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Western concepts of Soviet negotiating behavior Hepner, Edward Marshall Rupert


A classification of the negotiating tactics used by Russian diplomats has been a facet of Soviet diplomatic behavior which has been relatively ignored. A survey of Western writings on Soviet negotiating behavior indicates that Russian diplomats employ a wide range of bargaining tactics in attempts to gain concessions from Western negotiators. These various bargaining methods have been classified in this paper as to the type of maneuver they represent. There are four discernible Soviet negotiating maneuvers. The first maneuver is comprised of tactics designed to turn a conference or part thereof into a forum for Russian propaganda. Of all the tactics employed those related to propaganda are found most frequently in negotiations primarily because of the relative ease with which they can be utilized. While some propaganda tactics are straightforward, such as slogans and epithets, others are subtle such as the use of general rather than specific terms. The second Russian maneuver contains a large number of tactics designed to obstruct negotiations. A common aspect of Soviet diplomatic behavior has been the skillful use of delaying tactics so that negotiations either drag on or collapse. The Russians use obstructionist tactics frequently to prevent a decision on a proposal which they believe will be inimical to Soviet interests. They also use it to stall for time so that a new policy can be formulated as well as to make the West concede points in order to end Russian delays. The third Soviet maneuver is comprised of offensive tactics designed to obtain as many concessions as possible from the West before an agreement is reached on a particular proposal. Because there are a relatively large number of offensive tactics, for purposes of discussion in this paper, they have been sub-divided into three groups: overt, subtle and those which exploit the inclinations of Western diplomats. The fourth and last group of maneuvers is comprised of Russian duplicity tactics. According to Western observers, the Russians have utilized a number of tactics designed to deceive Western negotiators. The most prominent duplicity tactic has been the feigning of agreements. During the Second World War the Russians entered into many verbal and written agreements largely to demonstrate to the Western allies their co-operative spirit so that lend lease supplies and any post-war territorial gains promised by the West would not be jeopardized. Before the end of the war the Russians stalled on implementing most agreements but as soon as the war finished and lend lease supplies stopped, Soviet violations of agreements and treaties occurred frequently. However, since Khrushchev enunciated the doctrine of peaceful coexistence in 1956, the Russians have used duplicity tactics less frequently although they have demonstrated as recently as the Cuban missile incident in 1962, that if the stakes are high enough they will resort to deception to gain an advantage. According to Western observers, the Russian diplomat is more a specialized messenger or a mechanical mouthpiece than a diplomat in the traditional sense. The Western diplomat can comment extemporaneously on proposals and can advise his government on policy whereas his Soviet counterpart cannot. When Western descriptions of their own diplomats are compared with their descriptions of Soviet diplomats it becomes apparent that many Western observers have black and white conceptions with respect to the differences between Russian and Western behavior. Many Westerners see their diplomats as honest, polite, and cooperative whereas they see the Russian diplomat as insincere, rude and intransigent. Negotiations with the Soviet Union since 1945 have left a number of impressions upon Westerners and some of these impressions have crystallized into a number of strongly held beliefs as to how the West should negotiate with the Russians. These four beliefs concern firmness (temporized by prudence), an anti-conciliatory attitude (because the Soviets supposedly look upon conciliation as appeasement), a stress on specific, written agreements, and a belief that relations between states must be based on trust. However, it is suggested that trust is not a reliable ground upon which to base agreements between states. Basing agreements on mutual self-interest rather than trust might offer greater opportunities for East-West settlements. Moreover, a new Western conciliatory attitude combined with shrewdness in the light of Sino-Soviet difficulties might help to improve East-West relations. Historical examples of Soviet negotiating behavior lend support to the beliefs of those Western observers who claim that the Russians use negotiations for more than just a method of resolving disputes and accommodating interests. Indeed, Soviet diplomatic behavior seems to have been generally consistent with Communist ideological beliefs on the role of diplomacy as another method for furthering international communism against "bourgeois" interests. Western diplomats who have negotiated with the Soviets describe Russian tactics fairly specifically, but rarely do they mention any use of their own tactics. The implication is that many Westerners may have a narrow view of the negotiating process. That is, they see the Russians using tactics but not themselves. This dichotomy is incorrect because Westerners utilize negotiating tactics such as those related to propaganda and offensive maneuvers. Two types of maneuvers which the West has not utilized are duplicity and obstruction, neither of which are really related to the bargaining process. When overt acknowledgment of Western tactics occurs, East-West bargaining should not be as difficult, frustrating or disappointing as Westerners claim it now is. All Soviet actions will not be construed as vile once Westerners accept many Soviet tactics as a legitimate part of the bargaining process. Westerners should also consider that the Soviets are probably wary of Western negotiating tactics.

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