Is it too late to find a diplomatic resolution to the escalating Ukraine crisis?

People gather at the Lincoln memorial in Washington for a vigil in solidarity with Ukraine. Credit: AP

The desire for hope and optimism over the Ukraine crisis is understandable given what’s at stake.

Talk of a possible summit between President Biden and President Putin shows diplomacy may yet deliver.

But the direction of travel over the past few days suggests that events on the ground may easily overtake those hopes.

The weekend saw Russian military exercises involving nuclear-capable ballistic missiles being fired in Russia in drills which in the past have happened in the Autumn.

They were a reminder that Russia has the world’s largest nuclear arsenal with just under 4,500 warheads. There’s absolutely no suggestion anyone is talking of their deployment, but the timing was no coincidence coming as developments in the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine continue to deteriorate.

The message to the west and NATO couldn’t have been clearer - don’t mess with Russia when it comes to Ukraine. This morning the Kremlin said while diplomatic efforts continue there were no concrete plans for a Biden/Putin summit.

Secretary of State Anthony Blinken arrives for a closed-door briefing on Afghanistan on Capitol Hill in Washington. Credit: AP

The view here is that for now those efforts continue at the Foreign minister level with US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken due to meet with Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Thursday.

If that meeting can show progress then a Presidential summit may be possible. But the Kremlin also announced at the same time that President Putin was holding an unplanned full ‘large-scale’ security council meeting today.

In nearly three hours of calls with French President Emmanuel Macron last night Putin continued to talk of the Ukrainian “provocations”.

The tone of Russia’s language shows no sign of changing. In diplomatic circles they call Russia’s approach "coercive diplomacy" - the Ukrainian government sees it as being forced to negotiate at gunpoint.

A Ukrainian serviceman fires an anti-tank weapon during an exercise in the Joint Forces Operation, in the Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine. Credit: AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky

Last week when Russia announced it would be pulling back some of its military units from near the Ukrainian border it struck many there was a danger in reading too much into the announcement.

Western governments and intelligence agencies say more Russian troops and equipment have been deployed since then and are ready to invade - claims Russia rejects.

Similarly the overnight talk of a Biden/Putin summit equally has that danger of being seized on too quickly as proof the crisis maybe solved soon. While the diplomats talk the events on the ground in Ukraine could easily dictate what happens next in this crisis.