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(Non)participants: USA and China's role at Ukraine Peace Summit and implications of leaders absence

(Non)participants: USA and China's role at Ukraine Peace Summit and implications of leaders absence Chinese leader Xi Jinping and US President Joe Biden (Photo: Getty Images)

The Global Peace Summit in Switzerland will take place in two weeks. Its goal is to align an international strategy for just peace in Ukraine. More details about the forum, why Joe Biden and Xi Jinping are invited, and what to expect if they don't attend are in the RBC-Ukraine material.


What is known about the summit and participants

The Peace Summit will be held on June 15-16, 2024, at the Bürgenstock resort near Lucerne. The Ukrainian side first mentioned the meeting in the spring of 2023, proposing the desired date to be 500 days from the start of the full-scale Russian aggression. However, specifics were only finalized last winter.

In 2022, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy presented a 10-point peace formula. Meetings were held at the adviser level in Copenhagen, Jeddah, Malta, and Davos to implement it. In January 2024, it was announced that Switzerland would host the first global summit.

More than 160 delegations were invited, including members of the G7, G20, BRICS, the Vatican, the European Union, the Council of Europe, and the OSCE. By the end of May, about 90 countries, from Côte d'Ivoire and Cape Verde to India and Western Europe, had confirmed their participation. Many will be represented at the highest level. Leaders such as French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, and others will attend the forum.

Russia was not invited to the summit.

(Non)participants: USA and China's role at Ukraine Peace Summit and implications of leaders absence

The Peace Summit will be held in the Swiss resort of Bürgenstock (photo by

"Between 2014 and 2022, we held about 200 rounds of negotiations with Russia in various formats, but nothing worked, and it all ended in a full-scale invasion. Therefore, it is pointless to bring Russia to the negotiating table if it cannot be forced to act honestly," explained Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba.

The first summit is needed to develop a plan to achieve peace for Ukraine. Not all points of the Ukrainian formula will be presented. Through compromise and to attract as many participants as possible, the topics were limited to three: energy and nuclear security, freedom of navigation, and prisoner exchange (return of deported children).

Specific countries will be responsible for promoting these topics. According to Bloomberg, another goal is to agree on how to involve Russia in the peace process.

The agreed position will then be forwarded to the Kremlin. Although Vladimir Putin recently stated that he does not understand who to negotiate within Ukraine, he is pressuring other partners to refuse participation in the summit. According to EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell, if Putin strongly opposes it, the forum must be important.

From this perspective, involving as many delegations as possible is crucial.

Why Ukraine invites Biden and Xi Jinping

Last week, Zelenskyy invited US President Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping, stating they should not remain on the sidelines if they genuinely want peace in Ukraine and not just a "pause between strikes."

According to Reuters, a delegation from Washington will likely participate. The American side has been involved in preparing for the summit as one of the key players.

"We have actively participated in each of the previous Ukrainian peace summits. The US government was obviously engaged, and we will continue to be represented in the summit, including the upcoming one," said White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, without specifying whether Biden will attend in person.

(Non)participants: USA and China's role at Ukraine Peace Summit and implications of leaders absence

Volodymyr Zelenskyy is confident that Joe Biden is needed at the Peace Summit (photo by Getty Images).

China's participation is desirable because it has significant influence over Russia. If Beijing supports peace initiatives, Moscow will have to consider them. Zelenskyy said Ukraine does not expect protection from China but hopes it will at least be present at the forum.

According to political scientist Volodymyr Fesenko, Zelenskyy pursued various motives in addressing Xi and Biden. The Chinese leader will almost certainly not be in Switzerland. He recently toured European countries in May, and he generally does not participate in summits unless they pursue Chinese interests.

"Most likely, the appeal to Xi Jinping was so that if not him personally, then at least China as a participant would attend the summit. Otherwise, he could lose the potential role of a mediator in future negotiations," he told RBC-Ukraine.

As for Biden, it is also more about presence than participation. Fesenko believes that Ukraine would be satisfied even with a video address from the US president. This is needed to add more weight; otherwise, Russia will perceive it as a divergence between Kyiv and Washington, undermining the summit's significance.

"If Biden does not participate in one form or another, it will indirectly benefit Putin. It is no coincidence that fighting against the Peace Summit has become one of his main foreign priorities. Such gifts should not be given to him. Biden's presence underscores the summit's status and counters Russian interests," he added.

Will their absence affect the summit's outcome

Western media suggest that Biden might miss the summit. After the G7 leaders' meeting in Italy on June 15, he is scheduled to attend a fundraising event in Los Angeles, where he will be joined by actors George Clooney, Julia Roberts, and former President Barack Obama. According to Bloomberg, this decision highlights the priority of outperforming Donald Trump in key swing states.

As expected, this news did not sit well with Volodymyr Zelenskyy. He stated that Biden is essential for the Peace Summit, and if he does not attend, "Putin will applaud, and he will give a standing ovation."

Fesenko believes that the decision made in the White House seems to be for personal rather than political reasons. Given Biden's age, it might be challenging to endure two intense summits, especially with the upcoming election campaign. He suggests that it would be better for the delegation to be led by Secretary of State Antony Blinken in terms of working on the final document.

"As the head of the foreign policy department, he can work more actively here," the political scientist emphasizes.

The Chinese delegation's participation remains highly uncertain. Beijing is considered an essential figure in the future peace process due to its close ties with Moscow, but it has previously missed most of the meetings.

(Non)participants: USA and China's role at Ukraine Peace Summit and implications of leaders absence

Xi Jinping is unlikely to attend the Burgenshtok Summit, and overall, this summit is not a Chinese game (Getty Images)

China and several other countries from the so-called Global South insist on involving Russia in this process immediately. Ukraine and its allies oppose this until the basic set of principles is agreed upon.

At a meeting in Beijing, Brazil's chief presidential advisor, Celso Amorim, and China's foreign minister, Wang Yi, stated that they support a peace conference with equal participation of Russia and Ukraine.

According to Politico, China previously informed European diplomats that it is still undecided about Switzerland. Most likely, Wang Yi will not be there, as a meeting of the BRICS foreign ministers is scheduled for June 10-11 in Nizhny Novgorod. And there, Russia will try to persuade its partners not to go.

Recently, China's Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning confirmed that the position has not changed, and there is "nothing to share" regarding whether their country will be represented. Although the Western press reports that " junior officials will represent India and Brazil," China may do the same.

Fesenko explains that the lower level of participation of the American and Chinese delegations will not affect the summit's outcomes. Typically, all final decisions are agreed upon in advance.

"It should be understood that even if the Chinese come, they will not sign anything. At most, one representative or another from China will act as an observer. And whether Biden comes or not, Russia will evaluate the summit negatively anyway," he noted in a comment to RBC-Ukraine.

He said Beijing will maintain a double position, formally preserving Chinese neutrality. The Swiss forum is not a Chinese game, so it will stay out of it. However, it is still essential to be involved in it, at least as an observer. After all, there are few similar global summits. Regarding representation level, it can be equated with the annual UN General Assembly and, with some exaggeration, the conferences in Munich and Davos.

What results can the meeting in Switzerland achieve

Two weeks ago, President Zelenskyy stated that allies are not pushing Ukraine into negotiations with Russia, but "this sentiment is present globally." He hopes that a joint communiqué on energy security, freedom of navigation, and the exchange of prisoners will result from the summit.

"If there is a significant number of countries and an appropriate communiqué, I believe it will be our diplomatic advantage. After that, platforms can be organized in various countries where these points will be technically worked out. And then the plan will be handed over to Russia," Fesenko noted.

(Non)participants: USA and China's role at Ukraine Peace Summit and implications of leaders absence

Volodymyr Zelenskyy hopes for a joint communiqué on specific points of the peace formula (Getty Images)

Volodymyr Fesenko emphasizes that the meeting in Switzerland will not lead to a major breakthrough or immediate peace. This is impossible even in theory.

According to him, the summit will strengthen Ukraine's negotiating positions in the future and show Putin that an alternative strategy is supported worldwide, not his plan for partial capitulation by force.

"At present, three topics have been proposed - this is a compromise to start negotiations. The peace formula will remain our strategic program. But here, we need a separate strategy and tactics for the gradual involvement of Russia in the negotiating process. But from significant positions, with part of the international community behind us. This will be a significant factor because we have not proposed compromise options on our own, which Putin must respond to," the political analyst explained.

Another specific result will be legitimizing the start of the negotiation process. Until the summit, Ukraine's position has been no negotiations with Putin. Essentially, he added that one of the main tasks is to legitimize this process for many Ukrainians and the world.

It was previously reported that the EU is considering holding the next conference with Russia. According to Bloomberg, it may occur in Saudi Arabia in the fall.

Fesenko doubts that the idea is being seriously discussed, as Brussels typically does not engage in secret diplomacy. The idea seems to originate from Brazil and China's initiative to bring Ukraine and Russia to the negotiating table, but it remains abstract.

If such a decision is made, it will not be before the European Parliament elections and the renewal of the EU leadership. Therefore, it is unlikely that the next summit will take place in Saudi Arabia in the fall. As experience has shown, organizing such meetings takes at least several months.

Before the text was released, a news item appeared on Reuters about China's alleged refusal to participate in the peace conference in Switzerland. The information is provided regarding sources, and there is no official confirmation yet.

Sources: Bloomberg, Reuters, Politico, statements by President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Ukrainian and foreign officials, and comments by political analyst Volodymyr Fesenko.