Last week’s international conference in Saudi Arabia, where more than 40 countries without Russia discussed a peace settlement in Ukraine, poses threats to the Kremlin, four Russian officials with diplomatic ties told The Moscow Times.
Although the Jeddah meeting ended without concrete decisions or a joint statement, it showed that Ukraine is trying a new tactic – engaging countries in the Global South in dialog while diplomatically isolating Russia, a serving Russian diplomat told The Moscow Times.
The Global South generally supports the thesis of Ukraine’s territorial integrity and independence. “Kyiv’s task is to make these countries, if not allies, then partners. And then already, if a common consensus is reached, Ukraine will try to deepen it and raise more sensitive issues to form such a consensus. This is exactly what is happening now”, the interlocutor tells The Moscow Times.
The conference in Saudi Arabia was attended by representatives of all of Russia’s BRICS partners. And even China sent Li Hui, Xi Jinping’s special envoy for Ukraine. The talks at the level of national security advisers discussed Volodymyr Zelensky’s “peace formula”, which includes, among other things, the complete withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine.
“We’ll have to look for some answers to Ukraine’s new tactics”, a source close to the Kremlin told The Moscow Times.
“Because no matter how much we say that the world majority is with us, no one has recognized the annexation of not only the Zaporizhzhya and Kherson regions, but even Crimea. This, of course, is what Kyiv will now play on in order to isolate Moscow as much as possible”, he explains.
Russia was not invited to the meeting in Jeddah, as well as to the previous negotiations in a similar format in Copenhagen. Before the start of the summit, Russian officials said that Moscow would closely follow the progress of the meeting and hoped that the BRICS countries would be informed of its outcome. After the talks ended, Maria Zakharova, director of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Information and Press Department, said that without Russian diplomats, the talks “had no added value”.
“The fact that we are not there – such a situation is naturally unpleasant for us. And the fact that without us they are making noises”, a former high-ranking diplomat reluctantly admitted in a conversation with The Moscow Times.
As a counterbalance to Kyiv’s initiative, it would be useful for Moscow to convene its own summit on ways of settlement. But the problem is that the country’s leadership is not yet ready to make even the slightest compromise, another Foreign Ministry source told The Moscow Times.
“Russia is off the negotiating table not because it is not represented at the summit, but because it is not ready to compromise and give in”, he explains. But the same goes for Ukraine, the diplomat continues: “Zelensky’s formula is actually a capitulation to Russia, which is unacceptable. If we are looking for a compromise, there must be flexibility on both sides”.
Boris Bondarev, a former member of Russia’s mission to the UN in Geneva, who resigned from the Foreign Ministry shortly after the invasion of Ukraine, believes that both the fate of future negotiations and the outcome of the war will ultimately be determined on the battlefield.
Until one of the warring parties loses the ability to fight, no peace talks can take place because there will be no interest in them, Bondarev told The Moscow Times.