Vladimir Putin appeared to be giving diplomacy a chance following his talks at the Kremlin long table with Germany’s Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Tuesday. Apparently, his commanders in the field had decided to press the pause button on what appeared to be their imminent invasion of Ukraine on at least four main axes.

Despite the announcement that Russian tanks were “pulling back after completing their drills”, no one in the Nato alliance was buying the line that the massive build-up forces around Ukraine had all been a game of bluff. “It still has to be verified that they are moving back,” briefed America’s Ambassador to Nato, Julianne Smith. “It’s too early to assess what they are doing.”