Ukraine Peace Summit Brings Disappointment and Hope

Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 21 Issue: 92

(Source: President of Ukraine)

Executive Summary:

  • The Ukraine peace summit in Switzerland did not provide much substantive progress in signing a peace agreement, but the wide participation of the international community demonstrated a sharp rebuttal to the Kremlin’s efforts to hijack the agenda.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin hastily presented his own “peace plan” in the run-up to the conference, though his absolutist claims run contrary to the views of many countries in the Global South.
  • Kyiv can build on the success of growing its international coalition by achieving steady gains on the battlefield and maintaining the export of grain supplies critical to global food security.  

The political intrigues surrounding the Summit on Peace in Ukraine held in Bürgenstock, Switzerland, on June 15 and 16 had gained such ferocity in recent weeks that the discussions on the deliberately reduced agenda and the rather temperate final declaration may seem underwhelming. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy had invested much personal effort in boosting the event’s profile, and the lack of any substantive progress toward ending the war can be interpreted as a setback. Nevertheless, the failure of the massive Russian campaign aimed at derailing the summit by means of diplomatic sabotage and cyberattacks represents a resounding success (TASS;, June 13). The participation of 92 states and 8 international organizations in the proceedings was a significant political victory for Ukraine, which has immediately started preparations for the next summit (RBC, June 16).

Moscow tried to pass off the gathering as senseless without Russia being present or even invited (, June 12). The Ukrainian initiative, however, focused more on widening the coalition of states supporting the basic principles of its resistance against Russia’s aggression and not that much on charting the road to a peace agreement (Kommersant, June 14). Beijing, for that matter, is not interested in such coalition-building and refused to partake in the summit. Meanwhile, some analysts speculate that China, together with Brazil and Russia, is preparing a “full-fledged” peace conference where all parties and stakeholders might participate (The Moscow Times, June 14; Carnegie Politika, June 14).

Russian President Vladimir Putin is not entirely content with the Chinese “peace plan.” He, nevertheless, feels obliged to declare Moscow’s readiness to embrace it, and so decided to advance his own initiative at a hastily convened forum with full ranks of his political elite present and Western media invited (Kommersant, June 14). The newly formulated demand for international legalization of Russia’s annexation of four Ukrainian regions and Crimea seems to run contrary to the Chinese stance on Ukraine’s territorial integrity. It goes far beyond the previous demands for accepting the “reality on the ground” (Izvestiya, June 14). Putin’s intention behind pushing such unacceptable claims combined the desire to hijack the agenda of debates in Switzerland with the urge to demonstrate that Russia is winning the war (Meduza, June 14).

Putin’s need to believe in the possibility of a victory determines the strategic goal of sustaining offensive operations in several directions despite casualties estimated at 1,000 soldiers a day (, June 13). The directive to open a new direction of attacks on Kharkiv has turned out to be a major blunder. The offensive’s failure to capture significant enough territory to fulfill Putin’s vision of a “cordon sanitaire” (“buffer zone”) has prompted the United States and other allies to confirm Ukraine’s right to target military headquarters and logistics inside Russia (, June 11). Moscow’s primary response for covering up this strategic fiasco is to portray Ukraine’s long-distance strikes as evidence of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) readiness to escalate hostilities, going against the expressed preference of many states in the Global South for freezing the war (see EDM, June 3; Izvestiya, June 13).

Zelenskyy is prepared to explain in detail to influential “neutral” countries such as Saudi Arabia that his rejection of options involving immediate ceasefire is not emotional posturing or a tactical gamble but a principled position based on the resilience of Ukrainian society (RBC, June 12). Putin’s demands make it easier for Kyiv to justify its refusal to negotiate with Russia while trapping Moscow in a politically indefensible position from which it is near impossible to retreat to a reasonable compromise (Novaya Gazeta Europe, June 15).

Ukraine seeks to show flexibility and convert its restraint in targeting Russian commercial shipping in the Black Sea into a deal that would ensure safety of navigation and guarantee the uninterrupted flow of grain supplies, a grave matter of food security for many states in the Global South (The Moscow Times, May 15). Zelenskyy may build on the success of the peace summit in Switzerland by granting Türkiye the status of guarantor of maritime security in the Black Sea. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was irked by Moscow’s cancellation of the “grain deal” in July 2023 and seeks to secure himself a prominent role in future peace talks (Novaya Gazeta Europe, June 11).

Erdogan was at the Group of Seven (G7) meeting in Puglia, Italy, a day before the summit in Switzerland. The Turkish president was likely perturbed by Putin’s suggestion to meet during the Shanghai Cooperation Organization gathering in Astana in early July instead of paying a long-promised visit to Ankara (RIA Novosti, June 12). Erdogan’s government must account for the further tightening of sanctions against Russia, agreed to at the G7 summit, as well as the arrangement for a $50 billion loan to Ukraine to be covered from the profits of Russian financial assets frozen in Western banks (RBC, June 14).

Moscow pundits have persisted with claims of an erosion of Western support for Ukraine. Yet, every conference marks a boost in solidarity and new pledges for military aid (see EDM, June 10; Rossiiskaya gazeta, June 12; Kommersant, June 13). One accord that stands out in the multitude of recent developments is the US-Ukraine bilateral security agreement signed during the G7 meeting, which provides tangible security reassurances to Ukraine for the coming ten years and is meant to be a “stepping stone” to NATO membership (see EDM, May 16, 20; Nezavisimaya gazeta, June 13).

Peace in Ukraine remains a vision that has hardly become clearer after the conference in Switzerland–important as it is for Kyiv to make its case to the broadest possible audience. Diplomacy can only gain momentum in parallel with a sequence of Ukrainian successes on the battlefield, which will demand concerted efforts to replenish and reenergize the tired brigades. The arrival of F-16 fighter squadrons this summer will be a source of new strength, and every grain ship traveling from Odesa to Africa reflects Ukraine’s staunch resilience. Many Ukrainians, who expect another Russian missile attack nearly every night, might read the words of the Bürgenstock declaration as timid and ambivalent. This consensus nevertheless signifies a rebuttal of Putin’s demands and a step toward his defeat.