No Joe Biden and Kamala Harris Bails Early

The Chinese state-run newspaper Global Times declared the Ukrainian “peace summit” in Lucerne, Switzerland, this weekend a failure, pointedly noting that American President Joe Biden did not attend the event despite being in Europe last week and Vice President Kamala Harris, who went in his stead, left early.

The Chinese Communist Party is one of Russia’s closest international allies – though it remains Ukraine’s top trade partner – and refused to participate in the summit, reportedly secretly lobbying other countries not to attend, also.

President Volodymyr Zelensky called the Swiss peace summit, which took place on Saturday and Sunday, as an attempt to show solidarity with his country well into the third year of Russia’s full-scale invasion, reportedly convening about 80 countries and representatives of over 90 countries and organizations in total this weekend. Zelensky pointedly did not invite Russia to the summit, making any bilateral discussion of how to end the conflict impossible.

The summit concluded with a joint communique signed by 78 nations calling for Russia to respect Ukraine’s territorial integrity and end hostilities against the country. The Russian government has issued no meaningful response to the communique at press time, nor has the situation in the war theater appeared to change in the 24 hours since the summit.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy applauds after an official family photo session during the Ukraine peace summit in Obbürgen, Switzerland, Saturday, June 15, 2024.  (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)

The Chinese government refused to attend the summit in protest of Russia’s absence. Zelensky called Beijing’s decision “unfortunate” and suggested that China was allowing itself to become “an instrument in the hands of [Vladimir] Putin” despite being a “big, independent, powerful country.”

“China did not attend this peace summit and will not comment on the joint statement,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lin Jian told reporters on Monday.

Contrary to this promise, China commented on the summit through the Global Times, widely understood to be a mouthpiece for the Chinese government.

“It was evident to the attending foreign dignitaries and media that the meeting was not as successful as claimed,” the state propaganda outlet declared, citing regime-approved “analysts” in a column published on Sunday.

“Observers pointed out that despite the participation of over 90 countries, the exclusion of Russia, a key player in the region, China’s non-attendance and the very absence of US President Joe Biden dimmed the significance of the conference,” the outlet assessed. The Times also noted that Vice President Harris “left for the US ahead of schedule,” leaving only National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan representing Washington at the event.

“On Sunday, the second day of the conference, Western powers and other nations sought a consensus on condemning Russia and underscoring the conflict’s human cost, Reuters reported,” the Global Times narrated. “However, some leaders departed early.”

Biden traveled to Italy last week to attend the annual summit of G7 leaders, which Zelensky was also invited to. Biden met with Zelensky at the event and committed to a ten-year security agreement with Ukraine, but returned to America at the end of the week, rejecting his invitation to the Switzerland summit. Biden chose instead to attend a Hollywood campaign fundraiser this weekend hosted by George Clooney.

Elsewhere in its analysis of the summit on Monday, the Global Times panned the meeting as a failure because over 90 countries sent representatives, but Ukraine allegedly “sent invitations to more than 160 countries and international organizations.” It also condemned a report published by Reuters last week, citing ten anonymous diplomats, that the Chinese Communist Party was attempting to organize a “subtle boycott” of the summit by lobbying other countries not to attend.

“In conversations with developing nations, China has not overtly criticised the Swiss summit or directly asked countries to abstain,” Reuters claimed. “But one who was briefed on the outreach said Beijing has told developing nations the meeting would prolong the war.”

The Global Times called attempts to report on China’s diplomatic behavior around the summit as a “baffling” attempt to blame China that was “not tenable in any way.”

“China supports a peace summit that is committed to resolving the crisis, but has repeatedly emphasized that such a conference should have three important elements,” the Times listed, “the recognition of both Russia and Ukraine, equal participation of all parties and fair discussions on all peace proposals.”

The mention of “all peace proposals” is a reference to China’s attempts to aid Russia by publishing a “peace plan” that both Russia and Ukraine have largely ignored calling for both sides to “calm down as soon as possible” and “cease hostilities.” Beijing has expressed public irritation at the lack of global interest in its vague peace plan.

The Chinese “peace plan” was not discussed officially during the Switzerland summit. Ultimately, participants issued a joint communique that reiterated opposition to the use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine and called for ensuring that the conflict did not result in food shortages and other humanitarian disasters. Zelensky said following the summit that the communique was the first step in the development of a “detailed plan” to be handed over to Russia for approval on ending the hostilities.

Follow Frances Martel on Facebook and Twitter.


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