Ukraine and its allies held secret peace talks with Global South countries last month


Ukraine, its closest Western allies and a small group of Global South countries held secret peace talks in Saudi Arabia last month, according to a Bloomberg exclusive. Discussions focused on Ukraine’s views about possible talks to end the nearly two-year-old war.

The meeting in Riyadh was kept secret to allow as many countries as possible to attend without political blowback. Representatives from the G7 countries, Saudi Arabia, India, and Turkey showed up, whilst China, Brazil, and the UAE were absent despite being invited. Russia did not receive an invite. 

While the meeting didn’t result in a breakthrough, it signals an adjustment in how Ukraine and its backers are approaching the delicate question of ending the war. Perhaps that’s because things don’t look great for Ukraine right now:

  • Neither Ukraine nor Russia have made significant military advancements in the last year, and the frontline is unlikely to change much in coming months.
  • Kyiv’s allies are dragging their feet on providing more economic and military aid. President Zelensky returned from his US fundraising trip last month emptyhanded, and the EU is likely to miss its target of supplying Ukraine with one million artillery shells by March. 
  • Senior Israeli officials believe the Israeli-Hamas war could last for another year, continuing to divert attention and military support away from Ukraine’s cause. 
  • And elections in the US, the EU, and the UK in the next 12 months will cause further uncertainty about the medium-to-long-term picture for Ukraine.

Military analyst Jack Watling thinks the next few months could determine the future trajectory of the war: “The West, in fact, faces a crucial choice right now: support Ukraine so that its leaders can defend their territory and prepare for a 2025 offensive or cede an irrecoverable advantage to Russia.”

INTRIGUE’S TAKE

Last month’s meeting wasn’t the first time US and EU officials have spoken to their Ukrainian counterparts about what a peace deal might look like.

But this time, the broad invite list, along with reports that a group of more than 100 countries have been invited to meet next week in Davos, suggest that Ukraine is trying to establish the terms for an acceptable peace deal before the Kremlin has a chance to twist the narrative of its invasion.

If a peace deal is to be found – and it’s still a very big if – countries like Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Brazil, and India will be needed to convince Russia to accept a deal that is palatable to the Ukrainians. And on the other side, the US and other Ukrainian backers will be essential in persuading Ukraine that stopping the fighting might just be the lesser of two evils.

Also worth noting: 

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