Zelensky Calls for Backing at Major Ukraine Peace Summit

Global leaders gather to shape Ukraine's peace strategy

by Zain ul Abedin
Zelensky Calls for Backing at Major Ukraine Peace Summit
© Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

This weekend, the serene Swiss resort above Lake Lucerne transforms dramatically as it hosts a significant summit aimed at sketching the initial contours of peace in war-torn Ukraine. Over 90 nations and global bodies gather here, some 28 months post Russia's invasion of its neighbour, signalling the largest congregation for Ukraine since the conflict escalated.

However, the absence of key figures like China and new ultimatums from Russian President Vladimir Putin temper expectations for a breakthrough. Despite the challenges, the summit represents a significant gesture of solidarity for Ukraine.

"The mere fact that this meeting is occurring is a positive sign," Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky remarked at the summit's onset. He expressed hope for the summit to mark a historic pivot towards peace, emphasizing the collective efforts to halt warfare and secure just peace.

Ukrainian politicians view the robust attendance as a clear support statement against Moscow's aggression and a stand for international law. Concurrently, the situation on the ground in Ukraine remains dire, with a renewed Russian offensive in the northeast and relentless missile attacks across the nation.

This makes the stakes of the summit even higher, not only in terms of gathering size but also the substantive outcomes it seeks to achieve. Ukrainian MP Oleksandr Merezhko highlighted the importance of establishing a political and legal framework aligning with Zelensky’s 10-point peace proposal, insisting on Russia's withdrawal from occupied territories and respecting Ukraine's sovereignty.

Shifting Summit Dynamics

The timing of the summit aligns with Ukraine’s desire to maximize global support for its peace terms, potentially increasing pressure on Russia. Initially planned during a more optimistic military phase for Kyiv, the dynamics have since shifted, complicating peace prospects.

Experts like Sam Greene from the Centre for European Policy Analysis note a growing belief among some global policy circles that Ukraine may not win this war outright. This sentiment is echoed in the rise of right-wing parties in Europe who are more accommodating of Moscow.

Despite this, the summit aims to consolidate support for Ukraine's vision of an acceptable peace outcome. President Joe Biden's absence and the lukewarm involvement from Global South nations underscore the challenges in rallying broad international support.

Russian disdain for the summit is palpable, with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov dismissing it as futile and urging allies to boycott. This global division reflects the complex geopolitical undercurrents affecting the peace process.

Putin’s recent demands for Ukrainian capitulation, including the handover of territories Moscow claims to have annexed, have been promptly rejected by Kyiv as preposterous. The summit will focus on less contentious issues within Zelensky’s peace plan, such as nuclear security, ensuring food supplies to global markets, and addressing the plight of abducted Ukrainian citizens. These discussions are crucial, yet they skirt the more divisive topics that could derail progress.