Too Early for Ukraine’s Peace Fantasy?


China declined to attend; Russia was not invited while Brazil participated as an observer in the Global Peace Summit spearheaded by Ukraine which was held between June 15 and June 16 in Switzerland. Of the 92 countries, 80 signed the resolution presented by Kyiv. Switzerland had expected that participation in the conference meant supporting Ukraine’s plight, yet abstentions from Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Indonesia, South Africa, India and Mexico were notable. Yet, Ukraine was pleased that of 193 UN member-states, 92 countries attended. Had it succeeded in persuading China to participate, a few dozen other states would have joined too. Nonetheless, 56 countries sent heads of state while 30 dispatched senior officials like US Vice President Kamala Harris and foreign ministers or ministerial level delegates, an event Russia cannot surpass or even replicate.

The joint statement reads that “respect for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of all states” would “serve as a basis” for resolving the conflict with Russia. The document also endorsed three proposals of Ukraine’s 10-point peace plan. Specifically, the Ukraine summit called for the currently Russia-occupied Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant to be operated safely “under the full sovereign control of Ukraine.” Besides seeking an exhaustive exchange of prisoners of war and the return of Ukrainians taken to Russia, the conference stated that food security “must not be weaponised” and Kyiv must be allowed to “securely and freely” export food. The watered-down joint statement did not refer to Russian aggression but described the ongoing conflict as a war. While the statement underlined the need for respecting the UN charter, it stopped short of calling for respect for Ukraine’s territorial integrity.

The summit not only drew further global media coverage to the Russia-Ukraine conflict but also amplified Kyiv’s resolve against ceding its territory to Russia. With the conflict in its third year, Kyiv’s defensive campaign is grappling with strategic, tactical and political complexities. Russia is not retreating either. Putin has wooed North Korea alongside Belarus and Iran for the supply of arms and munitions. The frontlines have remained stable. The stalemate can either be broken with an ingeniously aggressive move by either side or through diplomatic channels.

Though the Ukraine military aid package eventually sailed through the turbulent politics of Capitol Hill, the supply line remains imperilled by fears of unexpected escalation. Kyiv is no longer keeping its cool over the United States’ procrastination on crucial military support. Contrary to a widespread perception that the F-16 training program for the Ukrainian Air Force is in full swing, only 20 pilots have been fully trained so far. Though Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands and Norway have pledged to transfer more than 60 F-16s, the United States has not allowed pilot training at a dozen proposed locations. Currently, the training program is restricted to Arizona in the United States and an airbase in Denmark while no training slots are available in Romania. The first jets are expected to arrive later this year, but it is unclear when they will begin combat missions. Reportedly, the United States is unwilling to prioritize the training of Ukrainian pilots as there are other countries already in the queue.

“These are not arguments, they are excuses, and they keep coming up with them time and time again,” Oleksandra Ustinova, head of Kyiv’s arms and munitions commission, told The Times. At the current pace, Kyiv could have a full squadron of pilots (40) till the end of 2025. It is anybody’s guess as to how much Ukraine can advance under the cover of suicide drones and a limited supply of air defense systems.

Amidst political turmoil in France, the UK and the United States, the uncertainty only favors Russia. Trump, Le Pen and Starmer share different perspectives on the Russia-Ukraine war to their predecessors. Biden’s abysmal performance at the maiden presidential debate with Trump comes as a rude awakening for the West but for Ukraine, in particular. French President Emmanuel Macron will still be in control of foreign and defense policies based on the presidential prerogative but working with a rival far-right premier amidst reduced popularity will not be easy.

To break the stalemate while saving thousands of lives on the frontlines as well as in cities, diplomacy is the way forward. In this regard, an abstaining country that has diplomatic clout can convene a mediatory summit between Ukraine and Russia. Currently, while Ukraine seeks to free its occupied territories, Russia is pursuing maximalist demands. For Putin, there is little initiative to sit at the negotiating table if Ukraine’s three key backers, the United States, the UK and France, are less keen to provide weapons after the elections. The Kremlin can be content with the slow pace of Kyiv’s weapons supply line coupled with war fatigue hurting its recruitment campaign. On the Russian side, meanwhile, multinational mercenaries are joining the fight together with its own freshly trained troops.

If Biden or any new Democratic candidate miraculously wins the 2024 election, the geopolitical winds will blow favorably for Ukraine. Macron will be in power until 2027 too. The White House can urge 10 Downing Street against reducing or withdrawing support for Ukraine. The public’s war fatigue will exacerbate if Kyiv does not achieve breakthroughs on the frontline.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has become more pragmatic too. He plans to hold another summit, possibly sometime in 2025, which could develop a peace plan for Russia. Moscow may take it seriously if Washington and Kyiv manage to woo Beijing to participate in the peace process. In the near future, better firepower will determine the course of geopolitics. 

Editorial Team