One hundred religious, social justice, and veterans’ groups have urged President Joe Biden to reject military escalation and refocus US attention on serious negotiations to resolve tensions between Russia and Ukraine. The call came after the Biden administration moved last week to place 8,500 troops on heightened alert in response to Russia’s military buildup of 100,000 troops along Ukraine’s borders, and then on Tuesday ordered the deployment of 3,000 more troops to Eastern European countries near Ukraine.
As organizations representing millions of people in the United States, we call upon President Biden to end the U.S. role in escalating the extremely dangerous tensions with Russia over Ukraine. It is gravely irresponsible for the president to participate in brinkmanship between two nations that possess 90 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons,” declared groups such as Peace Action, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Pax Christi USA, the Fellowship of Reconciliation, Just Foreign Policy, CODEPINK, Roots Action, and Veterans for Peace.
“For the United States and Russia, the only sane course of action now is a commitment to genuine diplomacy with serious negotiations, not military escalation—which could easily spiral out of control to the point of pushing the world to the precipice of nuclear war.”
Political groups such as Progressive Democrats of America and Our Revolution joined in endorsing the message, which further noted:
While both sides are to blame for causing this crisis, its roots are entangled in the failure of the U.S. government to live up to its promise made in 1990 by then-Secretary of State James Baker that NATO would expand not ‘one inch to the East.’ Since 1999, NATO has expanded to include numerous countries, including some that border Russia. Rather than dismissing out of hand the Russian government’s current insistence on a written guarantee that Ukraine will not become part of NATO, the U.S. government should agree to a long-term moratorium on any NATO expansion.
The groups issued their letter to Biden as the anti-war group CODEPINK and its allies organized dozens of “No War With Russia Over Ukraine!” and “Negotiate, Don’t Escalate” rallies in communities across the country for February 5.
While media coverage has amplified the bellicose rhetoric of Congress members who support increased military aid for Ukraine and indiscriminate sanctions for Russia, a growing number of progressive House members are warning against moves that could heighten tensions and that might well play into the hands of Russian hawks.
Congressional Progressive Caucus chair Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) and Representative Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) issued a statement on the issue last week: “We have significant concerns that new troop deployments, sweeping and indiscriminate sanctions, and a flood of hundreds of millions of dollars in lethal weapons will only raise tensions and increase the chance of miscalculation. Russia’s strategy is to inflame tensions; the United States and NATO must not play into this strategy.”
While the CPC leaders acknowledged that they “continue to watch Russia’s threatening behavior towards Ukraine with alarm,” they said, “There is no military solution out of this crisis—diplomacy needs to be the focus.”
Like Lee and Jayapal, Representative Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) has been critical of Russian President Vladimir Putin and has expressed support for carefully constructed sanctions. Yet Khanna explained in no uncertain terms that “there should be de-escalation and neutrality instead of entangling the US in another war.”
The response from progressives stood in stark contrast to that of truculent Democrats and Republicans in Congress, and distinguished them from isolationist conservatives in the House, such as Arizona Republican Paul Gosar, who has simply declared, “We have no dog in the Ukraine fight.”
The push by these progressives for de-escalation is in tune with polling data, which suggests that Americans are unenthusiastic about moves that might draw the US military into the conflict.
When Americans were asked whether the United States should send ground troops to Eastern Europe to try to discourage a Russian invasion of Ukraine, 38 percent of the respondents to an ABC News/Ipsos poll conducted last week were opposed, while 32 percent said they did not know what to think. Only 29 percent, less than a third of those surveyed, supported the idea.