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There's going to be a peace summit in Switzerland in June 2024 to "conduct high-level discussion on a 'comprehensive, just and lasting peace for Ukraine' in the context of international law and the Charter of the United Nations, and to motivate a peace process".

Given that Russia is not invited, how does this peace summit hope to get anywhere? Regardless of what is decided, as long as one of the warring parties disagree, there's still going to be fighting. To get a lasting peace, one needs to get both the warring parties to agree.

From what I've seen, this sounds very much like what China has said about not attending, but there are still 106 countries that intend to attend, so I'm wondering what value they see in the peace summit (other than propaganda). If there is no value, they might as well save on the CO2 emissions required to travel there, especially since there's already more than enough CO2 being emitted by the war (c.f. this).

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For peace (or at least absence of open war) it is not necessary for parties to agree. It is only necessary that they no longer see war as worthwhile.

One item that might very well be discussed at a summit without involving Russia is how (given that either the Russian invaders are pushed back to their internationally accepted borders or new borders are agreed upon) a fourth invasion of Russia into Ukraine may be discouraged. (Which is a necessary condition for a lasting peace.)

Save for a regime change and a substantial democratization of the Russian federation, this can only realistically be achieved by strong defense guarantees by international parties. And how that might be arranged is frankly not a matter where the Kremlin's opinion matters.

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    @Morisco Counting from the fall of the USSR. But more importantly, that is three occasions with the same, current, russian leadership.
    – Guran
    Commented Jun 12 at 9:22
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    Could you enumerate these invasions, perhaps in a remark in the answer? Your count is not quite mainstream, and many users may be confused by what you mean.
    – Morisco
    Commented Jun 12 at 9:26
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    Are you counting 2014s Donbas and Crimea invasions as two separate invasions? I assumed most considered it one.
    – bharring
    Commented Jun 12 at 13:05
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    @bharring Yes probably annexation of Crimea (2014), war in Donbas (2014-2022), Russian invasion of Ukraine (2022-ongoing). At least that's how wikipedia counts it: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/…
    – haxor789
    Commented Jun 12 at 13:17
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    @bharring If you had cared to look into the list, you would know they were two chronologically separate events (Crimea February to March '14, Donbass April '14 to February '15). Commented Jun 12 at 18:46
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The summit is an attempt to show solidarity and support of Ukraine.

Currently, there are no terms Ukraine and Russia would both accept. They aren't even close.

Russia would rather fight than leave Ukraine alone.

Ukraine would rather fight than accept Russian ownership.

Until either Russia is no longer willing to fight to conquer Ukraine, or Ukraine is no longer willing to fight to avoid being conquered, there are no terms that can be reached. See the two-year-old exit strategy question for more details.

Since the parties can't come to terms under current conditions, the only option for ending the war is changing those conditions.

Russia's aim is to wear down Ukraine. Part of this is convincing Ukraine's friends to stop supporting Ukraine, so they can be killed more easily.

Ukraine's aim is to survive. To convince it's friends to continue supporting Ukraine so they can't be killed so easily.

The purpose of such conferences are threefold:

  1. Show Russia that those opposed to its colonial ambitions won't back down so easily. To help change Russia's calculus about their strategy of isolating Ukraine.
  2. To rally and align support behind Ukraine. To ensure Russia's calculus is wrong.
  3. To organize. To better support Ukraine's self-defense and survival

The conference is 100% aimed at peace. It's just that engaging Russia at this time isn't productive. Russia needs to understand that they can't take Ukraine before they will even consider accepting less than Ukraine's territory.

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The Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs publishes a website about this summit, whose Q/A section writes:

What led to Switzerland hosting the Summit on Peace in Ukraine?

During President Zelenskyy's visit to Bern on 15 January 2024, Switzerland and Ukraine discussed the next steps towards a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in Ukraine. At Ukraine's request, Switzerland agreed to host a high-level summit on this topic. Organising such summits is in keeping with Switzerland's tradition of good offices.

Good offices refers to the Swiss policy of facilitating peaceful and just international relations through mediating diplomatic dialogue.

What is the aim of the summit?

The aim of the Summit on Peace in Ukraine is to initiate a peace process and to work out steps towards such a process. All states present at the summit should contribute their ideas for a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in Ukraine. By hosting this summit, Switzerland is facilitating discussions that could lead to a just and lasting peace in Ukraine while also promoting increased security and stability throughout Europe and the rest of the world.

Note that the aim is not to "achieve peace", only to initiate a process that may eventually lead to peace.

Of course, Switzerland would have been happy to organize a conference that actually achieves peace. Which brings us to the elephant in the room:

Did Russia receive an official invitation?

Switzerland has repeatedly signalled its openness to extending an invitation to Russia for the Summit on Peace in Ukraine. However, Russia has indicated many times that it has no interest in participating. Therefore, no formal invitation was issued to Russia.

The summit in Switzerland aims to initiate a peace process. Switzerland is convinced that Russia must be included in this process as it progresses. A peace process without Russia is inconceivable.

Put differently, of course Switzerland wanted Russia to participate, but Russia didn't want to.

And therefore the summit was given a more moderate objective. Reportedly, the agenda will focus on:

  1. food security: how can shipping lanes remain open?
  2. security of nuclear power plants in the war zone
  3. prisoner exhanges
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  • I'm not sure how you signal an openness to extending an invitation to a party without actually "formally inviting" them.
    – alamar
    Commented Jun 14 at 8:44
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    Strangely, all three of the things on the agenda seem to require Russia's agreement - unless #2 is not about the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, but rather another one.
    – Allure
    Commented Jun 14 at 12:25
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    @alamar Virtually the entire goal of diplomacy is figuring out how someone will react to an action without actually taking that action.
    – Sneftel
    Commented Jun 14 at 14:22
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    One effect this summit did have was to cause Putin to restate his present conditions more clearly. bbc.com/news/articles/c033eyyr20do Commented Jun 14 at 23:28
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Ukraine has refrained from rejecting China’s efforts to assert itself as would-be peacemaker in Russia’s war against that country. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy welcomed some elements of the Chinese proposal — the first principle calls for respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all nations. He noted, however, that any peace settlement that did not result in full Russian withdrawal from all Ukrainian territory was a non-starter. Zelenskyy told the press that Chinese interest in the war was “not bad.” The president’s position was echoed by other Ukrainian officials. Zelenskyy elaborated, however, that Ukraine was also interested in China showing its support for peace by helping efforts to isolate Russia and by not supplying weapons to Russia. Furthermore, Zelenskyy observed that “China respects territorial integrity … and therefore must do whatever they can for the Russian Federation to leave our territory.”

https://www.usip.org/publications/2023/03/what-chinas-peace-plan-reveals-about-its-stance-russias-war-ukraine

Because they want to isolate Russia and want to put pressure on China, which has a lot of leverage on Russia, to end the war by threatening some kind of economic consequence if Russia doesn't withdraw its troop. I am not sure if China can be strong-armed into doing this, but this is their bet.

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Providing an international stage to the Ukrainian President is also a public way of showing the Ukrainian people (and the world) how much the west supports them. Without the backing of the west, Russia can persuade many countries to not interact seriously with Ukraine, and would have impaired their diplomatic efforts.

Of course, in an actual "peace" summit opposing parties diplomatically discuss options to reach some settlement to their disputes. Other countries often help with the mediation. But in this event, as you highlighted, one of the disputing parties - Russia - is wilfully absent. So to call it a peace summit to resolve the Russian - Ukrainian conflict is of course a stretch.

From that political perspective, this is just another one of the many diplomatic efforts on part of Ukraine and NATO to win support for their political stand. We have seen this in August 2023 too, when a summit was held in Saudi Arabia with 40 countries:

Ukraine and Saudi Arabia invited diplomats from some 40 governments to talks in the Red Sea port of Jeddah on Saturday. In addition to the United States and European countries, notable attendees included China, India, Brazil, South Africa and some of the oil-rich Gulf nations that have tried to maintain good relations with both Ukraine and Russia throughout the war, which began in February 2022.

Many of the countries that have declared their neutrality appear unlikely to shift their stances, though, and some reject the very concept of choosing sides, framing the war as a contest between superpowers that they want no part in ... “This is not only a conflict between Russia and Ukraine,” Celso Amorim, international affairs adviser to President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil, said in a speech that he delivered virtually during the talks. “This is also a chapter in the longstanding rivalry between Russia and the West,” he said, according to a copy of the speech obtained by The New York Times.

(Then, just like China now, Mexico refused to attend the Saudi Summit unless both parties were present. Russia of course did not participate in the Saudi Summit.)

Later in Malta, 60+ countries attended another similar summit in October 2023. (Russia was again, not a participant).

One difference though is evident this time - the diplomatic initiative is on a larger scale and a more "global" event, with many more many countries invited and participating in this summit (100+). And many Heads of States will be directly participating in these talks (previous talks were often amongst diplomats and / or National Security Advisors). This allows Ukraine (and NATO) more opportunities to try and win over countries who don't support Ukraine or those that haven't been willing to condemn Russian actions and / or chose to take a more disinterested neutral stand. Thus, this event can create a lot of diplomatic pressure on Russia.

If Russia doesn't address the concern other countries have about the war, and alienates them due to some flawed diplomatic policy (so far, there is no evidence of such blunders) then Russia can be in trouble.

The Bangladesh Liberation war is a great example, and case study, of how important it is for a government to harmonise the political, military and diplomatic strands during war time. One of the first things taught in the Bangladesh foreign corps is how the foreign office was created even before a government-in-exile, and how it played a pivotal role in the creation of the country. (Due to the coordinated diplomatic initiatives of the Indians and the Bengalis, Pakistan lost complete international support for its genocidal war, and even the Americans fully backing them were forced to support the creation and independence of Bangladesh.)

The Switzerland Summit is unlikely to produce a similar response against Russia. But whatever is Russia's justification, valid or not, let's not forget that nearly all countries today frown upon attempts to occupy and claim another country's territory. So if even a few of them can be influenced to pressure Russia to stop grabbing Ukrainian land and / or consider a ceasefire, it will certainly impede its war efforts. Similarly, any help Ukraine can receive from friendly countries to bolster its perilous economy, would also boost Ukraine's effort to fight Russia, and thus be counter to Russian interest.

This point (that many countries today frown upon military aggression) is the second aspect to such international summits that isn't highlighted much in western media - most of the participating countries, especially the Global South, aren't attending this summit to figure out how to end the conflict (because they know how unrealistic it is without the willingness of both sides to engage with each other). The conflict rather serves as a background to study how international institutes and policies can be strengthened and / or revamped to prevent such incidents from happening again. (Thus, you can call it a "peace" summit in the sense that it will be discussing means to better handle / end / resolve future conflicts).

In simpler terms, the superpowers in the west, along with their allies, are using such summits as a sounding board to create and / re-write the "rules" of the "rules based order" that came into practice after the cold-war ended. The hope is to find a minimum general consensus for their new "rules" among the international community, and to fine-tune their own diplomacy to do so.

The third aspect, and importantly why China is not participating in this summit, is that both Russia and China believe that the summit is mainly for propaganda (a standard foreign policy joke among them is that it is a long-standing western policy of talking about Russia and not to Russia). But a more serious concern is that it will definitely include some anti-Russian resolution in the final conclusions (unavoidably, as technically Russia did breach international rules with its military aggression) and such clause (however diluted) can be used as an excuse by NATO to create more support among their population to escalate the conflict against Russia. (This fear may not be unfounded as we've already seen a build-up in the western media on how Ukrainians should be allowed to strike Russia with western weapons).

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