Walking the Road
© AFP
Will Ukraine choose the road to peace?
There recently have emerged small trends that demonstrate, first, that the hot heads are not completely in charge in the East or even in the West, and second, that there may be hope that both sides in the catastrophic Russo-Ukrainian war over NATO expansion can be ended some day in the not too distant future.

First, Lithuania's extremist attempt to draw a Russian overreaction and bring NATO into the war by setting up a blockade against Russian transport between the Russian 'mainland' and its exclave of Kaliningrad was avoided. Reasonable minds in the European Union cajoled Vilnius into abandoning the ban on rail transport, which far exceeds road transport, which remains closed.

Second, by way of Turkey's mediation, Russia and Ukraine agreed to cooperate in getting Ukrainian grain out to the rest of the world through the Black Sea Fleet, which had been heavily mined by Kiev and largely sealed by the Russian navy. Ukraine will remove its mines, Russia will allow ships through, and ships arriving and returning to Ukraine's port of Odessa will be searched for weapons.

Third, August 29th saw the renewal of official Russia-US contact in the form of a phone call between Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken in which a return to "quiet diplomacy" a discussion regarding the need for talks on prisoner exchanges between Washington, Moscow and presumably Kiev and its Donbass foes. This and any successful overall ceasefire talks in future will require American participation.

Fourth, Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelenskiy and even more so his team, are looking increasingly desperate, and Russian Telegram channels have seen reports of chatter/rumors of Ukrainian military claims that Kiev will seek an end to the war in late August, because it lacks the fuel and food to get the army and population through the winter. Combine this with Russia's grinding but successful war of attrition in the east and the likely failure of any Ukrainian offensive towards Kherson or a successful Russian offensive in south towards Mikolaiv and Odessa, and the stage could be set for the renewal of direct ceasefire and peace talks.

Finally, it is possible that the practice and psychological breakthrough of agreements on Kaliningrad, grain exports, and prisoner exchanges will facilitate the renewal of such talks as well as offer lessons on how best to conduct such talks so as to make agreement more possible.

On the other hand, the overall situation remains catastrophic, and it is August. We shall see.
About the Author:
Gordon M. Hahn, Ph.D., is an Expert Analyst at Corr Analytics, http://www.canalyt.com and a Senior Researcher at the Center for Terrorism and Intelligence Studies (CETIS), Akribis Group, www.cetisresearch.org. Websites: Russian and Eurasian Politics, gordonhahn.com and gordonhahn.academia.edu