Negotiating with the Kremlin. Recent diplomatic history shows that agreement is possible with the right mix of patience, firmness -- and perseverance
AFTER a prolonged hiatus we are now negotiating nuclear arms control with the Russians at Geneva. Further, President Reagan and General Secretary Gorbachev will meet at the summit in November. The American attitude toward negotiating with the Russians is both ambivalent and the result of profound misapprehensions.
On the one hand we, by and large, welcome negotiations, in the hope that agreements will be reached for balanced nuclear arms control and other important matters.
On the other hand, we harbor deep-seated suspicions about any negotiations with the Russians.
At the risk of being simplistic, I shall attempt to shed some light about this much mooted issue of negotiating with the Soviets, in question-and-answer form.
1. Is it possible to negotiate treaties and agreements with the Russians? Yes. We have a surprising number of treaties, resolutions, and agreements, bilateral and multilateral, negotiated with the Soviets. I shall mention only a few: SALT I and SALT II (although SALT II has never been ratified, both parties are abiding by its terms), the Test Ban Treaty, the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, the Non-Proliferation Treaty, the Treaty on Outer Space, and the Antarctic Treaty. At the United Nations, important resolutions such as Resolutions 242 and 338 were negotiated, primarily between the Soviets and the US. The Helsinki Accord of 1975 warrants special mention because of its unique significance.
2. Do the Russians honor treaties and agreements solemnly entered into? By and large, yes, sometimes no. The verdict of history is that the agreement at Yalta about the future of Poland was not honored and this has affected American perceptions ever since. It would appear that the Soviet large radar installation at Krasnoyarsk is in violation of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. Perhaps the most flagrant violation of an agreement by the Russians is their almost disregard of human rights provisions of t he Helsinki Final Act. To be frank, the US, on occasion, has been in technical violation of the Test Ban Treaty, by reason of the venting of nuclear material following permissible underground tests. However, it has been demonstrated that these violations are largely accidental.
3. Do the Russians out-negotiate us? The answer, on the whole, is no. Russian negotiators are not 10 feet tall nor are they pigmies. American negotiators are not patsies. In some agreements and treaties the Russians seem to have an edge; on others we do. This is inevitable in agreements.
4. Are the Russians totally inflexible in negotiations? No. They are tenacious and yield obvious and untenable positions only at the last minute, thus sorely trying the patience of American negotiators.
But when their national interests are importantly involved, the Soviets are capable of both flexibility and expeditious decisions. Witness their agreement at the United Nations immediately following the 1967 war to a cease-fire without provision for complete withdrawal of Israeli forces to the June 1967 lines.
Again in 1973 (the Yom Kippur war), the Russians with almost unseemly speed agreed to Resolution 338 which provided for both a cease-fire and direct negotiations between the Israelis and the Arabs -- a concept strongly resisted by the Arab states.
5. Do American negotiators possess unlimited flexibility in negotiations, as President Reagan recently seems to have indicated, while Soviet negotiators are held on a much tighter leash? No. Ambassador Nitze's famous ``walk in the woods'' agreement with his Soviet counterpart was repudiated by both the US and the government of the Soviet Union. Perhaps what the President means is that the American negotiators have greater flexibility to explore various options. But the bottom line (ultimate terms of set tlement) requires, in our case, approval by the President and in the case of the Russians, approval by the Politburo. Gorbachev is not empowered to approve or settle on his own the nuclear balance or other transcendent matters.
6. Do the Soviets lie and engage in deception in their diplomacy? Gromyko lied to Kennedy during the Cuban missile crisis. But generally, Soviet negotiators, while not very forthcoming, do not practice deception. In any event, American negotiators are well advised to be truthful in presenting the position of our country.
7. Are Soviet representatives more patient than American negotiators? Yes. Our country is inclined to rush to judgment, reflective of the national character of Americans. Russians are plodders, reflective of their tradition. Our representatives need reminding that a good negotiator must never appear to be in a hurry and must have the courage to resist the understandable desire of those on high to consummate agreements with dispatch. Patience in negotiations necessitates a high energy level. An effective
negotiator must be in good shape, mentally and physically. A favorite technique of the Soviets is to try to wear down their negotiating adversaries.
8. Should American negotiators be wary of Soviet negotiating tactics in particular? Yes. Our negotiators should painstakingly insist upon precision in the language, both in the American and Soviet texts, of negotiating documents. Russians are adept at exploiting ambiguities.
9. Are there other Soviet negotiating ploys? Yes. The one to be rejected out of hand is: ``What's mine is mine and what's yours is negotiable.''
10. Are there notable differences between American and Soviet conduct of negotiations? Yes. Americans are inclined to be overly informal. Soviets, interestingly enough, adhere to protocol and diplomatic usage. On the whole, the Soviet method is preferable. Negotiators on both sides should be civil and dignified. Americans are too inclined to be overly familiar (resorting to first naming) and to radiate too much good cheer and fellowship when, as is often the case, little, if any, progress has been made. Smiles and champagne toasts are better reserved for a successful conclusion than for tough bargaining.
11. Are summit conferences conducive to successful negotiations? On occasion, yes. More often, they are cosmetic. The Camp David Accords, where President Carter spent an inordinate amount of time in achieving what are undoubtedly his greatest diplomatic triumph, is an example of a success in summitry. The heads of the American and Soviet governments, however, are simply too busy and often too unfamiliar with the details to engage in substantive negotiations.
12. If this is so, why should any summit conference be held? The principal value of a summit conference is to demonstrate that the leaders of the two super-powers genuinely desire a settlement. Further, there is value for leaders to announce terms of settlement, notwithstanding that the settlement has been well orchestrated in advance. It enhances their prestige, soothes domestic constituencies, and eases international tensions.
13. Are public statements, by officials on high, which appear to be inflammatory and sometimes derogatory, damaging to a negotiated settlement? Probably not. On important matters, both the Soviet Union and the US follow the old nursery rhyme: ``Sticks and stones may break your bones but names will never hurt you.'' National interest, not rhetorical exchanges, makes or breaks a settlement.
Thus, in negotiating with the Russians, the guiding principle for our country and its chosen negotiators is that expressed by President Kennedy in his inaugural address (1961): ``Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.''
Arthur J. Goldberg has had extensive experience in negotiating with the Russians during his tenure as permanent representative of the United States to the United Nations (1965-1968).