May 26, 2022 - World

Ukraine dominates Davos

Volodymyr Zelensky addresses the World Economic Forum. Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP via Getty

Volodymyr Zelensky addresses the World Economic Forum. Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP via Getty

DAVOS, Switzerland — Ukraine dominated the official and unofficial agendas at Davos, and it will likely continue to do so at upcoming global gatherings — G7, G20, UN General Assembly.

Yes, but: Some Davos participants, particularly from non-Western countries, worry that the war is not only exacerbating other global challenges, but taking attention away from them.

On the one hand: Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told Davos attendees Wednesday that Ukrainian soldiers were taking heavy losses in the Donbas because they lacked the weaponry to fight from a distance.

  • The message was clear: Western dithering was costing Ukrainian lives.

On the other: Samir Saran, head of the Observer Research Foundation, a think tank based in Delhi, told Axios it felt like it was hard to hold a conversation in Davos about any issue other than Ukraine.

  • While that's understandable, he said, Sahan worries climate and development priorities — and crises outside of Europe more generally — are being pushed off the international agenda.
  • Referring to the amount speedily appropriated by Congress last week to arm Ukraine, Saran added, "I would like to see $40 billion for climate projects in the developing world, for example. But it would be difficult to get anywhere close to that."

Another view: Natalie Jaresko, a former Ukrainian finance minister, told Axios the most effective way to stem other global crises — hunger, energy, recession — was to help Ukraine win the war.

  • "Only step by step are we starting to recognize the global effect of [Putin's] war," said Jaresko, part of a dozens-strong Ukrainian contingent in Davos to rally support.
  • "Today it's food, tomorrow it will be steel, and by the next meeting, it'll be something else."

The knock-on effects of the invasion are certainly being felt.

  • In one panel discussion, Bangladeshi State Minister for Foreign Affairs Shahriar Alam said the war was already unleashing grain shortages and political instability in South Asia.
  • But while his U.S. and Ukrainian co-panelists appealed for arms and sanctions to help Ukraine win, Alam laid out a different priority: "We want the war to end. Right away."

Saran also argues that NATO countries should be focusing more on bringing the war to an end than imposing costs on Russia.

  • As Harvard political scientist Graham Allison told Axios, "Most of the world does not agree with this 'West is back' conception of what is happening in Ukraine."

What to watch: Saran says the resurgence of belief in the liberal international order amid the Ukraine crisis does offer hope — if, that is, the momentum carries over onto challenges beyond security in Europe.

Go deeper: Zelensky says Ukraine falling would put American lives at risk

Go deeper