Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is headlining a frenzied first full day of the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in the Swiss ski resort of Davos, where top officials from the United States, European Union, China, the Middle East and beyond spoke Tuesday about tackling conflict and embracing technology like artificial intelligence.
Zelenskyy will endeavor to keep his country’s long and largely stalemated defense against Russia on the minds of political leaders, just as Israel’s war with Hamas, which passed the 100-day mark this week, has siphoned off much of the world’s attention and sparked concerns about a wider conflict in the Middle East.
Tuesday’s activities got rolling with a dizzying array of subjects in rooms at the Davos conference center, where discussions tackled issues as diverse as innovation in Europe, the economic impact of generative AI and corporate support for clean technologies.
Conversations with the prime ministers of Qatar and Jordan will bookend the day’s most visible events, with speeches by Chinese Premier Li Qiang, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan in between.
For the U.S., Sullivan said no when The Associated Press asked whether he would meet with China’s delegation as he headed into talks with Zelenskyy and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
Zelenskyy, once reticent about leaving his war-torn country, has recently gone on a whirlwind tour to try to rally support for Ukraine’s cause against Russia amid donor fatigue in the West and concerns that former U.S. President Donald Trump — who touted having good relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin — might return to the White House next year following his commanding win Monday in the Iowa caucuses.
It is Zelenskyy’s first trip to Davos as president after speaking by video in previous years, and he’s drawn the attention of media and others trying to grab a word from him — while he’s surrounded by a large contingent of security.
He hopes to parlay the high visibility of the event into a bully pulpit to showcase Ukraine’s pressing needs, and allies will be lining up: Corporate chiefs and officials like von der Leyen learned what support was needed to help Ukraine rebuild at an invitation-only “CEOs for Ukraine” session.
“It’s time for us, for Ukrainian companies, for international companies to rebuild (the) Ukrainian economy,” Maxim Timchenko, CEO of Ukrainian energy company DTEK said after the session. “To rely on ourselves. To build a future for Ukraine.”
In her speech, Von der Leyen painted an optimistic view of the war in Ukraine despite the stalemate on the battlefield. She said Russia has “lost half of its military capabilities,” while Ukraine regained half the ground it had originally lost early in the invasion.
A day earlier, Zelenskyy made a stop in Switzerland’s capital, Bern, where President Viola Amherd pledged her country would start working with Ukraine to help organize a “peace summit” for Ukraine.
The theme of the meeting in Davos is “rebuilding trust,” and it comes as that sentiment has been fraying globally: Wars in the Middle East and Europe have increasingly split the world into different camps.