- Calm in talks, lack of fresh pressure on China implies potential progress.
- Ukraine's proposed referendum and Russia's struggles also provide hope.
- The dollar would fall on any deal, but a comprehensive accord is needed for a lasting effect.
It might be darkest before dawn – the Russia-Ukraine war seems stuck in the mud after a month of fighting, but this stalemate could be a prelude to a deal.
1) Quiet talks: there has been no news from the negotiating table for a few days. When diplomats talk to the press, it is usually a sign that there is no progress and that they are trying to accuse the other side of failing to compromise. The current calm is a source of optimism – no news is good news.
2) UA Referendum: Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that any deal would require a referendum. He seems to be preparing the public for some compromise – perhaps not only on NATO membership but also other matters. If he concedes territory to Russia, public support is needed for him not to be seen as a traitor. Laying the groundwork for a deal implies one has a higher chance to occur.
3) RU stuck in the mud: Russia continues failing to make any progress on the battlefield. Ukraine's soldiers and civilian fighters refuse to surrender in Mariupol, a strategic city in the south, despite lacking sufficient water and food. Moscow seems to have thought that the fact that most citizens there speak Russian would help. Local motivation with Western arms is turning Mariupol into Stalingrad, while the battle for Kyiv is not getting any closer.
4) Is Russia thinking beyond the war? The use of a hypersonic missile – unnecessary against Ukrainian defenses – can also be seen as a sign that Russia wants to sell such weaponry to other countries. It seems to be thinking about the post-war deals rather than trying to achieve any military goal. In the meantime, oil, gas and bond payments continue flowing to the West, a sign Russia does not want further escalation.
5) Quiet on the Chinese front: international pressure is growing to stop the war. From the Pope to mediators such as Turkey and Israel, via European countries which are mulling moving sanctions to the next level – on energy. The strongest country that can impact the situation in China, the world's second-largest economy. Beijing is politically aligned with Moscow but economically tied to the West. The fact that the US has stopped criticizing China is another positive sign.
In case a deal is struck, there is a stark difference between a ceasefire leading to a frozen conflict, and a comprehensive accord that would remove sanctions. In the former scenario, oil prices would remain elevated. The global economy would continue struggling in a transition period. The dollar would recover from an initial fall, benefiting from Fed hawkishness.
In case of a full deal, the greenback would suffer from diminishing demand for safe-havens and would tumble instantly. Re-integrating Russia in the global economy is better for risk assets than having Putin rule over a "big North Korea" – a large economy isolated from the world.