The world may not be "some Cold War chessboard," as U.S. President Barack Obama recently declared, but that old chess maxim -- that the threat is stronger than the execution -- will hopefully bear some positive results in Ukraine.
Russia and the United States have agreed to de-escalate tensions, although it remains unclear whether the dangerous pace of events will actually calm down, particularly since some ethnic Russian dissidents remain obstinate. It is Russia's responsibility to bring order to the chaos; otherwise all could be lost.
Russia seems motivated to reduce tensions to avoid steeper sanctions and particularly the possibility its European customers might collaborate on a long-term plan to acquire energy supplies elsewhere.
NATO's escalation in eastern Europe is a concern, although no one anticipates an outbreak of hostilities. Still, whenever war machines edge closer, there is always the risk of a mistake or miscalculation.
The U.S. wants time for Ukraine to hold its May 25 national election and possibly grant more local control to the regions, particularly those dominated by ethnic Russians. Such a measure could ease local tensions and weaken Russia's claims in the region. As for Europe, it seems only to want the whole affair to go away. Except for the NATO countries that border Russia, most Europeans aren't eager to strike a belligerent stance with its large neighbour to the east.
As a result of Thursday's agreement, Russia can say it is being reasonable and responsible, the Americans can claim some measure of success, the Europeans can breathe a sigh of relief and Ukraine, well, Ukraine can hope those masked men in the Donetsk region retreat to wherever they came from, but it may take a sizable push from the Russians. As in chess, one small mistake can turn around the game in an instant. Thursday's agreement is cause for modest optimism, but the game is far from over and events could easily spiral out of control.