Ukraine’s Global Outreach Hits Wall as Summit Goals Fall Short

(Bloomberg) -- Volodymyr Zelenskiy is returning to Kyiv with €50 billion ($53.5 billion) in aid, fresh security guarantees from the US and commitments to help rebuild energy infrastructure for a country battered by more than two years of war.

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But the Ukrainian president’s foray to a Swiss mountaintop, where he gathered more than 100 countries and organizations, fell short in his bid to broaden international support. India, Brazil and South Africa, which sent delegates, opted out of signing the summit document. China had made clear it would have no part in it.

The failure to win over nations from the Global South shows that Russia remains far from isolated and that Ukraine’s best hopes of fending off the Kremlin’s assault is with Western assistance. Securing their backing — essential to ambitions for a broad global alliance and the main thrust of Kyiv’s diplomatic agenda for almost two years — may be moving beyond reach.

The Ukrainian leader left his war-battered country this month and criss-crossed the globe in preparation for the meeting. He flew to Singapore to recruit Asian governments to his cause — accusing China of undermining the effort with Moscow — and made stops in Qatar and Saudi Arabia. A reconstruction conference in Berlin and the Group of Seven summit in Italy cemented support, especially from Western partners.

The intense diplomatic shuttling culminated with the meeting at the Buergenstock resort in Lucerne — and a nearly 500-word communique that had been narrowed to focus on three issues and to some extent was watered down to win maximum support. Even still, only 83 delegates signed on.

One of the holdouts was Saudi Arabia. A last-minute visit by Zelenskiy to the kingdom last week, to court Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s support, had appeared to pay off when Riyadh sent Foreign Minister Prince Faisal Bin Farhan.

His Ukrainian counterpart, Dmytro Kuleba, was seen strolling beside the Saudi top diplomat as delegates entered the Swiss meeting. There was speculation that an expected second summit would take place in Saudi Arabia.

But on Sunday, no Saudi signature came — and the second meeting went unmentioned in the communique text. During the first plenary session, the kingdom’s top diplomat said that Kyiv must be prepared to make “difficult compromise” to put an end to the conflict.

Putin’s Influence

It was a warning that echoed similar views in the Global South. India’s delegate, Pavan Kapoor, a state secretary in the foreign ministry and former ambassador to Russia, said only options that are “acceptable to both parties” can lead to peace.

Zelenskiy called the summit a “great success” — and expressed confidence that some non-signatories would still sign after consultations with their governments.

Camille Grand, an analyst at the European Council on Foreign Relations think tank, said much of the reticence of so-called BRICS nations can be attributed to Russian pressure, with promises of cheap energy, arms and useful votes at the United Nations.

“They’ve been good at marketing themselves as the heirs of the Soviet Union in their relationship with Latin America, Africa, Asia — playing on the non-alignment ideology trope,” Grand said.

The soft support could add pressure on Zelenskiy to make concessions. Countries outside the West have made clear that no forum designed to create conditions for peace is workable without the participation of Russia. China and Brazil have put forward a plan for peace that involves the participation of both war parties.

‘Outrageous Terms’

President Vladimir Putin added to anxiety a day before the summit with a fresh set of demands — calling on Kyiv forces to withdraw from four Ukrainian regions partially occupied by his military as a condition for talks. Western leaders joined Kyiv in denouncing the ultimatum.

“No country would accept these outrageous terms,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said.

Zelenskiy had racked up further commitments from Western allies, particular after the G-7 summit. US President Joe Biden hailed the new security pact and the $50 billion in aid as a clear signal to Putin that the US and allies are not “backing down.”

“We’ll be with Ukraine until they prevail in this war,” Biden said said after meeting Zelenskiy at the summit in Italy.

But the follow-up in Switzerland didn’t garner the full focus of Ukraine’s allies, particularly with many leaders of allied nations facing turmoil at home. Biden skipped the Lucerne meeting, opting for a campaign fundraiser with Hollywood elite in Los Angeles, and sent Vice President Kamala Harris, who left after the first day. French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz also left early.

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, who had offered Zelenskiy a warm greeting as she hosted the G-7 meeting, was absent for the first plenary session, only arriving early Sunday.

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