US politicians' election drive leads to retraction of 'Ukraine letter' to Biden
Published: Oct 26, 2022 10:27 PM
Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

A letter signed by 30 members of the progressive caucus of the US House of Representatives and sent to the White House on Monday, which urged President Joe Biden to engage in direct talks with Russia to end the Ukraine crisis, was rescinded only one day later. 

The letter triggered fierce pushback from many Democrats as well as Republicans who believe it's an unrealistic idea. The letter called on Biden to pair the economic and military support the US is providing Ukraine with a "proactive diplomatic push, redoubling efforts to seek a realistic framework for a cease-fire," which involves direct talks with Russia. According to the Washington Post, this was the first time prominent members of Biden's own party have pushed him to change his approach to Ukraine.

Solving the Russia-Ukraine conflict via diplomatic means is a pragmatic suggestion. As the conflict has dragged on for more than eight months, prices of food, energy, and other bulk commodities have soared, leading to inflation worldwide. Inflation in the US has even reached a 40-year high. It is a thorny domestic issue Biden needs to tackle urgently, over which his Republican rivals attacked him harshly. Therefore, easing the situation in Ukraine via diplomacy instead of cruel military means to avoid US resources from being further consumed fits the interests of the Democratic Party and the US.

Diao Daming, an associate professor at the Renmin University of China in Beijing, told the Global Times that at the beginning, the progressives inside the Democratic Party had not voiced strong opposition to Biden's support of Ukraine, either out of the so-called shared values, hostility toward Russia or obligations to allies. But as the conflict continues, the negative impact on the US economy has driven them to suggest Biden change course.

Xu Liang, an associate professor at the School of International Relations of Beijing International Studies University, believes that the letter signed by some progressives reflects the fact that inside the US, there are people who do not want the US to be dragged in the mud of war for long. However, the criticism the letter had drawn and its retraction show that in the US, "political correctness" dominates. 

For the US, it is politically correct to support Ukraine and sanction Russia. There is no room for compromise. Since the Ukraine crisis, the US has kept instigating other countries to strengthen sanctions on Russia and expand military assistance to Ukraine, which shows the US has no will to play a constructive role in the Russia-Ukraine conflict. As a result, voices that called for a proactive diplomatic push were quashed right away. Obviously, within the Democratic Party or the US, there is no such thing as "democracy" - they all speak in one voice.

The midterm elections are looming large. As people hold a negative view of Biden himself and the performance of his Democratic Party, the mainstream Democrats may think that the release of the letter does no good to the Democratic Party because it goes against the political correctness of the US on the Ukraine issue. 

"Mainstream Democrats place the interests of elections higher than the significance of solving the Ukraine crisis properly," said Zhang Tengjun, deputy director of the Department for Asia-Pacific Studies at the China Institute of International Studies.

As long as anti-Russia and pro-Ukraine political correctness continues to dominate US policy, and as long as US politicians continue to regard political naivety as political freedom, the US will not have a pragmatic mindset for diplomatic negotiations. When the voices of pragmatism and rationality are suppressed, it is impossible for the US to play a fair role in the Russia-Ukraine issue and assume the responsibilities it should have. 

This means that the Russia-Ukraine conflict will be more difficult to solve, because it is not just one that Russia has with Ukraine, but a concentrated outbreak of geopolitical conflicts that Russia has with the US-led NATO. The US, the initiator of the conflict, must show some sincerity and push forward some substantive measures. If it does not seize the opportunity, it is difficult to predict how the crisis will play out in the future.