"Negotiations with Putin Make No Sense": Insights from the Ukraine Peace Summit

In public speeches, Putin compared himself to Russian emperors and promoted the restoration of "Russian lands" into a larger empire

by Sededin Dedovic
"Negotiations with Putin Make No Sense": Insights from the Ukraine Peace Summit
© Global News / Youtube channel

Peace in Ukraine remains far off, with Russia not even invited to the Peace Summit on Ukraine in Switzerland this weekend after labeling the event pro-Ukrainian. As Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told Reuters last month: "You cannot sit down to talk with a person whose only goal is to destroy you." Russian President Vladimir Putin has expressed readiness to talk, but not with democratically elected Zelensky, whom he views as illegitimate.

"Russia must understand who it should talk to and whom it can trust," Putin said in May, Politico reminds. Around 90 out of 160 invited countries reportedly will attend the conference in Switzerland, with many yet undecided.

Key players, including China and Saudi Arabia, along with South Africa and Brazil likely, will decline the invitation, Politico reports. Ukraine has even accused China of aiding Russia in trying to sabotage the summit for its own interests, which Beijing denies.

China and Brazil have offered an alternative peace plan more favorable to Moscow. Nevertheless, the summit could make progress towards ending hostilities in Ukraine, as Kyiv seeks to consolidate support from its allies, which could later be leveraged to pressure Russia for genuine peace talks in the future.

This weekend's gathering will be a gauge of that support. Kyiv plans to focus on three out of the 10 points in the peace formula outlined by Ukrainian President: food security, nuclear security, and the return of Ukrainian children and war prisoners held in Russia, Zelensky said at a conference in Berlin on Tuesday.

Volodymyr Zelensky, President of Ukraine, stands in front of a Patriot anti-aircraft missile system during his visit to a milita© Pool / Getty Images

"We are open to ideas. But it is very important not to lose the initiative to Russia," Zelensky added.

Predetermined Positions

Oleksandr Merezhko, head of the Ukrainian parliament's foreign affairs committee, told Politico that Putin lacks good faith in peace negotiations. "Russia has never sincerely tried to achieve a result," said Merezhko, who was deputy head of the Ukrainian delegation in the trilateral group following the progress of the Minsk agreements signed in 2014.

"Putin understands that the only way to hide his crime of destruction is to destroy the victim. Therefore, negotiations with him are pointless," Merezhko added. During his visit to China in May, Putin stated he is ready to talk only if Kyiv "becomes real." He blamed Ukraine for the war and said he wants a return to earlier demands — for Ukraine to surrender all occupied territories and demilitarize, and to abandon its aspirations to join NATO.

Ukraine, on its part, says as the country bearing the full burden of Russian aggression, only it can define what peace should look like. "The only just basis for achieving such peace is the peace formula of the Ukrainian president," the Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated.

China reiterated its long-standing position. "China always insists that an international peace conference should fulfill three important elements: recognition of both Russia and Ukraine, equal participation of all parties, and fair discussion of all peace plans," said the Chinese Embassy in the United States.

Chinese President Xi Jinping, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, Indonesian President Joko W© Pool / Getty Images

"Otherwise, a peace conference can hardly play a substantive role in restoring peace," Beijing stressed.

Meanwhile, the current U.S. administration is clear: it wants to ensure Russia never occupies Ukraine. "If we ever let Ukraine fall, mark my words, you will see Poland go, and you will see all those nations along the real boundary of Russia start to fall," U.S.

President Joe Biden said in an interview with Time magazine this month.

Historical Distrust

Kyiv pushes its peace formula to become the main path to a ceasefire because it believes it cannot trust the Kremlin. Ukraine has a long history of agreeing to Russian demands, only to realize Moscow reneges on commitments.

For example, Ukraine signed the Budapest Memorandum in 1996, relinquishing nuclear weapons and agreeing to further disarmament in exchange for security guarantees from the U.S., UK, and Russia. "Russia completely violated the memorandum," Freizer said, especially by annexing Crimea in 2014 and conducting its full-scale invasion in 2022, despite Russia guaranteeing Ukraine's security and sovereignty.

"Russia also forced Ukraine to hand over more ships of the Soviet Black Sea Fleet than originally agreed upon," Freizer noted. Ukraine fulfilled most conditions of the Minsk agreements aimed at ending the Donbas conflict — only for Putin to later declare independence of the disputed Donetsk and Luhansk regions and annex them to Russia.

Following Putin's 2022 invasion, Russia and Ukraine had several rounds of talks in Belarus and Turkey, disrupted by lawsuits and counter-lawsuits; during five rounds of talks in the spring of that year, Russia did not even agree to a temporary ceasefire.

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