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Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Transcript of Obama-Putin Negotiations

Barack Obama sent a letter to the Russians offering to halt the European missile shield in exchange for Russian help in stopping Iran's nuclear development. The Russians said thank you for agreeing to halt the missile shield, but we don't haggle, so you get nothing from us.

Will someone teach Obama some basic rules of negotiating, please. Here are two rules that Obama could find with a simple internet search:

Rule: Don’t negotiate against yourself. Obama violated this rule by offering to halt the missile shield before the Russians had agreed to assist on Iran. By framing the offer as he did, Obama gave the Russians no reason to bargain since they had achieved what they wanted, a halt to the missile shield.

Rule: Never give a concession away without receiving one in return. This is a corollary to never negotiating against yourself. Obama having signaled a desire -- publicly -- to halt the missile shield, there is no reason for the Russians to give a concession:
Giving a concession without getting one in return establishes a precedent that can soon become a pattern. Later if you decide your concession are costing you too much, when you attempt to refuse future requests you’ll look like the “bad guy” in the negotiation.
I fear this is what the future holds:

Obama: Cooperate on Iran, and we'll suspend aid to Georgia.
Putin: OK, thank you for suspending aid to Georgia.

Obama: Cooperate on Iran, and we'll return Guantanamo to Cuba.
Putin: OK, thank you for agreeing to leave Guantanamo.

Obama: Cooperate on Iran, and we'll suspend all oil drilling in Alaska.
Putin: OK, but when are you going to return Alaska?

Obama: Cooperate on Iran, and we'll put pressure on Israel to return the Golan to Syria.
Putin: OK, I'll call Assad right away to let him know.

Obama: Cooperate on Iran, and we'll pay you for allowing us to resupply our troops in Afghanistan.
Putin: OK, here's my bank account number.

Obama: Cooperate on Iran, and we'll close our base in Kyrgyzstan.
Putin: Been there, done that.

Obama: Cooperate on Iran, and I'll stop using the term "czar" for people in my administration.
Putin: OK, but only if I can start using the term to describe myself.

Obama: Cooperate on Iran, and we'll agree to mutual removal of presidential term limits so that we can continue our negotiations forever.
Putin: Deal.

If the missile shield letter is what Obama meant by engaging in aggressive diplomacy, we are all in trouble.


  1. I (big surprise) see it completely differently.

    First, Putin, et al, are already aware that Obama represents a constituency that wants to stop deployment of any missle shield to Eastern Europe (if only for the basic cost, not to mention that nobody really knows if these things are worth the money being put into them.)

    Second, for whatever reason, there is the possibility that the US would go forward with deployment. Up to now, Russia has managed to frame this as "US aggression", no matter how we tried to spin it as defense. Now it's out in the open that we're linking it not only to Iran's development of long range missles, but to Russia's support for the Iranian program.

    Let's see. If Russia rejects the offer, Obama has cover to move forward with deployment (assuming that we're willing to waste billions to keep a chess piece on the board) when dealing with Western Europe. Russia loses some leverage in trying to get missile defense out of their backyard, unless they are willing to offer up something else in the future.

    Except from the POV of those of us who would rather not waste billions in Pentagon pork on an unproven technology to make Russia more paranoid (I'd be happier with an absolute declaration that we don't intend to deploy) - what's the downside?

  2. If he didn't, we are in real trouble.

  3. Oh yes. It is MUCH better to waste trillions on everything else under the sun. No new military technology, because none of the systems are proven. And we cannot afford to waste funds on getting them proven. After all, it is just Poland. They aren't even worth protecting, because they do nothing political for the US.

    Ask Poland if dropping the system is good. Obama has already said, before the letter, that he intended on dropping the program.

    If a system is inviable, then sure, drop it in favor of a more proven technology. But just jumping in and saying screw the region is not a helpful political move.

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. Every new technology is unproven. Obama is unproven but that didn't stop America from betting a hell of a lot more than we should have on him.

  6. Another very important rule of negotiating is that the negotiator has the power to accept but not concede. This kind of offer should have been sent by a junior FS officer from a small country, not by Obama.