No phoney peace summit

IssueOctober - November 2023
News by Milan Rai

On 19 September, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced to the UN general assembly in New York: ‘we are preparing a Global Peace Summit’ on the Ukraine War. Zelenskyy added that ‘the Ukrainian Peace Formula’, a 10-point plan which he had presented in full in Indonesia last November, could not only bring about peace in Ukraine, it could now ‘bring back to life the UN Charter’.

The following day, at the UN security council, Zelenskyy explained how this might be done, through a huge upheaval in UN structures and procedures, including giving the UN general assembly the power to override the veto power of permanent members of the UN security council (in other words, Russia).

Unfortunately, the ‘Global Peace Summit’ Zelenskyy is proposing is not a meeting where Ukraine and Russia can try to negotiate an end to the war. Russia will be excluded: negotiations will be impossible at the ‘Global Peace Summit’.

It might be more accurate to describe the proposed conference as a ‘Global “Support Ukraine’s War Effort” Summit’.

Given Russia’s illegal invasion in February 2022 and the war crimes it has committed since then, there are many governments who would willingly attend a ‘Global “Support Ukraine’s War” Summit’. The ‘Global Peace Summit’ label is designed to try to bring on board the many states who are reluctant to take sides.

Similarly, the ‘Ukrainian Peace Formula’ is not an honest set of peace proposals, laying the basis for a negotiated end to the war, but a form of words designed to bring non-aligned countries, who are mainly in the Global South, over to support the Ukrainian side.

The ‘Ukrainian Peace Formula’, as we shall see in a moment, is actually a set of impossible preconditions designed to push Russia away from the negotiating table.

For example, the sixth point in Zelenskyy’s 10-Point Plan is: ‘Russia must withdraw all its troops and armed formations from the territory of Ukraine’ (including Crimea) leading to a ceasefire.

If the Russian government accepted this proposal, there would be no need for negotiations. Making this principle the basis for negotiations creates an impossible precondition for talks.

Ukraine also seems to be saying that it will only consider a ceasefire if Russia withdraws from all of its territory. In other words, there will be no ceasefire until Russia is defeated.

In a similar way, Zelenskyy’s ambitious 20 September proposals for reforming the United Nations (explained on p3) are not a genuine attempt to strengthen the UN system. They are designed instead to appeal to Global South nations and to distract their attention from the fact that Ukraine is not interested in genuine peace negotiations.

End the ban on talks

If Ukraine were interested in a negotiated end to the Ukraine War, the first step it would take would be reversing its official ban on negotiating with Russia.

On 4 October 2022, Zelenskyy passed decree 679/2022 making it illegal to negotiate with Russian president Vladimir Putin. This technically left the door open to negotiations – but only after Russians overthrow their head of state (or vote him out in March 2024).

Putin called as recently as 12 September for Ukraine to overturn its ban on negotiations and to set out its position: ‘Then we shall see’ if there could be talks and/or a ceasefire.

“The 10-point formula is a subtle plan of roping in the Global South”

There is growing pressure in the Global South for an end to the war, which has contributed to a global food crisis as well as a huge jump in energy costs across the world.

In June, there was a high-powered African peace mission to Ukraine and Russia trying to gather support for a ‘roadmap’ towards peace. The delegation included the presidents of the Comoros, Senegal, South Africa and Zambia, the prime minister of Egypt, and senior figures from Congo-Brazzaville and Uganda.

The African leaders put forward a number of possible ‘confidence-building measures’ including a partial withdrawal of Russian forces, removal of Russian tactical nuclear weapons from Belarus and suspension of the International Criminal Court arrest warrant against Putin. These would be steps building towards a ceasefire and negotiations.

Also in June, Indonesian defence minister Prabowo Subianto announced his own personal peace plan, calling for an immediate ceasefire, the creation of a demilitarized zone along the current battle line – with each side withdrawing nine miles – and a UN peacekeeping mission to monitor the ceasefire.

Prabowo (speaking without the permission or knowledge of the rest of the government) also suggested holding UN-supervised referendums in what he called the ‘disputed territories’ to ‘objectively establish’ the wishes of people in Russian-occupied areas.

The African leaders and Prabowo were politely told by the Ukrainian government that they were on the wrong track and that the only answer was ‘the Ukrainian Peace Formula’.

The following month, July, the Ukrainian minister of foreign affairs, Dmytro Kuleba, carried out his third tour of Africa to promote the Ukrainian Peace Formula and also to counteract the new African push for peace. (Russia has also put a lot of effort into diplomacy with African nations, including a summit with Putin in July.)

Zelenskyy’s 10-Point Plan

The Washington Post reported on 19 September: ‘And after more than a year and a half of war, leaders from some developing nations are increasingly frustrated that the effort to support Ukraine is taking away, they say, from their own struggles to drum up enough money to adapt to a warming world, confront poverty and ensure a more secure life for their citizens.’

Indian commentator KN Pandita may have been speaking for many in the Global South when he suggested in the Indian online journal, the EurAsian Times: ‘The 10-point formula is a subtle plan of roping in the Global South for mustering support to the Ukrainian cause or, to be precise, to the Western cause.’

The final version of ‘the Ukrainian Peace Formula’ mixes together items that non-aligned countries might well support, like transferring control of the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant to the control of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and indefinitely extending the Black Sea Grain Initiative (which increases food exports from both Ukraine and Russia), with anti-Russian and/or military elements that countries in the Global South might be less enthusiastic about.

The ‘Ukrainian Peace Formula’ was first launched by Zelenskyy at the UN general assembly in September 2022, when it only had five points, including ‘protection of life’. Under this heading, he appealed for military assistance: ‘If it requires help, whether weapons or shells, they should be provided. If you needed financial help for this, it should be given. If for this it’s necessary to help with intelligence data, just do it.’

By the time of the G20 conference in Bali, Indonesia, in November 2022, Zelenskyy had toned down the military aspects of what had become a ‘10-Point Plan’.

Some of the points are straightforwardly anti-Russian, such as Point 7, which calls for both the prosecution of Russian leaders by a ‘Special Tribunal regarding the crime of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine’ and a new ‘mechanism’ for seizing Russian assets to compensate Ukraine for war damage.

These are very understandable demands but, if carried out, they would clearly make it more difficult to carry out successful negotiations with Russia. There would be much less incentive for Russian leaders to end the war if they knew that the Special Tribunal was going to carry on prosecuting them, and their overseas assets would continue to be seized, regardless.

These kinds of demands make the 10 Points a formula for more war rather than peace.


Many of the other points jumble together several different demands under a single heading. For example, in Point 3, on ‘energy security’, Zelenskyy in his Bali speech quite rightly condemns Russian attacks on Ukraine’s electricity system.

He then includes under this heading both an appeal for more ‘air defence and missile defence systems’ (in order to enable Ukraine to shoot down more Russian missiles and drones) and a call for price restrictions on Russian oil and gas exports (introduced by most Western countries months ago).

In Point 8, Zelenskyy rightly condemns ‘ecocide’, by which he means environmental destruction by Russia. He then mixes in a call for more de-mining equipment and technicians. (As PN readers will be aware, de-mining is a crucial part of the current Ukrainian counter-offensive trying to break through Russian defensive lines.)

The headline demand of Point 5 is ‘implementation of the UN Charter and restoration of Ukraine’s territorial integrity’. It is, of course, completely right for the Ukrainian government to set the goal of regaining all its lost territories.

However, Point 5 is more than this. In his Bali speech, Zelenskyy added at the end of this section: ‘It is not up to negotiations.’

“Zelenskyy’s comment suggests there will be no ceasefire until Russia has been forced out of all of Ukraine”

In other words, if a country signs up to support Point 5, it is saying that the Ukrainian demand for the return of all of its 1991 territory, including Crimea, is non-negotiable and cannot be discussed with Russia.

Regular readers will be aware of the warning about Crimea given by British rear admiral Chris Parry, who told the Daily Telegraph on 12 February: ‘Ukraine will do well to leave Crimea alone for now. It is absolute kryptonite to the Russians, and they will die in numerous ditches to hold onto it, even if they lose everything else.’ Many other commentators have made similar remarks, even suggesting that the possible loss of Crimea might be the one thing that could trigger the detonation of Russian nuclear weapons on Ukrainian forces.

Similarly, in Point 4, Zelenskyy understandably calls for the release of all Ukrainian prisoners and deportees. However, he also adds under this heading ‘political prisoners’, a category which, in his definition, includes all Ukrainian citizens ‘in the temporarily occupied territory, in particular in Crimea’.

So, if you support Point 4, because you support freeing prisoners and deportees, you also support either ejecting Russia from all the Ukrainian territory it has taken since 2014 (including Crimea) or transferring all Ukrainian citizens out of Russian-controlled areas.

We’ve already mentioned Point 6, ‘Russia must withdraw all its troops and armed formations from the territory of Ukraine’, and Zelenskyy’s comment (‘This will result in a real and complete cessation of hostilities’) suggesting that there will be no ceasefire until Russia has been beaten and forced out of all of Ukraine (including Crimea).

Reforming the UN

In his speech to the UN security council on 20 September, Zelenskyy set out an agenda for UN reform that was (a) very appealing to countries in the Global South and (b) completely unachievable. It seemed more of a PR stunt designed to gain more diplomatic support for Ukraine than a real effort to change things.

Zelenskyy called for permanent membership of the security council for the African Union, for Asian countries such as Japan or India, for Latin America and the Pacific states – and ‘the Islamic world’ – as well as Germany.

He also called for a new system of ‘powerful’ and ‘preventive’ sanctions against a possible aggressor ‘at the stage of the build-up of an invasion army’. When a member of the general assembly reported ‘a threat of aggression’ to the security council, ‘preventive sanctions should be automatically submitted for consideration’.

Zelenskyy’s main declared goal, however, was to change the UN charter to allow the UN general assembly ‘real power to overcome the veto’ of permanent members of the UN security council.

He suggested creating a new procedure in the general assembly. When a resolution gained the support of ‘two-thirds of the votes reflecting the will of nations from Asia, Africa, Europe, both Americas, and the Pacific region – a global qualified majority’, it should override the security council veto and ‘be legally binding for all Member States’.

As Zelenskyy well knows, the only way that the UN charter can be amended to bring in this kind of procedural change is with the support of all the permanent members of the security council (article 108). Each of the five can veto losing their veto.

Global Peace Summit Ukraine has held two international conferences on its ‘peace formula’: the first in Copenhagen, Denmark, in June; the second in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, in August. Brazil, China, India and South Africa sent senior officials to the Jeddah gathering.

It seems that Ukraine was hoping to hold a Global Peace Summit (based on its 10-Point Plan) on the fringes of the UN general assembly meetings in September, but it did not gather enough support.

That’s why Zelenskyy was reduced to telling the general assembly that Ukraine was still planning for an ‘inaugural summit of the leaders’, followed by 10 lower-level conferences on different points from the ‘formula’, and then a final heads-of-state Global Peace Summit.

It seems unlikely that there will be such a truly global gathering based on the 10-Point Plan, but Ukraine needs to push its ‘peace formula’ to give the impression that it is not ignoring diplomacy, that it wants to end the war and all of its damaging consequences for the world quickly, and that it is willing to negotiate with Russia to bring this about.

Topics: Russia, Ukraine