Raskin Supports Withdrawal of Progressive Caucus Letter on Ukraine

Rep. Jamie Raskin has been a truly outstanding representative and leader in office. In the past, he has spoken eloquently about the importance of Ukraine’s fight. So I was shocked to read that he was one of the signatories to the appalling Progressive Caucus letter on Ukraine that has now been ignominiously withdrawn.

Markos Moulitsas explained well why this disastrous letter–a gift to Putin and other enemies of freedom, democracy and Ukrainian sovereignty–was so awful:

This is beyond naive, stupid and irresponsible. Let us count the ways: 

This is Ukraine’s war with Russia. The idea that the United States can waltz in and dictate terms to a foreign country would validate every accusation that Ukraine is America’s puppet, and validate tankie claims that the United States is an imperialistic power that can dictate the world order. Very ironic, indeed, from a caucus that bills itself as committed to anti-imperialism. 

The United States and Biden, along with our European allies, engaged in a strong diplomatic effort to prevent this war from starting in the first place. A lack of Western and American diplomacy isn’t what’s keeping the war going, it’s that Russia has zero interest in anything resembling honoring Ukraine’s territorial integrity. It has literally “annexed” four Ukrainian provinces it doesn’t even occupy, along with Crimea, which it annexed back in 2014. You think Russia is going to willingly surrender territory it considers part of Russia itself? 

Russia doesn’t honor agreements anyway. See this thread for more. 

Russia would kill for a ceasefire right now. In fact, it is literally doing that as it targets civilian infrastructure. Russian troops are being pushed back in three (and maybe four) of the oblasts (provinces) it currently occupies. They are so bereft of armor, that Russia has appropriated Belarus’ old shit tanks and armored personnel carriers for itself (as well as ammunition). It is begging Iran for suicide drones, rockets, and body armor and helmets. It has mobilized around 300-500,000 Russians and is shipping them to the front lines with little or even no military training. A ceasefire would allow them to lock in current gains—gains they are losing daily—as well as train, equip, resupply, and set up better defenses. 

President Biden’s leadership on Ukraine has been one of the major achievements of his presidency. Consequently, I was greatly relieved to read Rep. Raskin’s press release on the subject which firmly repudiates the Progressive Caucus letter and restates his commitment to Ukraine. Here it is in full:

I am glad to learn of the withdrawal of the letter of October 24, 2022, which—because of its unfortunate timing and other flaws—led to the conflation of growing Republican opposition to support for Ukraine, as exemplified by recent statements of Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, with the polar-opposite position of dozens of Democrats like me who have passionately supported every package of military, strategic and economic assistance to the Ukrainian people and are determined to see the Ukrainian people win victory over Vladimir Putin and expel his imperialist forces from their country.

In the eight months since Russia began its atrocity-filled and illegal war of aggression against the people of Ukraine, the Ukrainian people have given Americans not just the chance to defend the values of national sovereignty, democracy and pluralism but also great hope for the world’s future. Had Ukrainians been quickly defeated by Putin’s army, as so many people expected, had Volodymyr Zelensky fled the country, as so many people expected, then a dangerous tyranny would have destroyed a nascent democracy, and prospects for democratic causes everywhere in the world would have darkened. Large countries would have felt emboldened to attack small countries everywhere. 

But today there is hope because of the strength of President Zelensky and the Ukrainian people, and the cause of democracy and freedom in Ukraine is the cause of the democratic world. We should unite around this just struggle and stay focused on it.

Ukraine has given the world a lesson in anti-imperialism and how to fight a just war of self-defense even amidst enormous civilian suffering. Putin has claimed, as European colonizers did for hundreds of years, that the Ukrainian state and the Ukrainian nation do not exist. This obvious lie has been his rationale for an increasingly genocidal war of destruction, the openly avowed goal of which is the destruction of the Ukrainian people as such. These last weeks and days, Russian propagandists have repeatedly appeared on television to urge the murder of Ukrainian children and violence against the Ukrainian population.

It is a bad colonial habit to suppose that ultimately peace depends upon the wishes of the great powers and the great powers alone, and even progressive and liberal people can fall into this colonialist reflex. 

Ukraine’s struggle embodies a democratic future. Its civilian and military leadership is young and diverse, representing a post-Soviet generation that has learned to treasure freedom and value democracy. Its president, who is Jewish and thus belongs to a small national minority, was elected with 73% of the population, and now has even higher levels of support, thanks to his extraordinary wartime leadership. Thousands of Ukrainian women are fighting on the front, and a woman serves as deputy minister of defense. Sexual minorities are represented within the Ukrainian armed forces. Ukrainians soldiers routinely speak two languages. Ukraine has displayed a striking degree of toleration and decency during a war.

The Ukrainians also inspire democratic forces all over the world with their example of civil society. This war is fought and won on the Ukrainian side with the help of countless civilians, organized informally into small horizontal groups, who fill the gaps in logistics. An emblematic image of this war is of the vans driven to the front by civilians to supply soldiers. Where conscripted Russians destroy Ukrainian homes, neighbors come to help. Another common image of this war is the partially repaired house: in the regions from which Russia has been forced to retreat, Ukrainians do what they can to rebuild their neighbors’ homes.

Moscow right now is a hub of corrupt tyranny, censorship, authoritarian repression, police violence, propaganda, government lies and disinformation, and planning for war crimes. It is a world center of antifeminist, antigay, anti-trans hatred, as well as the homeland of replacement theory for export. In supporting Ukraine, we are opposing these fascist views, and supporting the urgent principles of democratic pluralism. Ukraine is not perfect, of course, but its society is organized on the radically different principles of democracy and freedom, which is why Russia’s oligarchical leaders seek to destroy it forever. I am proud to have been banned from Putin’s Russia for my pro-Ukrainian legislative activism, and I look forward to visiting Ukraine.

Ukrainians provide us with an example of courage in defense of national sovereignty and democracy. They are defending their democratic right to choose their own leaders and live in freedom and peace, and they are doing so at great risk and staggering personal cost. 

Ukrainians today give the democratic world a chance for a critical and historic victory, and we must rally to their side. It is important to be on the right side of a just war, and it is even more important to be on the right side and win. Just as Ukrainian resistance gives us hope, a Ukrainian victory would give us an opening to a much better future for all humanity. All champions of democracy over autocracy—whether they call themselves progressives, conservatives or liberals—should be doing whatever we can to ensure that Ukraine wins this just war as quickly as possible. Diplomacy by the Biden administration will inevitably follow as sustained diplomacy always marks the conclusion of war—even with tyrants and despots. But first Ukraine must win—let us continue to unite as Americans and focus on that central and historic imperative.”