Published Oct. 29 at 10:54 am
On Oct. 24, some 30 Democratic Members of the U.S. Congressional Progressive Caucus, a far-left faction of the Democratic Party, signed an open letter to fellow Democrat, President Joe Biden.
The letter drew attention to the risk of nuclear weapons deployment as being higher now than at any time since the height of the Cold War. Highlighting the catastrophic possibilities of nuclear escalation and miscalculation, which would only increase the longer the war in Ukraine continues, the signatories expressed their support for President Biden’s goal of avoiding direct military conflict as an overriding national-security priority.
However, the letter goes on to urge President Biden to “make vigorous diplomatic efforts in support of a negotiated settlement and ceasefire,” and to “engage in direct talks with Russia.”
The letter received a sharp rebuke from leaders across the Democratic and Republican parties, and from Ukrainian leaders.
Below is my (tongue-and-cheek) open response, which suggests to the Progressive Caucus how to best end Putin’s war against Ukraine.
Dear Congressional Progressive Caucus
Earlier this week, you took a lot of flak for a mistakenly released letter stating your views on how Russia’s war on Ukraine should end.
First of all, thank you for withdrawing your letter and clarifying your group’s intent.
I do want to encourage you to engage in direct talks with the Russian government; by that I mean engaging in direct talks with the new “parallel parliament” of Russia that is being formed and will meet for the first time as the First Congress of People’s Deputies of Russia, on Nov. 4-7 in Warsaw.
This “parallel parliament” is made up of delegates of elected Russian deputies who are all in exile because of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s government. We are all elected deputies who opposed the 2014 annexation of Crimea and who now oppose the current invasion of Ukraine.
We are all committed to replacing Putin’s government with a new free, democratic government for Russia. So far, more than 60 delegates have already confirmed their presence.
Please come to Warsaw and meet with us on November 4-7, or perhaps arrange to join us virtually.
When we meet, we will explain to you our vision for the future of Russia and our simple two-part peace plan (below) that will result in a victory for both Russia and Ukraine. We can assure you that when it comes to peace between the two countries, we are open to negotiations on this plan. We are also committed to a fast, peaceful end to the invasion.
- Victory for Ukraine: Complete control over all of Ukraine, including Crimea; Russian funding for the 21st century version of Marshall’s plan; trials for all war crimes; guarantees for future independence and security.
- Victory for Russia: Putin is removed from office; an interim revolutionary government is installed with a mandate to write a new democratic constitution (if the Russian people so choose); new laws and a new judicial system are established; free and fair elections are held within 24 months.
Can we agree that this would be a satisfactory win for both the people of Ukraine and the people of Russia?
After all, while Ukraine was far from perfect as a nation before the Russian invasion, it was a fully functional, self-governing democracy. Can we say the same about Russia prior to Feb. 24, and even now?
Can we agree that the Ukrainian people have proven their willingness to fight for their country and their right to live as a free people? And can we agree that the Russian people should be entitled to the same right to live freely, as you enjoy in the U.S., should they be willing to fight for it?
I am not suggesting that it will be easy for the Russian people to remove Putin; nor am I suggesting that it will be easy for them to transform their country into a democracy. Indeed, it has not been easy for Ukraine to transition from the former Soviet Union to a democracy either. But they did it, which means that Russia can do it too.
But that won’t happen in Russia if it’s easier for the people to accept the status quo. And when Russian people accept the status quo, or we propose that the only way to end the war with Ukraine is through negotiations or appeasement, we continue to empower corrupt Russian politicians and continue to entrap the Russian people inside the existing broken system, rather than encouraging them to break free.
Getting rid of Putin and Putinism will be a formidable challenge. But it is not impossible.
That is why we are taking this dramatic first step in Warsaw from November 4-7, where I am hosting the First Congress of People’s Deputies of Russia. It is the same location where discussions began to inform the Polish Round Table Agreement, eventually leading to the end of the Cold War.
This is the first time this would happen in Russian history.
Below is a summary of the objectives of this First Congress:
- Adoption of the Declaration on the Constitutional Principles of Free Russia after the overthrow of the Putin regime. This Declaration will become the foundation of the new Russian Constitution in the future;
- Adoption of a list of priority decisions to be made by the post-Putin Russian government;
- Adoption of a National Resistance Act defining the procedure for the self-organization and legal framework of the resistance movement in Russia and abroad.
Yes, overthrowing Putin and his government, and installing a new democratic government will be hard. But any other outcome of this war will not only be a loss for Ukraine; it will be a loss for Russia, Russian people and the rest of the world.
I am part of the progressive left myself. In the Russian State Duma I served as the left-most member of parliament. And I was always convinced that the position of the left should be about power to the people, the right of self-determination, no oppression, and human rights above everything, irrespective of background, gender or race.
It always strikes me as a sorry time when U.S. progressives start talking about making concessions to Putin, framed as “pragmatism.” To my mind, such ideas deny the great and free nation of Ukraine those rights for the sake of the rotten appetites of a filthy corrupt dictator. To me it feels like betrayal of the most fundamental principles of the left. And no good intentions can justify a new age “Munich Betrayal,” as history has already proven.
Respected members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, I hope you can join us in person or remotely in Warsaw for this First Congress as honored guests. Your presence will signal exactly the message that your group clearly intends to send to your constituents, to the Ukrainian and Russian people, and to the rest of the world.
Yours in peace and democracy,
Ilya Ponomarev is a former Russian Member of the Duma, and the only Member to vote against the annexation of Crimea in 2014 which forced him into exile. His new book is titled “Does Putin Have to Die?: The Story of How Russia Becomes a Democracy after Losing to Ukraine.”