Jun 16, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Progressives have Biden's back on Russia

Rep. Primiya Jayapal is seen speaking during a news conference.
Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.). Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

House progressives have a message for President Biden ahead of his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin: talking is good.

Driving the news: Fifteen members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus are writing to Biden on Wednesday to encourage him to work with Putin on a range of issues, from arms control to climate change, Axios has learned.

  • “In these talks, we hope that you will prioritize ways that the United States and Russia can work together to reduce tensions in areas of dispute and cooperate on areas of global importance,” wrote Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), the CPC chairperson, and 14 others.
  • “The U.S. and Russia combined hold more than 90% of the world’s nuclear warheads. We believe that armed conflict between Russia and the United States would be a catastrophe for both countries, for Europe, our allies, and for the world.”

Why it matters: The Democratic Party, including many of its progressive members, spent the Trump years arguing for a more assertive approach toward Russia.

  • They criticized Donald Trump for not dealing with President Putin more harshly, amid allegations the former president had been co-opted by his counterpart.
  • The CPC letter indicates some Democrats want to revert to a foreign policy that seeks to engage — and not antagonize — Russia.

Flashback: During the 2012 campaign, President Obama mocked his opponent, now-Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), for arguing that Russia posed a serious threat to America.

  • He said the “1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back.”
  • During Trump’s presidency, many Democrats, including former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, apologized to Romney.
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