Thirty left-wing members of Congress called on President Biden Monday to negotiate directly with Russian President Vladimir Putin in a bid to end his eight-month-old war on Ukraine.

In a letter to the White House, which included Bronx and Queens Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Brooklyn Rep. Yvette Clarke among its signatories, the Democrats called on Biden to begin a “proactive diplomatic push, redoubling efforts to seek a realistic framework for a ceasefire.”

“We urge you to make vigorous diplomatic efforts in support of a negotiated settlement and ceasefire, engage in direct talks with Russia [and] explore prospects for a new European security arrangement acceptable to all parties that will allow for a sovereign and independent Ukraine,” the lawmakers wrote.

The plea is at odds with the Biden administration’s hands-off approach regarding the end of the war. White House officials for months have said the United States will not pressure Ukraine to return to the negotiating table with Russia or play a direct role in how the conflict is resolved.

“We’ve been very, very clear that this is a decision that [Ukraine] President [Volodymyr] Zelensky is going to have to make when it comes to any type of conversation with Russia – any type of negotiation,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Monday. “That is something that Ukrainians need to make; we will continue to support them as long as it takes.”

Incumbent candidate for New York's 9th Congressional District, Rep. Yvette Clarke, D-N.Y., speaks during a Community Town Hall on Feb. 22, 2017, in the Brooklyn borough of New York.
Brooklyn Rep. Yvette Clarke signed a letter to the White House hoping for a “diplomatic push” to end the Ukraine War.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez also seeks to push efforts that will allow a “sovereign and independent Ukraine.”

Vladimir Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin started the Ukraine war eight months ago.

President Joe Biden speaks during a news conference at the COP26 U.N. Climate Summit, Nov. 2, 2021, in Glasgow, Scotland.
The Biden administration has said it won’t force Ukraine to negotiate and it hasn’t played a direct role in peace talks.

While the liberal lawmakers said they “agree with the administration’s perspective that it is not America’s place to pressure Ukraine’s government regarding sovereign decisions,” they said the US should play a larger role in potential peace talks given the approximately $18 billion it has sent Ukraine in military aid.

“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,” they said in the letter.

They also cited the war’s effects on the US economy, noting “elevated gas and food prices at home, fueling inflation and high oil prices for Americans in recent months.”

“Economists believe that if the situation in Ukraine is stabilized, some of the speculative concerns driving higher fuel costs will subside and likely lead to a drop in world oil prices,” the lawmakers said.

In this photo posted by the mayor of Mykolaiv on his Telegram channel, a residential building is seen damaged following night shelling in Mykolaiv, Ukraine, Sunday, Oct. 23, 2022. A nearby 10-story residential building was also damaged.
The Ukraine war has affected the US economy, including on inflation.
Operational Command South via AP

The legislators went on to suggest ways to sweeten the deal for Putin to come to the negotiating table, “including [offering] some form of sanctions relief,” while also calling for Biden to establish “security guarantees for a free and independent Ukraine that are acceptable for all parties, particularly Ukrainians.”

The letter was sent days after Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin spoke twice with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu in rare phone calls. The two on Friday spoke for the first time since May, then talked again on Sunday after Shoigu “requested a follow up call,” Pentagon Press Secretary Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said at the time.

“Secretary Austin rejected any pretext for Russian escalation and reaffirmed the value of continued communication amid Russia’s unlawful and unjustified war against Ukraine,” Ryder said.



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