Progressives in a strange position on the Russian war

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and its bombardment of civilian populations has placed generally pacifist progressives in the odd position of supporting a forceful American response.

The left wing of the Democratic Party has generally been skeptical of U.S. military involvement overseas and has criticized increased defense spending. Nearly two decades ago, many condemned America’s war in Iraq, which liberals generally viewed as an unnecessary oil-driven conflict that diverted government attention from domestic issues.

“For many progressives, it has been difficult because we are not used to being in this position, where the United States is not the one doing the invasion,” said Alexander McCoy, co- founder of the left-wing veterans’ organization Common Defence. .

McCoy said part of the challenge for the left is figuring out exactly what it does and does not support in the context of helping Ukraine fend off Russian aggression.

“Much of the progressive movement has built our foreign policy reflexes on trying to stop the United States from doing bad things, going back perhaps to the Vietnam War or before,” he said. “But things are changing now, and progressives need to start defining themselves by what we’re for, not just what we’re against.”

Progressives sided President BidenJoe BidenEx-Trump’s personal assistant appears before Jan. 6 panel Defense and National Security – Russia Sends Warnings to the West On the Money – Feds Propose New Disclosure Rule for Public Companies MORE by declaring the Russian president Vladimir PoutineVladimir Vladimirovich PutinDefence and national security – Russia sends warnings to the West Biden tells CEOs they have a ‘patriotic obligation’ to guard against Russian cyberattacks Russian chess grandmaster suspended for publicly supporting invasion MORE a war criminal.

They backed his decision to spend nearly $14 billion in emergency aid to protect the sovereign nation from a bloodier escalation.

And there is a push to accept Ukrainian refugees that matches previous calls by progressives to help migrants from other countries in times of political peril.

But for all the support for the administration’s response, liberals are also worried about how rising gas prices exacerbated by the war over international sanctions on Russia will affect the poor and middle classes. in the USA.

Liberal Reps. Ilham Omar (Minn.) and cori bushCori BushFar left and far right find common ground against US interventionism Representative Bush explains his vote against Russian oil ban The 17 lawmakers who voted against the Russian oil ban MORE (Mo.) were the only two Democrats to vote against a House measure blocking an end to oil imports from Russia.

Omar’s vote reflected in part his view that blocking Russian oil could cause the United States to lean more heavily on Saudi Arabia and strengthen its ties with it. Progressives criticize that the Biden administration has not pushed more forcefully for human rights in the Kingdom over fears it would harm US-Saudi energy security and cooperation saudi. This includes the postponement of sanctions against Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for the murder of American journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018; the imprisonment of dissidents and political opponents, especially women, and Riyadh’s role in civilian deaths in Yemen’s civil war.

Progressives also see humanitarian differences between how the United States and its allies are responding to the deadly conflict in Ukraine and ongoing conflicts in the Arab world. Liberals have been calling for an end to America’s role in the battle between Saudi Arabia and Yemen for years.

“The Biden administration has rightly and forcefully condemned Russia’s invasion and indiscriminate attacks on civilians,” the rep said. Pramila JayapalPramila JayapalThe Hill’s 12:30 p.m. Report: Judge Jackson in the hot seat DST change faces issues in House Progressive Caucus pressures Biden for executive action on student loans and immigration MORE (D-Wash.) told The Hill. “As we ponder the dangers of depending on autocratic governments for fossil fuels, there is no better time for the President to fulfill his pledge to end US military involvement in the Saudi war in Saudi Arabia. Yemen,” she said.

Broadly speaking, while progressives have embraced Biden’s actions against Russia to date — including the imposition of harsh financial sanctions on the country — they are frustrated with what they claim is the deep-rooted dependency. of America on fossil fuels and foreign oil.

Climate activists are particularly concerned that war devastates the environment. They call on Biden to rely more on renewable energy sources to reduce Russia’s stranglehold on international oil supplies.

They recognize this is at odds with how the United States has traditionally acted in times of conflict, but see Biden’s sanctions as a promising opportunity for other measures they previously thought impossible. Some liberals say privately that they were surprised the president moved so quickly to stem the flow of oil.

“It’s great to ban the import of Russian oil, but it’s only the beginning,” said Keya Chetterjee, executive director of the US Climate Action Network. “Relying on corrupt oil states for energy is not a feasible approach.”

Liberals like Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersWhy not expect profit margins to fall when prices rise Bernie Sanders’ former press secretary: US should fight climate change ‘more comprehensively’ Gas prices lead to tensions within the Democratic Party MORE (I-Vt.) and the Congressional Progressive Caucus in the House are imploring Biden to use the Defense Production Act to increase oil production at home.

“Now is the time for us to do things we’ve never done before,” Chetterjee said, referring to using DPA to generate more renewable resources. “What we did brought us a climate crisis and a war.”

Progressives also see the Russian invasion as a way to mount a broader critique of the structures they say underpin an outdated view of the foreign policy establishment around the military. They want more left-wing lawmakers in key positions to provide new insights.

“In Congress, progressives are grossly underrepresented on the Armed Services Committee and the Intelligence Committee,” McCoy said. “Too few progressive organizations have invested in developing members affected by foreign policy into leaders with deep political expertise and the credibility and platform to counter the unrepresentative warmongering voices that dominate television. by cable.”

In doing so, however, many on the left continue to say that Biden is on track with the crisis, a sentiment that is also reflected in recent polls among Democratic, Republican and independent voters. They recognize that while there are additional climate and humanitarian measures the White House can act on, it is imperative to show a united response against Russia.

“The world was rightly horrified and outraged by Putin’s war of aggression in Ukraine and the devastation it wrought on the Ukrainian people,” Jayapal said.

“Progressives will continue to advocate for this administration to act on its values ​​and bring the same clarity regarding war crimes and human rights abuses in Ukraine to end U.S. military involvement in the war in Saudi Arabia and relieve the suffering of the Yemeni people”.

Laura Kelly contributed to this report.

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