Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy took center stage at the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland this week, urging continued support for Ukraine’s fight against Russia’s invasion and warning against allowing the conflict to become “frozen.”
Zelenskyy Calls for Stepped Up Military and Economic Aid
In an impassioned speech to political and business leaders on Monday, Zelenskyy said Russia is looking to “freeze” the nearly year-old conflict to try to secure territorial gains while regrouping and rebuilding its military (source). He called for Western allies to ramp up military aid to help Ukraine go on the offensive and reclaim more territory this year, saying weapons like tanks and missiles are urgently needed.
“The supplying of Ukraine with air defense systems must outpace Russia’s vast missile attacks. The supplies of Western tanks must outpace another invasion of Russian tanks,” Zelenskyy said (source).
The Ukrainian leader also urged political leaders and corporate titans gathered in the Swiss mountain resort town to strengthen Ukraine economically, framing it as an investment in global democratic security.
“There is no such thing as ‘neutrality’ when there is naked aggression ruining peaceful lives,” he said, taking aim at Swiss efforts to position itself as a potential mediator (source).
|Military and Economic Aid Pledged to Ukraine at Davos
Zelenskyy also met privately with figures like JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, hedge fund billionaire Ray Dalio, and Blackstone CEO Steve Schwarzman to court investment in Ukraine’s postwar reconstruction (source). Dalio and Dimon promised to have teams visit Kyiv soon to scope opportunities.
Push for “Ukrainian Peace Formula” Ongoing
Zelenskyy’s appearances in Davos came as Ukraine pressed diplomats from the US, EU and around 40 other countries gathered there to endorse its formula for a “just peace” in Ukraine. The 10-point formula insists on the restoration of Ukraine’s territorial integrity, the withdrawal of Russian troops, accountability for war crimes, and security guarantees (source).
The proposal has won broad backing from Ukraine’s Western allies but faces hurdles gaining traction without buy-in from major non-aligned countries. China did not send any officials to Davos and has avoided direct criticism of Russia. Prominent developing nations like India, Brazil and South Africa have also steered clear of overt condemnation of Russia’s invasion.
Sec. Blinken and NSA Sullivan did meet with Zelenskyy and promised Washington’s “enduring support” for Ukraine while stopping short of specific new aid offers. Blinken said the US was working to rally more countries behind Kyiv’s peace push and address hesitance about publicly rebuking Russia (source).
Russia Absent From Talks, Vows to Press Invasion
Moscow has spurned Ukrainian and Western peace overtures, remaining laser-focused on making incremental territorial gains in the eastern Donbas region. Speaking Tuesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov accused the West of pushing Ukraine away from negotiations and reaffirmed Russia’s maximalist war aims of seizing broad swathes of Ukrainian territory:
“I can assure you that we have no intention to change our goals. Western control over Ukraine threatens Russia’s core national interests,” said Lavrov (source).
With little common ground for negotiations, most observers see the conflict continuing through 2024 as a drawn-out war of attrition. Both sides have sustained major troop and equipment losses fighting intensely for small areas like the salt mining town of Soledar. Most military analysts say Ukraine still lacks the overwhelming force needed to mount major counteroffensives to retake cities like Luhansk, Donetsk and Kherson.
“Russia wants to freeze this conflict now temporarily to recuperate, to regroup, to replenish, to ultimately relaunch its aggression,” warned retired US General Ben Hodges (source).
Outlook: Supporting Ukraine Through a “Marathon War”
While prospects for peace remain remote, Zelenskyy’s messages in Davos helped secure vital economic and military aid to sustain Ukraine’s defense in 2023. But there are signs that keeping Western publics invested in the conflict poses an increasing challenge as financial stresses pile up domestically. Polls show support for Ukraine aid slipping in the US and Europe as the war drags on (source).
With neither side able to deliver a knockout blow, Ukraine’s backers need to prepare for the long haul, shoring up military stockpiles and bracing their economies against protracted uncertainty. As UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak put it in Davos, supporting Ukraine has become “a marathon, not a sprint” (source).
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