I have written a piece for Financier Worldwide on the dark arts of negotiating in central and eastern Europe:

The implicit view is that it is the outcome, not process, which really counts, and that the value of different outcomes can be measured. However, based on my experience as a diplomat in Central and Eastern Europe, contractual or other relationships with businesses there need to factor in a very different way of looking at negotiation.


The Russian approach to diplomatic negotiations features an attitude to process far removed from the exquisitely reasonable style of British diplomacy. Moscow diplomats’ training makes this point: “Even if the other side proposes something you completely agree with, never make a move without getting something valuable for it.”


Russia typically wants to project strength as an end in itself. Part of any negotiation is balancing incentive-carrots with pressure-sticks: “If you accept our position, we guarantee you a positive outcome. If you refuse, we’ll make sure you get a very negative outcome”.


Russian negotiators aim to neutralise that approach by conveying a very different proposition: “It doesn’t matter how much you try to pressure us. First, we can withstand more pressure than you can possibly exert, or even imagine. Second, whatever you do to hurt us, we will do something far worse to hurt you.”


That approach emphasises hard practical outcomes, but reveals an attitude to process which is all about establishing psychological ascendancy as the basis for subsequent ‘pragmatic’ discussions. The very vocabulary of Soviet/Russian diplomacy has phrases conveying brooding depersonalised doom: “Negative consequences for your interests can not be excluded.”

Gripping stuff, based on unswervingly bold generalisations. But to read the rest, you’ll have to sign up