Davos 2024 Under The Shadow Of Zelenskyy’s Unfeasible “Peace Formula”

At the 54th Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum 2024, held in Davos from 15-19 January, global leaders, CEOs, and experts met together to discuss global challenges and transformations. With mounting violence in the Middle East, and newly inflamed tensions under the spotlight – as the results of elections in Taiwan or Trump’s run for his second presidential mandate – participants are also aiming to address structural changes in geoeconomics, as well as the challenges posed by climate change and artificial intelligence. China has certainly been the centre of attention, between its Prime Minister Li’s criticisms of US restrictions and Von Der Leyen’s clarifications over the EU’s trade position towards Beijing.  Yet, it is Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy that doubtlessly captured the spotlight of the Forum’s first day of talks, pushing for his initiative called the “Peace Formula”.

It is the first time Zelenskyy joins the meeting in person since the beginning of his mandate. “It is important that you stand with us, I thank you for your support. It is very important to be here, to boost investment in Ukraine and support our economy,” he said during a “CEOs for Ukraine” session, the Los Angeles Times reports. The Ukrainian President’s aim is to keep his country’s defence against Russia in the minds of political leaders, whose concerns have certainly been diverted more towards the war in Gaza and escalating tensions in the Middle East. Zelenskyy certainly hopes to showcase his country’s most pressing economic needs in the eyes of the world’s business and financial elites: “we need you in Ukraine to build, to reconstruct, to restore our lives,” he said, the New York Time reports. Furthermore, as soon as Zelenskyy arrived to Davos, he gave a speech pointing out that “we need investments, to create the opportunity for Ukrainians to come back from abroad […] strengthen our economy, and we will strengthen your security”, as Corriere della Sera reports.

After a meeting with Zelenskyy on Monday, Swiss President Viola Amherd said that Switzerland will host a summit backing his Peace Formula later this year, as noted in the New York Times. Zelenskyy’s Plan is the following: firstly, some intermediary steps include securing Ukrainian nuclear sites, ensuring grain exports, and exchanging prisoners of war. Secondly, the plan is to call for a Russian withdrawal from all Ukrainian territory, including Crimea, the payment of war reparations from Russia, and permission to prosecuting war crimes. Zelenskyy has recently gone worldwide to rally support for his cause, probably prompted by wavering financial support from his allies and, most importantly, by concerns over former US President Donald Trump being elected for a second mandate at the end of this year. Swiss foreign minister, Ignazio Cassis has, however, pointed out how Russia’s positions need to be heard regarding Zelenskyy’s plan and suggested that Russia be invited to discuss the Peace Formula meeting in Switzerland. He also said it would be an “illusion” to think that Russia would participate on the terms Ukraine has laid out, as the New York Times reports.

Only three weeks ago, the New York Times reported that Putin might be willing to put an end to war in Ukraine, as long as Russia retains the territories it currently has under occupation (which amount to approximately 20% of Ukraine). While this alleged position has not yet been discussed nor negotiated at any diplomatic table, Zelenskyy’s “Peace Formula” has been considered by analysts, and even politicians backing the proposal, to be very unrealistic given the current balance of power on the battlefield. Therefore, it appears that a genuine willingness for peace negotiations remains elusive, as Zelenskyy is more concerned with keeping his “sponsors” by his side than finding any feasible solution to the conflict. Moreover, analysts and diplomats should double their efforts to find a settlement that is acceptable to both parties.