Ukraine is on high alert for the possibility of an invasion by Russia but there are signs of de-escalation Image Credit: Gulf News

The announcement that Russia is starting a pullback of some of its forces after completing military drills in Black Sea could be seen as the first offshoots of de-escalation of the ongoing Ukraine crisis. Those drills had heightened US and European alarms about an imminent military assault on Ukraine.

The Kremlin has consistently denied any plans of an attack. Some units of Russian military are now expected to return to permanent bases after completing those exercises, the Interfax news service reported. This initial silver lining in the dark clouds of war is welcome.

Russia has repotedly massed some 130,000 troops near the border with Ukraine. Moscow, which denies it has any plans to invade Ukraine, wants Western guarantees that Nato won’t allow Ukraine to join as a member. It also wants the alliance to halt all weapon deployments in Kyiv. Those demands have been rejected by the West, resulting in a stalemate.

With warnings from the White House that a Russian attack on Ukraine is expected anytime — amid strong rebuttals from Moscow — tensions have been at an all-time high in the region. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has declared February 16 a day of unity.

Posturing and rhetoric

Posturing and rhetoric notwithstanding, there are positive signals that all is not lost and a peaceful solution can be found. “It is already the middle of February, and you see that diplomacy is continuing to work,” Ukraine Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba was quoted as saying.

The comments are the clearest indication yet how talks could ease the tension. However questions remain about how the situation, which is fluid and shaky, unfolds over the next few days and weeks.

As many nations evacuate their diplomats and key staff from Ukraine, West continues to remain in a state of alert over any possible Russian attack amid the worst East-West tensions since the Cold War.

Going forward, diplomacy should be the only way of breaking the impasse. Given Russia’s several misgivings and Nato’s doubts, both sides need to come to a meeting ground to iron out major points of disagreement in the short term. Seen from a certain point, that path of dialogue and diplomacy may appear like a faraway prospect but it is the only path that leads both sides away from war — a prospect no one wants.