Yesterday 30 members of the House Progressive Caucus signed a letter urging President Biden to pursue direct negotiations with Russia and a diplomatic settlement to the Russo-Ukraine war. Given the fairly united support for Ukraine in the U.S. political class and fairly broad support among the public in general, the letter was bound to spur some controversy. But the letter itself was an incoherent mass of contradictions. It pressed for immediate negotiations and a ceasefire while also insisting on defending Ukraine and not taking any steps without Ukraine’s support. For the moment at least these are irreconcilable positions. Ukraine’s war aim is to drive Russia from most and likely all of its territory. Russia’s position is to annex large parts of Ukraine and force it into a permanently subordinate position to Russia. One side or another has to substantially shift its demands or there’s little to talk about. The letter could have said, “The threat of escalation and the danger to the global economy is so great that the U.S. needs to make Ukraine shift its goals.” But it didn’t. It stated two irreconcilable positions at once.
Then things got weird.