Democrats Warn of Nuclear War, but Say Ukraine Sets Peace Terms

Opération Licorne (“Operation Unicorn”) nuclear test. 22nd May1970. A 914 kiloton therm
Galerie Bilderwelt/Getty

A group of 30 Democratic legislators posted their token opposition to President Joe Biden’s unconditional support for Ukraine in the war over the east bank of the Dniepr River in Ukraine.

“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,” said the October 24 letter by the progressive Democrats.

But the Democrats also neutered their letter, because they included no demand for Ukraine to negotiate a deal regarding the Russian-populated eastern provinces, or any threat to reduce U.S. funding for Ukraine’s military.

Instead, the letter supports Biden’s policy of letting Ukraine dictate the minimum goals of the war, saying “It is America’s responsibility to pursue every diplomatic avenue to support such a solution that is acceptable to the people of Ukraine.”

“There is no ‘dramatic shift’ urged in this letter,” noted Michael Tracey, a critic of the federal response to the war. He added:

Rather: the opposite. It’s just PR by the Progressives™ to show they’re politely suggesting diplomacy, which Biden will say he already agrees with. They threaten no tangible legislative action, and endorse the policy status quo.

The letter was posted while U.S. and NATO forces are practicing how to attack targets with U.S.-supplied, air-dropped nuclear bombs. The Federation of American Scientists reported on October 17:

The [two-week] Steadfast Noon exercise will practice a controversial arrangement known as nuclear sharing, under which the United States installs nuclear equipment on fighter jets of select non-nuclear NATO countries and train their pilots to carry out nuclear strike with U.S. nuclear bombs.

A growing number of establishment personalities are warning that the U.S opposition to a compromise deal with Russia may allow the U.S.-funded, high-tech, and bloody war to escalate to the use of nuclear weapons.

The October 24 letter was signed by progressives who have significant numbers of left-wing anti-war voters in their districts. They include progressive chair Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), Ro Khanna (D-CA), and Mark Pocan (D-WI).

The letter was also signed by all six members of the Democrats’ progressive “Squad”: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY), Rep Rashida Tlaib, (D-MI), Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), and Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO).

The letter was also signed by more than 10 members of the Congressional Black Caucus. The signers include Bush, Pressley, Bowman, Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI) Rep. Yvette Clark (D-NY), Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA), Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ), Rep. Donald Payne (D-NJ), and Rep. Andre Carson (D-IN).

The letter carefully ignores the rhetorical escalation between Russia, the U.S., and NATO, as it lists the growing danger of nuclear war, deaths, famine, poverty, inflation, and rising energy costs.

The letter then repeats the White House’s acceptance of the “Ukraine decides” formula, saying:

… it is imperative to avoid direct military conflict with Russia, which would lead to “World War III, something we must strive to prevent.” The risk of nuclear weapons being used has been estimated to be higher now than at any time since the height of the Cold War. Given the catastrophic possibilities of nuclear escalation and miscalculation, which only increase the longer this war continues, we agree with your goal of avoiding direct military conflict as an overriding national-security priority.

We agree with the Administration’s perspective that it is not America’s place to pressure Ukraine’s government regarding sovereign decisions, and with the principle you have enunciated that there should be “nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine.”

“Nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine,” Biden said on June 3.

It’s their territory. I’m not going to tell them what they should and shouldn’t do. But it appears to me that, at some point along the line, there’s going to have to be a negotiated settlement here. And what that entails, I don’t know. But in the meantime, we’re going to continue to put the — the Ukrainians in a position where they can defend themselves.

On October 7, Biden joked about Russia’s battlefield losses to U.S. weapons and threatened Russia with nuclear attacks if it starts using nuclear weapons against Ukrainian forces:

We’ve got a guy I know fairly well. He’s not joking when he talks about potential use tactical nuclear weapons or biological or chemical weapons because his military is, you might say, significantly underperforming. I don’t think there is any such thing as [their] ability to easily use a nuclear weapon and not end up with Armageddon [for Russia and other countries].

Even as they back Biden’s “Ukraine decides” policy, the 30 progressive legislators also pose to their constituents as responsible protectors of the voters’ economic and political interests,

… as legislators responsible for the expenditure of tens of billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars in military assistance in the conflict, we believe such involvement in this war also creates a responsibility for the United States to seriously explore all possible avenues, including direct engagement with Russia, to reduce harm and support Ukraine in achieving a peaceful settlement.

In conclusion, we urge you to make vigorous diplomatic efforts in support of a negotiated settlement and ceasefire, engage in direct talks with Russia, explore prospects for a new European security arrangement acceptable to all parties that will allow for a sovereign and independent Ukraine, and, in coordination with our Ukrainian partners, seek a rapid end to the conflict and reiterate this goal as America’s chief priority.

“Intelligence analysts now believe that the probability of the use of tactical nuclear weapons in Ukraine has risen from 1-5 percent at the start of the war to 20-25 percent today,” wrote Leon Panetta, a former defense secretary and CIA director for President Barack Obama.



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