD), Takano (CA), Tlaib (MI), Velazquez (NY) and Watson Coleman (NJ).

Expressing praise for Biden’s “commitment to Ukraine’s legitimate struggle against Russia’s war of aggression,” the letter dodges the question of whether the United States should continue to arm Ukraine with medium-range rockets, ammunition, drones, tanks and other weapons.

The letter reads

“…. 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 key words here are “has provided” as opposed to “will provide,” leaving open the possibility that some Democrats will oppose future weapons transfers.

Dec. 7, 2021: U.S. President Joe Biden, on screen during video call with Russian President Vladimir Putin. (Kremlin.ru, CC BY 4.0, Wikimedia Commons)

Billions in Arms to Ukraine

Back in May, not a single Democrat voted against the eye-popping $40 billion Ukraine package, much of it earmarked for weapons, intelligence, and combat training. On Sept. 30, Congress passed the “Ukraine Supplemental Appropriations Act,” giving another $12.35 billion of our tax dollars for training, equipment, weapons, and direct financial aid for Ukraine — without so much as a whisper of dissent from Democrats.

So far, the only congressional opposition to arming Ukraine has come from far right Republicans. Despite Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s enthusiastic support for the $40 billion package, 57 House Republicans and 11 GOP Senators voted against it. Some objected because they thought the U.S. military should focus on China or on the U.S.-Mexico border, but others cited concerns over the lack of oversight, unmet domestic needs and runaway spending.

One of the most prominent critics of Biden’s handling of the war is former President Donald Trump. Never mind that Trump reversed his predecessor President Barack Obama’s decision to refrain from sending offensive weapons to Ukraine and failed to negotiate the continuation of two vital arms control treaties with Russia — the Open Skies Treaty and the Intermediate Nuclear-Range Forces Treaty (INF). Trump is now using his public appearances and the media, including his social media platform Truth Social, to call for peace talks.

“Be strategic, be smart (brilliant!), get a negotiated deal done NOW,” he wrote online. At an Arizona rally, Trump boomed, “With potentially hundreds of thousands of people dying, we must demand the immediate negotiation of the peaceful end to the war in Ukraine, or we will end up in World War III and there will be nothing left of our planet.”

Trump has also insisted that if he were president, the war in Ukraine would not have happened because unlike Biden, he would have met with Putin: “I’d talk to him; I’d meet with him. There is no communication between him and Biden.” Trump volunteered himself as a possible negotiator. “I will head up group???” he wrote on TruthSocial.

Former President Donald Trump speaking at an event in Tampa, Florida, in July. (Gage Skidmore, CC BY-SA 2.0, Wikimedia Commons)

Also calling for negotiations is far-right Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson. Carlson says that the nuclear threat “is enough for any responsible person to say, ‘now we stop,’ especially if that person is the leader of the United States, the country which is funding this war and that could end this war tonight by calling Ukraine to the table.”

Tesla’s Elon Musk, now backing Republicans, told his 107 million Twitter followers that “the probability of nuclear war is rising rapidly” and suggested a very rational peace deal in which Russia keeps Crimea, Ukraine affirms neutrality from NATO and the U.N. oversees referendums in the Donbass.

Another newly minted Republican now condemning U.S. support for the war is former 2020 presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard, once a supporter of Democratic Socialist Bernie Sanders and a vice chair of the Democratic National Committee. Gabbard announced that she is quitting the party in power, saying: “I can no longer remain in today’s Democratic Party that is now under complete control of an elitist cabal of warmongers.”

Political observers might surmise that Gabbard is positioning herself for another presidential run, but whether or not that’s the case, her sharp criticism of Democrats is finding an audience among millions of Fox viewers.

If Republicans take over the House in November, House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy warns they may turn off the money spigot for Ukraine. “I think people are gonna be sitting in a recession and they’re not going to write a blank check to Ukraine.”

McCarthy’s comment caused such panic on Capitol Hill that according to NBC News, leaders in both parties are considering passing legislation in the lame duck session to send Ukraine $50 billion more in weapons, military training and economic aid, bringing the total U.S. tab since the Russian invasion to over $100 billion, which exceeds the budget of the entire U.S. State Department.

It will be telling to see if any Democrats, including those who signed the Jayapal letter, will vote against more weapons. As inflation worsens and voters seek leaders to address their economic needs instead of endless war in Ukraine, Democrats, especially those who call themselves progressives, should not cede the peace position to Donald Trump and Tea Party Republicans bent on repealing voting rights, deregulating environmental protections, and banning abortion.

The future of their Democratic Party is at stake — and the human race, too.

Medea Benjamin, co-founder of Global Exchange and CODEPINK: Women for Peace, is the author of the 2018 book, Inside Iran: The Real History and Politics of the Islamic Republic of IranHer previous books include: Kingdom of the Unjust: Behind the U.S.-Saudi Connection (2016); Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control” (2013); Don’t Be Afraid Gringo: A Honduran Woman Speaks from the Heart (1989), and (with Jodie Evans) Stop the Next War Now (Inner Ocean Action Guide) (2005). 

Marcy Winograd of Progressive Democrats of America served as a 2020 DNC Delegate for Bernie Sanders and co-founded the Progressive Caucus of the California Democratic Party. Coordinator of CODEPINKCONGRESS, Marcy spearheads Capitol Hill calling parties to mobilize co-sponsors and votes for peace and foreign policy legislation.

This article is from Common Dreams.

The views expressed are solely those of the authors and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

29 comments for “30 Democratic Lawmakers to Biden: ‘Talk to Putin’

  1. Jim other
    October 26, 2022 at 17:08

    Trump is against the war! He and his policies are what I dislike. But why am I supporting war mongers? I never voted for Biden but I agree with some of his domestic policies. He and the democrats are pouring gasoline on the fire by shipping arms to Ukraine. I don’t approve of Russia’s aggression in Ukraine but would rather have a peaceful end to the war. We’re closer to nuclear war than any time since the 1960’s. War should be a last resort. The war mongers think war is the only solution. We should be talking rather than shipping arms. Mr Biden, do I have to vote for (I can hardly bring myself to write it) Trump? To bring an end to the war? Those spineless Progressives!

  2. Lois Gagnon
    October 25, 2022 at 17:25

    The Democrats are a lost cause to the peace movement. When will that reality sink in?

    • October 25, 2022 at 18:37

      Probably at about the same time it kicks in that few to no representatives in any political party, especially the leadership, have strong incentives to embrace the peace movement in anything but lukewarm, instrumental ways that are unlikely to be lasting or principled at best (yes, I include not only the Democrats and their GOP foils, but also prospective third-party replacements such as the Libertarians and the Greens should they succeed in gaining greater prominence), barring a complete sea change of “norm entrepreneurship,” to paraphrase the insidious Cass Sunstein, emanating from the bottom-up (akin to those that gradually yielded widespread abolition of human slavery, bans on whaling, etc.). Hopium is a hell of a drug, though!

  3. Larry Gates
    October 25, 2022 at 17:15

    These coward have already withdrawn the letter. Said it was an unvetted draft sent accidentally.

  4. Clonal Antibody
    October 25, 2022 at 16:13

    The letter has now been withdrawn by Pramila Jayapal. She blamed the release of the letter on inept staffers. The Progreesive Caucus in the Congress has no backbone.

  5. October 25, 2022 at 16:06

    For a true assessment of this cop out letter view today’s insightful video by Garland Nixon.


  6. Richard Simpson
    October 25, 2022 at 15:48

    The Leo Straussian neo-cons are running the show, now. The same folks Collin Powell referred to as the “crazies” have taken control.

  7. Beverly
    October 25, 2022 at 15:34

    Well, that teeny tiny glimmer of hope faded faster than an ember of a burning log. The pathetic, self-proclaimed “progressive” caucus already caved to party internal pressure.


    “The Congressional Progressive Caucus hereby withdraws its recent letter to the White House regarding Ukraine.”

    “The letter was drafted several months ago, but unfortunately was released by staff without vetting. As Chair of the Caucus, I accept responsibility for this. Because of the timing, our message is being conflated by some as being equivalent to the recent statement by Republican Leader McCarthy threatening an end to aid to Ukraine if Republicans take over. The proximity of these statements created the unfortunate appearance that Democrats, who have strongly and unanimously supported and voted for every package of military, strategic, and economic assistance to the Ukrainian people, are somehow aligned with Republicans who seek to pull the plug on American support for President Zelensky and the Ukrainian forces.”

    What’s more is that Jayapal’s retraction – after giving the ole “blame the interns” excuse (“unfortunately was released by staff without vetting”) – actually goes so far as to suggest diplomacy won’t be possible until after Ukrainian victory. The retraction concludes:

    “Nothing could be further from the truth. Every war ends with diplomacy, and this one will too after Ukrainian victory. The letter sent yesterday, although restating that basic principle, has been conflated with GOP opposition to support for the Ukrainians’ just defense of their national sovereignty. As such, it is a distraction at this time and we withdraw the letter.”

  8. Ian
    October 25, 2022 at 15:01

    That was short lived. Looks like they have all backtracked, apologized, blamed their staffers, and pledge again eternal support for proxy war and limitless weapons.

  9. Drew Hunkins
    October 25, 2022 at 14:47

    Absolutely incredible, but yet not so stunning — the pwogwessives displayed their cowardice and supine nature by just withdrawing the letter.

  10. KPR
    October 25, 2022 at 14:06

    They have withdrawn the letter and said that the whole thing is a mistake. No Democrat can waver from being a hardcore warmonger.

  11. LeoSun
    October 25, 2022 at 11:05

    “and, John, thank you for running. I really do appreciate it. You’re gonna be a great lady in the $enate.” Joe Biden, PA 10/20/22 (POTUS, the Political Corpse,” endorsing JOHN FETTERMAN).

    – 30 Democratic Lawmakers to Biden: ‘Talk to Putin’

    Is that right?!? Meet the OPPOSITION: “The NATION!!!” And, their MESSAGE to the 30 Democrats: “F * C # – Off!!!” Underscored w/a CAPITAL “F”

    This “ASK” is as hollow as that Independent, Hot-Air Factory from Vermont showing up w/his FAKE Revolution to SAVE the F/Party of Jackasses aka Democrats!!! Let it die.

    Imo, “We, the People,” will listen to the Oldigarch, his Veep, Congress, the M.I.C., HIS 81 Million sycophant jackasses; AND, their 30 FAKE progressives, when they’re on trial @ The Hague.

    TIMES UP! Clean HOUSE, “A Nation of sheep, begets a government of wolves.”

    Best practice, DUMP the Do Nothin Right Congress. REMOVE Biden-Harris! Deliver the 25th Amendment upon The Selected NOT Elected, Hyphenated, POTUS-V.P., Goodbye, Forever.!!! AND, take your 30 sycophant, warmongering lawmakers w/you. It’s over. Give the PEOPLE what they want, No more jackasses!! GIVE US PEACE. Ciao.

  12. Sally McMillan
    October 25, 2022 at 11:00

    The only option is for the people to let the president know now that they will not vote for weapons and other support to this war. The people want negotiations and peace. Getting this message past the warmongering advisors and members of congress is formidable. It is blocked by aides and others along the way.

  13. Drew Hunkins
    October 25, 2022 at 10:19

    “we urge you to pair the military and economic support the United States has provided to Ukraine with a proactive diplomatic push,”

    Those Ukie fascists and miserable conscripts under the total domination of the psychopaths Nuland, Sullivan, Blinken, and Sherman don’t deserve one nickel of U.S. taxpayer dollars. This is totally insane.

  14. Vera Gottlieb
    October 25, 2022 at 10:07

    In my view, it shouldn’t be Biden to talk to Putin. I simply DO NOT trust the Yanx and neither should Putin – and he is smart enough not to. Europe should insist that Zelensky and Putin start talking to each other with NO preconditions – no buts or ifs. And NON EUROPEANS stay out.

    • Mike J.
      October 25, 2022 at 12:10

      Zelensky is controlled by the USA that’s the problem

      • Rob Roy
        October 25, 2022 at 14:20

        Mike J,
        Zelensky is even more controled by the Nazi/Fascist faction in Ukraine (they run the military), along with oligarch Kolomoisky with whom he’s taken millions off-shore. He’s as corrupt as they come.

      • Richard Simpson
        October 25, 2022 at 15:46

        Without a single doubt.

    • WillD
      October 25, 2022 at 23:20

      I agree that Biden shouldn’t do it, for numerous reasons but neither should Zelensky because he is too fanatical and irrational. I think a group of European leaders, not EU or NATO ones, should get together and a) force the EU to stop ALL sanctions, and b) sit down with Putin and discuss options.

      The trouble is EU and NATO which would almost certainly try to block or undermine any agreements. Both these groups are controlled by the US, and don’t want peace, and don’t want Europe to control its own destiny.

  15. Packard
    October 25, 2022 at 09:46

    The prospect of a man being hanged in a fortnight will do wonders to concentrate his mind, count on it sir.
    Samuel Johnson

    The coming elections in America seem to have awakened the greater sensibilities for at least 30 of our Democratic Party pseudo war hawks. Bravo!

    Perhaps now a few progressive power elites in Washington will try to find an off ramp for the Biden Administration’s inexplicable high speed drive toward WW III over Eastern European affairs. A needless war, if it occurs, that will contain zero vital American strategic interests.

  16. Tony
    October 25, 2022 at 08:30

    This is good news but people need to press elected representatives harder.

    The fact that only the likes of Donald Trump are calling for negotiations is a matter of great concern.

  17. OnDancing
    October 25, 2022 at 06:00

    30 Democratic Lawmakers to Biden: ‘Talk to Putin’

    Likely he doesn’t have a get out of the maze card, and threats of dirty bombing are not polite ?

  18. Seby
    October 25, 2022 at 05:50

    Is it election time in the US? We need a “good cop, bad cop” routine to garner votes obviously? Eyes roll on and on…

  19. peter mcloughlin
    October 25, 2022 at 05:32

    The dynamics towards world War is so great now, it is hard to see any diplomatic solution. The warnings from history are there – but ignored. Unless governments can see the direction events are going there will be no way to change course.

  20. October 25, 2022 at 02:34

    I continue to applaud the past actions of Rep. Barbara Lee, who so famously and courageously followed in the footsteps of Jeannette Rankin during the First and Second World Wars by acting as the lone dissenting vote against the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) mere days after September 11, 2001, taking on the deep emotional burden of standing alone on behalf of principles that even the likes of contemporaneous colleagues such as Dennis Kucinich, Ron Paul, Bernie Sanders, Jimmy Duncan, etc. (ordinarily critics of foreign adventurism and the military-industrial complex) opted not to fully support at that critical juncture, and probably incessantly questioning to herself whether she was doing the right thing (“how could I be right when I am the only one standing against this?”), yet remaining steadfast and committed regardless.

    I am flabbergasted that after all of that, and her generally consistent support for military restraint in Congress throughout much of the subsequent twenty years, she would now, of all possible times, decide to march in lockstep with the rest of her party (alongside much of the conservative establishment) on arms supplies to Ukraine and countering Russia through the employment of force, as the world teeters on the brink of potential nuclear cataclysm. Why now when she at least has the potential political latitude of aligning with select figures on the libertarian, paleoconservative, and MAGA-leaning right, alongside progressives, socialists, and politically heterodox people outside of the Democratic Party, a constituency that was arguably even more fringy and fragmentary in the mindnumbingly jingoistic atmosphere immediately following 9/11 than it is today, when unthinking fear and revenge truly ruled the day? It is sad to think that society’s collective id may actually be more well-ensconced in the driver’s seat of our (geo)political culture now than it was then.

    One correction, though: Tulsi Gabbard has not technically announced that she has joined the Republican Party, but is currently an independent since leaving the Democrats (albeit having made some apparent endorsements of GOP candidates).

    • October 25, 2022 at 11:28

      I might add that, if Barbara Lee had the courage to act consistent with her prior convictions, she might also open at least a limited amount of space within the Democratic Party for her brand of dissent (e.g. maybe Rep. Ilhan Omar would be motivated to shift back to a more anti-war position, given that she has generally been a more outspoken critic of US foreign policy than other members of the Squad, especially c. 2019, albeit one marred by her own flaws and conflicts of interest – see “Rep. Ilhan Omar: Riding The Third Rail – With Guest Phil Giraldi,” Ron Paul Liberty Report, March 13, 2019, and Ann Garrison, “Ilhan Omar’s Meddling in Horn of Africa Earns Boos at Somali American Concert,” The Grayzone, July 13, 2022).

  21. Andrew Nichols
    October 24, 2022 at 22:06

    What a weird world where the political right and the odious Trump are beginning to take the lead over peace and avoiding nuclear war while the supposed left is salivating for Armageddon. Well I guess even a dud watch is right twice a day.

  22. bardamu
    October 24, 2022 at 22:03

    Here’s to talking to Putin. Here’s to surviving midnight.

    But I confess I have this horrible picture of Joe Biden in a blue suit and red tie wandering aimlessly around the wrong hall of the Kremlin. I suppose that would not happen, really. I suppose that off camera and outside the States, somebody collars the man and leads him back to a chair, wherever. Still, I suppose the image says something of how confident I feel about the matter in general, and it’s been a long time since I have seen any optimistic indication of anything.

    The Ubermenschen of the West seem to have confused Armageddon with a football game or something.

  23. rgl
    October 24, 2022 at 20:24

    The US has ‘invested’ far too much treasure to call off the dogs now. For the US to approach Russia to ask for a cease-fire, would be a very humiliating blow to Biden, but more importantly, to the neocon shadow government. The Ukraine: five billion to get the ball rolling, a further 18 billion in ‘aid’ so far, and a 50 billion guarantee for FY22. Previous losses and the attendant loss of treasure in Afghanistan, as one example, will not be considered. No. the establishment has spent far too much money, and suffered too little pain, for it to see any other option than to keep the train barreling toward Armageddon.

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