Swiss Peace Summit could end up harming Ukraine as nothing is going to plan

Wednesday, 5 June 2024 — , European Pravda
Photo: Press service of the Office of the President of Ukraine
Before the Swiss Peace Summit, Volodymyr Zelenskyy will have to make a tough decision regarding principles that are crucial for Ukraine.

All usual international issues have become minor for Ukrainian diplomacy in recent weeks or even months. All efforts of the Ukrainian government and the embassies are focused on the Peace Summit in Switzerland – the first meeting of leaders aimed at establishing the Ukrainian vision of a just peace and ways to end the Russian aggression.

A week is left until the summit, but everything is going not the way it was planned.

This summit will likely only harm Ukraine.

European Pravda has obtained the latest draft decision of the summit – the Joint Communiqué on a Peace Framework.


Some amendments to the document are dangerous for Ukraine, but they were made to achieve consensus among the participants. If this decision is adopted, it will undermine the key role of "Zelenskyy's peace formula" as a scenario intended to lead to a just peace.

There is also a danger that this will initiate new summits, paving the way to the "normalisation" of Russia's position.

There is already an idea to abandon a joint decision at the meeting in Switzerland altogether, despite its unprecedented scale.

Victory formula

First of all, it is necessary to briefly outline Ukraine’s idea for the Peace Summit.

In the autumn of 2022, President Zelenskyy presented to the key countries at the G20 summit the so-called Ukraine’s Peace Formula (also referred to as Zelenskyy's peace plan) – 10 objectives that outlined Ukraine's vision for ending the Russian war.

Two years later, all of these provisions are still relevant.

Some might also call this document the "formula for Ukraine's victory," as it stipulates that Russia must abandon the occupation of Ukrainian territories, compensate for damages, punish and condemn those guilty of aggression (obviously, including Putin).

So it is not about "reconciliation," but about ending the war under international pressure and just punishment of the aggressor.

Odds are that in 2022, few people expected this formula’s quick implementation. The Ukrainian authorities did not hope for this either. The plan also had another short-term goal, which worked. Back then, the "peace ideas" that emerged suggested certain concessions from Ukraine – abandoning some of the occupied territories, restricting sovereign decisions, such as guarantees of non-entry into NATO and so on. These plans appeared without Ukraine being aware of their existence and sometimes resembled scenarios of appeasement of the aggressor.

Zelenskyy's plan was meant to fill this niche. And it did.

Ukraine positioned it as a scenario for a just end to the war, which would allow the remnants of the world order to be preserved.

Many countries and organisations, including the European Union, publicly declared their unconditional support for the Ukrainian plan. Alternative proposals, such as the Chinese one, were put aside to an extent.

One must know when to stop

Any plan requires negotiations. That's how diplomacy works. So Ukraine couldn't just present its 10 objectives and wait.

To discuss the "peace formula," meetings of leaders' advisers began. Currently, four of these took place: in Copenhagen, Jeddah (KSA), Malta and Davos.

The only truly successful meeting was in Jeddah, where China agreed to participate. However, very soon, the Chinese withdrew from the dialogue, returned to their peace plan and simultaneously shifted to more active support of Russia on the battlefield. Kyiv continues to try to bring the Chinese back, but it's all in vain.

Ukraine entered 2024 in a situation that certainly did not build ground for implementing its vision of peace initiatives.

International isolation of Russia is limited, mostly by the West. Beijing is siding with Moscow. Ukraine does not have such notable achievements on the battlefield as it did in 2022. The 2023 counteroffensive failed, delays in US funding had a negative impact on combat situation, and new weapons and F-16 fighters have yet to arrive.

None of this encourages swing capitals to bet on Ukraine's victory.

Ignoring this reality, Kyiv initiated the Peace Summit. Moreover, Zelenskyy's team set the goal of involving as many countries as possible, even those in China's sphere of influence, and achieving the adoption of a joint summit decision by consensus.

Although it was obvious that such a decision would definitely not meet Ukrainian ambitions.

"Resetting" Ukraine's peace plan

The draft decision is ready. We have seen both the initial version and the final one, shared with the participating countries for a review on 28 May. However, if adopted,

this decision completely destroys the initial idea of the Peace Summit that Ukraine publicly communicated.

Realising that the Ukrainian "peace formula" as a whole document has no chance of being approved by some of the Global South countries, Kyiv came up with a creative scheme.

Summit participants were given the opportunity not to join the formula as a whole. Instead, each country could choose just one or a few objectives that match its interests. For example, all African countries without exception support the plan's point on food security. No one would require them to adhere to the position on the withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine. Kyiv agreed to such selectivity in advance. The participating countries have formed nine sectoral groups, each of which developed a mechanism for implementing each objective of the "Zelenskyy Peace Plan."

These nine mechanisms would then be combined into a large comprehensive plan. Only then could Russia be invited to the conversation and get access to a peace plan developed by the world community.

This was the layout of the first draft of the summit communiqué, which Kyiv developed back in April (European Pravda had the chance to review it). But under pressure from Switzerland and other participants, the idea of the decision completely changed.

The key change is that the "Zelenskyy Peace Plan" is no longer the only option.

Now it states that summit participants base their positions on "previous discussions that have taken place based on Ukraine’s Peace Formula and other peace proposals." Consequently, the Chinese plan, which Kyiv cannot accept and which envisaged stopping hostilities at the current line (thus legitimising the occupation of part of Ukraine), or other plans based on concessions from Ukraine to the aggressor, enjoy equal legitimacy.

In addition, all "bridges" to the Ukrainian peace plan, such as the list of its objectives, have been removed from the draft. The approach that had founded the first Peace Summit, where participants had to split into groups and develop separate roadmaps, has also been removed. This was the price for the attempt to expand the circle of summit participants. Some of them did not agree with the initial creative approach.

But why did Kyiv agree to kill its own idea?

Such a concession by Ukraine has far-reaching consequences. And there is a big question as to whether it is justified.

If the summit officially approves the decision in its current form, it will mean that Ukraine greenlights promoting alternative "peace plans" that contradict Ukrainian interests.

Ukraine's closest allies are already expressing surprise about this.

"We have invested a lot of effort in backing the Ukrainian peace formula. But we cannot be more Ukrainian than the Ukrainians themselves," one Western diplomat, surprised by such a change, told European Pravda.

Other possible concessions by Ukraine

Sadly, there are more problems with the decision that they want to approve in Switzerland.

Importantly, the peace summit will not seek a path to peace (even if that sounds like complete nonsense). The agenda includes three issues: nuclear security, food security and the release of prisoners. As the Swiss side explains, this narrow choice was made to "facilitate consensus."

These objectives are also in the Ukrainian plan (and not just it), but their implementation is not directly related to achieving the lasting peace.

At the same time, reducing the agenda ambition carries additional threats for Ukraine. Specifically, in the sensitive issue of Russia's participation in forming the future "peace framework."

Russia is an aggressor state that is ruining the world order, and this gives it a special role. Kyiv acknowledges that at some stage, Russia must join the peace negotiations (after all, the peace plan cannot be implemented without Russia's participation). But until now, it was said that before inviting Moscow, world leaders had to agree on a common vision of demands to Moscow (such as the liberation of Ukraine). Only after this agreement would the world present corresponding demands to Russia, and if it agreed, Russian representatives would be invited to prepare a new Peace Summit.

However, during the approval of the summit decision in Switzerland, this entire chain was removed. The provision about Russia's inclusion, however, remained. Now, to become a participant in the process, it is enough to hold negotiations on nuclear security, food security and prisoner swaps.

"We, therefore, agreed to undertake concrete steps which can serve as confidence building measures (between Ukraine and Russia – EP) in the above-mentioned areas with further engagement of the representatives of the Russian Federation. We further agreed to hold the second high-level peace summit," the draft decision reads.

To transform from an aggressor to a participant in peace negotiations, Russia only needs to implement vague "confidence-building measures" in these three areas.

Additionally, Ukraine made significant concessions regarding the "nuclear block": all mentions of the liberation or demilitarisation of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant were removed from the draft decision.

How can Ukraine get out of this trap?

Of course, Ukraine’s government can turn a blind eye to the summit's decision and claim that Ukraine is not changing its position. Kyiv can say that the absence of points about troops withdrawal and the restoration of territorial integrity in the decision does not change Ukraine's demands.

But it doesn’t work that way.

Adopting such a decision will send a powerful signal to the world that Ukraine is ready to make concessions to the aggressor for the sake of "peace," and Zelenskyy has personally approved the possibility of such concessions at the summit in Switzerland.

Chances are this can't be "rolled back."

Moreover, documents available to European Pravda indicate minor corrections in this field as well. In the initial draft, Ukraine proposed stating that "United Nations shall play a leading role in achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in accordance with its Charter," and the UN Charter guarantees Ukraine the right to self-defence (which becomes part of achieving peace). In the final text, however, this thesis was somehow changed to a milder one: "The United Nations Charter can and should play a guiding role in achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in accordance with its main principles." The principles of the Charter do not mention the right to self-defence but instead talk about "settling international disputes by peaceful means."

We do not know which of the summit's participating countries insisted on such amendments, given other changes; we cannot rule out that someone dreams of using this strange correction to subsequently normalise the revision of Ukraine's borders.

But does Ukraine need this?

There is every reason to believe that the idea of holding the summit in 2024, without achieving the necessary conditions, was a mistake.

Now it cannot be canceled. Too much effort has been invested in the event.

But we certainly still have the right to refuse the summit's final document, which, after all the amendments, does not look acceptable for Ukraine. Because approving SUCH a final communiqué carries huge risks for us. Kyiv can refer to unacceptable amendments, their rejection by Ukrainian society, etc.

Volodymyr Zelenskyy must find a way not to "kill" his peace formula, which may happen after the Swiss meeting.

Ukraine must insist that its peace plan should build the basis for ending Russia's aggressive war.

Some principles are unacceptable to compromise. Even if the price is the loss of a dozen summit participants – those who do not support Ukraine anyway but instead will be happy to join an "alternative summit" organised by Russia. By the way, Moscow is actively hinting at this.


Sergiy Sydorenko,

European Pravda, Editor

Translated by Daria Meshcheriakova

If you notice an error, select the required text and press Ctrl + Enter to report it to the editors.