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How to See the Ukraine Letter Imbroglio

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 18: Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) speaks with reporters outside the U.S. Capitol Building on November 18, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Anna M... WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 18: Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) speaks with reporters outside the U.S. Capitol Building on November 18, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images) MORE LESS
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October 27, 2022 12:45 p.m.

I want to return to this issue of the Ukraine letter that the Congressional Progressive Caucus released and then hastily disavowed. This can seem like an insider story with a mix of staff-member disagreements, endangered leadership ambitions and just some old-fashioned whodunnit. We’re not at all above covering those stories. But there are some really important issues at play beneath the superficial controversies.

One close to dominant view of this is that the letter itself wasn’t very controversial. It was just ill-timed (right before the election, after on-going Ukrainian battlefield successes), poorly managed and the Washington Post article that broke the story portrayed it as a break with administration policy when it really wasn’t. (Here’s one good overview of the whole controversy.)

There’s a bit of truth to this. But I think it’s basically wrong. The overview I linked to above says it’s an example of how constricted the current policy debate about Ukraine is. Again, I think that’s wrong. We’ll come back to that in a moment.

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