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Saudi-led peace talks on Ukraine

Saudi-led peace talks on Ukraine
Saudi-led peace talks on Ukraine | Quick Take | GZERO Media

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take: Hi, everybody. Ian Bremmer here. A Quick Take to kick off your week hot summer week.

And the Saudis are saying that they are going to host a broad peace conference on Ukraine this weekend. Lots to unpack here. First of all, the Ukrainians are going. It looks like the Americans are sending Jake Sullivan, the national security advisor. He's been back and forth to the kingdom a fair bit of late. And the Ukrainians are saying that these talks will be on the basis of the ten-point peace plan that they rolled out last year. Nothing particularly earth-shattering about that plan. Not a surprise they'd be okay with it. It is the Russians returning all the land.It is war reparations being paid by Russia. It is war crimes being fully investigated, prosecuted. None of which is acceptable to the Kremlin. But if the Saudis are hosting it, the Ukrainians are part of it, and everyone is invited - the Chinese, the Indians, the Brazilians, the Europeans, but not the Russians. And what we seem to see is that the Russians haven't had communications directly with the Saudis on this, and instead you have the Kremlin spokesperson saying they're studying it. You know, they're of course, they want to be constructive. That's the official position. So we're going to see where this is going. It's pretty interesting.

I mean, on the first point, the United States is consistent with its public policy that there are no Ukraine negotiations without the Ukrainians in the lead, can't talk about any of this unless it is the Ukrainian plan.So that's basically the starting point for the weekend. Hard to imagine that that is all that is said coming out of the talks. In other words, very interesting to see, if not that the Ukrainians should be expected to negotiate against themselves, but rather in the context of their present counter-offensive. Do they say anything about Crimea and the fact that that can be staged, even though they're never going to say, “No, it's just your territory, Russia, you can take it.”Might there be willingness to say that the reparations that need to be paid can be paid by anybody doesn't have to come from Russia. So if the Europeans are providing the aid to reconstruct Ukraine, as long as the aid comes, I mean, I can see things that can come out of this weekend that would be constructive and that could be multilateral with full Ukrainian engagement. That in no way makes it feel that the Ukrainians are giving up the store or look weak or under massive international pressure. So that's the first important point here.

The second is that the Saudis, of course, have had a fantastic year, maybe the best trajectory in terms of governance on the international stage of any of the G-20, which is kind of shocking if you think about, you know, where they've been over the last few years. Massive popularity for Mohammed bin Salman among every young person, say, under 40 in the kingdom, most of the world happily engaging the Gulf Cooperation Council, much more consolidated with the Saudis than it had been over the past years. Yes, there have been some tensions with the UAE, but nothing like what we've seen with Qatar recently. I mean, Al Saud reaching out to Syria and getting them reengage the peace plan. China facilitated it with the Iranians and Saudi Arabia, strong relations between the Saudis and Netanyahu, maybe joining the Abraham Accords by the end of this year. And now the Saudis taking the lead on the most substantive to date, it looks like, high-level Ukrainian talks. So that's also worth watching.

But I think the biggest point here is that the West has had a big problem outside of NATO with the Global South because so far, the policy has basically been support the war to allow the Ukrainians to defend themselves, to get their territory back, but not having much credible to say on what eventual peace talks would look like. And if you're in the Global South, you know, you want to know who's trying to end this war, because this war is not in our interests and we know it, we of course, we believe in Ukrainian territorial integrity, but we'd really like to see food and fertilizer just like get back to the global marketplace and stop having, you know, all of this on our shoulders. And we have no interest in sanctions against Russia. Well, we're trying to do business with these people, as we always have. So the fact that we would now have the ability for the West working with at least some of the Global South in talking about negotiation puts a lot more pressure on Russia and improves the diplomatic position of NATO as a whole. And the timing is kind of critical here because, yes, the counteroffensive is now truly engaged in earnest probably for the next month or two.

But, you know, you want to be in a position to start negotiations when the West is strong and consolidated and when Ukraine is fully aligned with it, at least publicly. And that's probably going to be less true in, say, six-month time as the US political cycle plays out and there's more internal fighting over how much economic and humanitarian support Ukraine is going to get as the Europeans start seeing more opposition as that occurs. Right now it's mostly Hungary that can get railroaded by the other European Union states, but soon it may well end up being Czechia. I could see Italy potentially in that basket, you know, Slovakia, other countries, because the fiscal constraints are going to grow. And if the Americans aren't providing as much economic support, it's going to be harder for some of the Europeans, too. So you definitely want a position where you're talking about what negotiations could look like and either get the Russians involved, or isolate the Russians. But either way, a better position to be in, then you're only talking about war, and the war is getting less support even among your own population. So in that regard, what the Saudis are doing here seems very smart to me. I'm not at all surprised the Americans and Ukrainians are fully engaged. They've clearly been coordinating with them closely over the past weeks. And we will watch this weekend very carefully to see where it goes.

That's it for me. And I'll talk to you all real soon.


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