Progressive groups and peace organizations are condemning President Joe Biden’s decision to send clusterbombs to the frontline of the Russia-Ukraine war, saying they violate international treaties and endanger the innocent.
But while progressives and peace activists are confronting Biden over deploying weapons his own U.N. ambassador said “have no place on the battlefield,” New Hampshire’s Democrats in Congress are keeping quiet. That includes Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, a member of both the Foreign Relations Committee and the Commission on Cooperation and Security in Europe, also known as the “Helsinki Commission.”
Shaheen traveled with a bipartisan congressional delegation to the 2023 NATO Summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, this week, where Russia’s war on Ukraine was the central topic. “As transatlantic security faces tests it hasn’t seen since the end of the Cold War, I leave Vilnius with renewed optimism that the Alliance will continue to stand together against those who seek to upend global stability – from Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine to the pacing challenge posed by the People’s Republic of China,” Shaheen said in a statement.
The same with Sen. Maggie Hassan and Reps. Annie Kuster and Chris Pappas, all of whom declined to comment.
Meanwhile, progressive and peace activists are pushing back on Biden’s policy.
Nineteen congressional Democrats, including Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), signed a letter opposing Biden’s action, saying it “severely undermines our moral leadership.
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), who serves with Shaheen on the Foreign Relations Committee, also thinks it’s a mistake. “The ability to rally the world against Russia gets harder if our war efforts start to fudge ethical lines,” Murphy said.
Bridget Moix, general secretary of The Friends (Quaker) Committee on National Legislation, called Biden’s decision “beyond disappointing and heartbreaking, while Veterans For Peace is joining other U.S. anti-war organizations for a rally on July 22 at the Scranton, Pa. Army Ammunition Plant to oppose sending cluster bombs to Ukraine and call for an immediate ceasefire.
Even Republicans are speaking out.
“I would not do that, no,” DeSantis told New England radio host Howie Carr Wednesday when asked about sending cluster munitions to Ukraine. “I think it runs the risk of escalating the conflict. We cannot become involved in this directly.”
But as has become more common since Biden’s attempt to strip New Hampshire Democrats of the First-in-the-Nation presidential primary, Granite State Democrats are dodging issues that might upset the White House. And with Granite State progressives remaining silent as well, there is little political pressure on the delegation to speak out.
Still, Shaheen’s silence strikes some Granite State politicos, including her allies, as odd. Shaheen has been an outspoken advocate of U.S. aid to Ukraine, attending an event at the Blessed Virgin Mary Ukrainian Catholic Church in Manchester in January to support the cause.
And some of her fellow members of the Helsinki Commission released a statement last week “commend[ing] President Biden’s decision to send DPICMs to Ukraine to defend itself against Russia, which has been constantly using cluster munitions in their continued aggression in Ukraine.”
Why is Shaheen silent?
“They want Biden in New Hampshire and don’t want to rock the boat,” one New Hampshire Democratic insider told NHJournal. “[NHDP Chair Ray] Buckley needs the money, and the party doesn’t want to be embarrassed when they can’t pull off a write-in.”
Having pushed through a new calendar at the Democratic National Committee, Biden is very unlikely to participate in the state’s unsanctioned First-in-the-Nation primary, many Democrats in D.C. believe. As a result, there’s talk that the New Hampshire Democratic Party will attempt to win the primary for Biden via write-in ballots — a daunting task with Robert. F. Kennedy Jr. campaigning hard for the state’s populist-progressive vote.
Meanwhile, hope springs eternal among local Democrats that Biden will go back on his word, put his name on the New Hampshire ballot, and start campaigning — and spending money — here this winter.
The blame for losing the primary — a tradition since 1920– has largely been laid at the feet of Shaheen and her lack of influence in D.C. and Buckley’s inability to protect the primary inside the party. As a result, insiders believe, the delegation is largely keeping its head down and hoping for the best.