“There Is No Military Solution Out of This Ukraine Crisis”

The State Department continues to signal that the United States is seeking a diplomatic solution to rising tensions between Russia and Ukraine — with a senior official to announce last week: “The United States does not want conflict. We want peace.” But in recent days, as media reports heightened concerns about the threat of a Russian invasion, the United States has dispatched another $200 million in guns to Ukraine, and the Biden administration has started talks with NATO allies about the deployment Thousands of additional US troops to the Eastern European countries. At the same time, on Capitol Hill, Republicans and Democrats are fast-tracked proposals for devastating sanctions against Moscow and are talking about a dramatic increase in US aid to the Ukrainian military.

That has Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, and Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), who heads the CPC’s Peace and Security Task Force, concerned that US officials are sending messages , which could undermine the prospects for a peaceful solution to the crisis. “We have grave concerns that new troop deployments, sweeping and indiscriminate sanctions, and a deluge of hundreds of millions of dollars in deadly weapons will only increase tensions and increase the likelihood of miscalculations. Russia’s strategy is to stoke tensions; The United States and NATO must not interfere in this strategy,” Jayapal and Lee said a statement released on Wednesday.

While acknowledging that they “continue to watch with alarm Russia’s threatening behavior towards Ukraine,” the CCP leaders declared, “There is no military solution to this crisis – diplomacy must be the focus.”

The message from Jayapal and Lee, savvy House members with extensive experience on foreign policy issues, was an important intervention at a time when too many congressmen are pressuring the Biden administration to take a more bellicose approach.

CPC leaders encouraged the Biden administration’s efforts to “broaden and deepen dialogue to enable robust negotiations and compromises.” They also warned that ill-considered pressure on the administration by Congress could complicate prospects for a diplomatic solution. “In past crises,” they explained, “where events are unfolding rapidly and intelligence is unclear, vigorous, sensitive diplomacy has been essential to de-escalation.” Against this backdrop, Jayapal and Lee said, “We urge our colleagues to allow government to find a diplomatic way out of this crisis.”

I spoke to Representative Jayapal Wednesday afternoon about why she and Representative Lee decided to speak out on this point.

“Because things are moving so quickly, we felt it was important to ensure members of Congress focused on diplomacy,” said Jayapal, who – along with leaders from groups like Peace Action, Code Pink and Win Without War – is doing so feared that Congressman’s behavior would limit non-military options and accelerate tensions. “Sometimes when these kinds of challenges develop, members of Congress feel like they have to do something very quickly, they have to sign something that sends a message. We wanted to help people think about it and understand that we don’t want to do anything that undermines diplomats’ efforts.”

That’s a legitimate concern. And it’s no surprise these important leaders in the house are addressing it.

Jayapal, the first South Asian American to be elected to the US House of Representatives and one of only two dozen naturalized citizens currently serving in the United States Congress, and Lee, who has been the chamber’s leading advocate for peace and diplomacy for decades have joined in. In recent months, they have stepped up their advocacy for a greater focus on diplomacy and global cooperation by US officials. Earlier this month they introduced a Foreign Policy for the 21st Century Resolution which proposes to “reduce waste, fraud and abuse in defense spending and security aid, while returning the power of warfare to elected officials, implementing arms controls and nuclear non-proliferation, and ending the use of broad, sectoral sanctions.”

Sponsored by Democratic Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY), Ilhan Omar (Minn.), Rashida Tlaib (Mich.), Ayanna Pressley (Mass.), Jamaal Bowman (NY), Andre Carson (Ind.), Raúl Grijalva ( Ariz.), Sara Jacobs (California), Henry C. “Hank” Johnson Jr. (Ga.), Alan Lowenthal (California), James McGovern (Mass.), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC), Donald Payne Jr. (NJ ), Jan Schakowsky (Illinois), Mark Takano (California), Nydia Velazquez (NY) and Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ), framed the resolution a vision for a new foreign policy approach. It “calls for investment in diplomacy, international justice and cooperation, peacebuilding and green development, while cutting security aid and arms sales to human rights abusers.”

While always necessary, this emphasis on diplomacy and peace-building is particularly resonant today, as the Ukraine crisis underscores the need to use non-military tools of statecraft to resolve conflicts, Jayapal says.

“We had been working on this resolution for some time. We gave it a lot of thought because we were aware of the need for a realignment,” explained the CPC chairman. “Suddenly it’s even more urgent to say that negotiating is not a sign of weakness. That is a sign of strength.”

Leave a Comment