As Ukraine’s counteroffensive and chances of winning the war begin to show signs of falling apart, and the realization that, eventually, Ukraine will end the war only through negotiations begins to dawn, Kiev has begun a campaign of conferences to court the neutral global south, or what Russia now calls the global majority, to their diplomatic side.
In June, Ukraine requested that the United States encourage several nonaligned countries that have declined to condemn Russia to gather in Copenhagen for a conference designed to entice them onboard the Zelensky peace proposal.
The talks, apparently, made little progress, and, though the West said they “frankly expect and wish that China will be there,” China did not attend. The United States said,“The session is considered an informal gathering and not a formal summit. No specific outcomes or joint communiques are expected to come out of it.” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky intended the meeting to advance his plan for a peace summit that would take place in July that would endorse his peace proposal. But officials said that “there was a lot of work still to be done and a date later in the year was most likely.”
Ukraine and its partners in the political West then turned their hopes to Latin America. But the results were even more of a set back there.
In July, the nations of the European Union (EU) and the thirty-three nations of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) met in Brussels. Though the EU fought hard to get Zelensky invited as a guest, CELAC refused to endorse his inclusion, and Zelensky was not invited. The summit was also unable to produce a final declaration that included even a mild condemnation of Russia. Even had the declaration passed, the EU was only able to pressure the CELAC nations to express “deep concern on the ongoing war against Ukraine” and to “support all diplomatic efforts aimed at a just and sustainable peace in line with the UN charter” and the “need to respect the sovereignty, political independence and territorial integrity of all nations.” That statement failed, not only to condemn, but even to name Russia.
Columbian president Gustavo Petro condemned the political West’s attempt to form blocks in the world. Brazil’s president Lula da Silva criticized resources that are essential for social programs going instead to the war and the political West’s use of sanctions. Honduras’ President Xiomari Castro said that the war must come to an end and lamented, “Trillions of dollars in weapons are sent for war, but we are not capable of contributing to the integral development of humanity with the objectives of sustainable development, proposed by the UN.”
In August, the talks focused back on the nonaligned global south. The new round of talks took place in Saudi Arabia, and this time China did attend. Though China’s change of strategy was hailed as a “cause for optimism,” it may have been more about boosting China than boosting Ukraine. In Denmark, China was uncomfortable about attending a meeting in a NATO country that excluded Russia, but may not have wanted to miss a peace talk hosted by a non-NATO nation that has also not condemned Russia, has continued to expand its ties with Russia and who is in the process of joining the Chinese and Russian led multipolar Shanghai Cooperation Organization and is applying to BRICS.
Far from switching sides, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi phoned Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov after the summit to assure him that China was still an impartial “objective and rational voice.” China and the other members of BRICS also promised to brief Moscow on what was said at the summit and to have a “dialogue” and “exchange of views.” Attending the summit provided China the opportunity to promote its role in the peace process. It also gave China the chance to enter into the record its own peace proposal alongside the one being promoted by Ukraine.
As in the Denmark talks, State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said, “We are not looking at these talks as generating any concrete deliverables.” And they don’t seem to have. However, though Ukrainian officials insisted after the summit that the “only basic ‘foundation for negotiations’ is Zelensky’s peace formula” and that there could be no negotiations until Russia withdrew to the 1991 border, Ukraine’s tone may have been different during the summit. The Wall Street Journal reports that in Denmark, Ukraine pushed hard for the global south to sign up for Zelensky’s peace plan that features a full Russian withdrawal as a precondition to negotiations. The global majority declined. In Saudi Arabia, according to the reporting, Ukraine sought a “consensus” and did not push for exclusive acceptance of its peace plan nor for the Russian withdrawal precondition for negotiations. If true, that is, again, the global south standing up to the U.S.-led political West.
President Zelensky has recently “pushed his ambassadors…to intensify efforts to win global support for Kyiv’s position.” The three recent summits have shown that that goal may not be easily achieved. The global south, or the global majority, is defending nonalignment and may be advancing a position of its own.Ted Snider is a regular columnist on U.S. foreign policy and history at Antiwar.com and The Libertarian Institute. He is also a frequent contributor to Responsible Statecraft and The American Conservative as well as other outlets.