After almost 19 months of war and in the midst of the Ukrainian counter-offensive, it is an understatement to say that his speech is expected. For the first time since the start of the Russian invasion, Volodymyr Zelensky will speak this Tuesday, September 19 inside the UN compound, in New York, on the occasion of the General Assembly of the ‘organization. When taking the podium of this annual diplomatic high mass, the challenge will be to convince the international community to continue to support it, over time, at a time when the voices calling for a cessation of hostilities are becoming more insistent. .
The timing is critical. Ten days ago, the G20 leaders meeting in New Delhi did not explicitly mention Russian “aggression” in their joint communiqué, contrary to the text adopted a year earlier in Bali. “We find ourselves at a rather risky moment of balance for the Ukrainians, underlines former ambassador Michel Duclos. They must convince the countries of the ‘global South’ of the justice of their cause, and that it is not up to them to make concessions to move towards peace.”
Maintain the cohesion of its Western support
If since February 24, 2022, a very large majority of countries have voted for several resolutions supporting kyiv, the tempo could change. The consequences of the war – particularly on global food security – are now pushing certain states to plead for a rapid diplomatic solution. Like Brazilian President Lula, who, last April, unsuccessfully proposed joint mediation with China and the Emirates, believing in passing that the war had been provoked by “decisions taken by the two countries”…
For Volodymyr Zelensky – who is due to meet the Brazilian for the first time on Wednesday September 20 in New York – the challenge will be to make him understand that lasting peace cannot be based on Kiev’s abandonment of its territorial sovereignty. And that offering a negotiated exit to Putin would only buy him time, to come back better prepared a few years later. “Zelensky will probably not change his mind, but he can hope that Lula will tone down his calls for a negotiated solution which would be to the detriment of Ukraine,” judges Michel Duclos.
Finally, the Ukrainian president will have to manage to maintain the cohesion of his Western support, while criticism is sometimes heard about the “slowness” of the Ukrainian counter-offensive at a time when, in the United States, the Republican camp is is increasingly cautious on the question of providing additional funds to Ukraine – Congress is currently debating a new envelope of 24 billion dollars in aid.
The Ukrainian president’s diplomatic marathon should take him to Capitol Hill, where he will meet senators, this Thursday, September 21, on the sidelines of a meeting planned for the same day with Joe Biden at the White House. After more than a year and a half of war, kyiv needs the support of its allies more than ever.