Can Negotiation Theory shed light on Russian diplomacy?

Posted on September 16th, 2013 by

Since the uprising against President Assad in 2011, Russia and the United States have mostly been at loggerheads over what to do about Syria. The two sides appear to now have finally agreed on a way forward, but what does classical negotiation theory allow us to glean from the events of the last two weeks?

America had been leading the way in a proposed military strike and John Kerry had proposed an ultimatum to Syria to either give up their chemical weapons or face military action. Have they now been undermined by Putin’s actions, or has the outcome that’s now been reached let the US off the hook in the face of increasing isolation?

The diplomacy seen has involved multiple parties with multiple interests at play – some of which may be mutual and others may be at odds with each other.

What was the true intent behind Russia’s proposal for the handover of chemical weapons and Vladimir Putin’s recent plea to the American people in the New York Times? Is it as stated, a true desire to reach a diplomatic solution or perhaps a multiplicity of intent? In particular, the plea to the American peoples was an interesting card to play: very much a case of playing to the audience and seeking an empathy vote when it was known that the lead negotiator, in this case Obama, had a different view.

Is this one of a series of negotiations? Perhaps Putin is being highly principled and is positioning Russia for a much broader global role in terms of peace-maker. Who knows, but the behaviours are both deliberately open yet concealing true intent. A familiar trait.

So what is the BATNA* now for Obama? What are the options (particularly if Syria drags its feet in adhering to the agreement)? How have events impacted upon the political power of the States & what card can they play next…?

Let us know what you think.

*Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement