December 2015
Raphael Lapin

Negotiation, Mediation and Litigation-Avoidance Specialists Since 1995

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Dear Clients and Friends,


Is Putin the uncompromising warmonger or the skilled diplomat and negotiator in the Syrian crisis. Join me as I extract some lessons from his negotiating strategy in this December  '15 edition of N EGOTIATION STRATEGIES. 
For your reading convenience, we also distill this into a brief lessons learned at the end of the column.
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Wishing you all the best of the Season's Greetings and a Happy New Year!
With Best Wishes 
Raphael Lapin

The Syrian crisis is a confusing conflagration even for seasoned observers of international affairs. There appear to be three primary entities: The Assad regime battling for survival, the moderate rebels (comprised of many internal interest groups) supposedly fighting both the Assad regime and ISIS, and ISIS fighting the Assad regime and the moderate rebels in their advance towards domination of the region.

To complicate matters, we now have the United States supporting the moderate rebels in their fight against the Assad regime. The US ostensibly wants to oust Assad due to his gross violations of human rights and obstruction of democracy. (For a further discussion on the extent that foreign human rights intervention should take precedence over national and international security concerns and interests, see Statecraft, Margaret Thatcher Ch. 7).

Enter Russia to support the Assad regime, fight ISIS and weaken the moderate rebels by bombing their positions. (A strong argument can be made for supporting the Assad regime currently, so as not to create further instability in the region causing another Iraq and Libya situation. Deposing Assad would seriously destabilize the entire Levant allowing fundamental Islamic terrorist groups to gain an extremely strategic foothold).

What becomes confusing is that on the one hand, Putin is attacking the moderate rebels suggesting his intention to resolve the dispute militarily, and yet on the other, he is actively convening a meeting in Vienna to engage the rebels in negotiations, suggesting a diplomatic resolution. Is Putin the uncompromising warmonger or the skilled diplomat and negotiator in the Syrian crisis?
Ripe for Resolution

There are many factors that might obstruct the resolution of a dispute, but a common one is timing - a dispute needs to be ripe for resolution. This usually happens when the perceived cost of fighting is worse than that of negotiating.

In international hostilities for example, this might happen when one or both parties realize that victory is unlikely and costs and casualties are too much to bear. In a civil dispute, this may occur when the uncertainty and costs of litigation is recognized to be a worse prospect than settlement discussions or mediation.

Although this ripeness often happens with just the natural course of time, good negotiators understand that with effective and careful strategy, the ripeness can be precipitated and parties can be brought to the table sooner rather than later.

An example of such strategy is the United States foreign policy use of sanctions. They are designed to make the pain of not negotiating greater than that of negotiating, thereby creating a ripeness for resolution.

Another example is when Sadat attacked Israel at the beginning of the Yom Kippur war in 1973. According to Henry Kissinger in his book, Years of Upheaval, Sadat's intention was to bring about a ripeness for resolving the post six-day war dispute by making the costs and threats to Israel greater than those incurred by negotiating. This led to Sadat being the first Arab leader to address the Knesset and subsequently to the Camp David Accords.

Putin's interest in the Syrian situation is to bring about a sustainable resolution to the violence while still keeping Assad in power and to maintain regional stability to the extent possible. The idea of any negotiated agreement that includes Assad in any capacity, is currently unacceptable to the rebels. The only way that Putin can change their minds is to make a negotiated agreement that includes Assad, a more attractive alternative than continued fighting against Russian air power.

In this way, he is actively precipitating the ripeness for resolution and negotiation, rather than passively waiting for the course of time to transpire and hope for ripeness to occur.

Sometimes, what appears to be an aggressive act of war is actually a step in the right direction towards peace, if it is part of a comprehensive negotiation strategy!
Application to the Business Environment

Disputes are a part of doing business and they cost the corporate world billions of dollars in associated expenses. Effective negotiation can save the enormous costs of conflict and litigation, but many times the disputes are not yet ripe for negotiation and resolution. 

Through effective strategy, you can hasten the ripeness for resolution and reach an effective and efficient settlement of the dispute. This requires careful consideration of how you can demonstrate to the other party, that the costs of fighting are far greater than coming to the table to talk. It may involve some initial aggressive litigation proceedings, or having an open discussion about the costs to both sides of litigating.

The important thing however, is that whatever means you use, it is with a conscious intent and clear purpose that it is a component in a comprehensive negotiation strategy and not an end in itself. The ultimate objective should be to resolve the issue through an effective negotiation with the a satisfying resolution to all.

About1About Lapin Negotiation Services


Lapin Negotiation Services offers training, consulting, advising and executive coaching in negotiation, business diplomacy and dispute resolution services.


Our proprietary and aggressively results oriented services are designed to help your leadership, teams and individuals master the essential negotiation, relationship-building and conflict management skills that increase revenues, decrease the high cost of conflict  and build  strong working relationships .

Our skilled specialists will:
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Raphael Lapin

Raphael Lapin, a Harvard trained negotiation and communication specialist. He is adjunct professor of law at Whittier School of Law in Southern California and visiting professor at Southwestern Law School in Los Angeles. Raphael trains and advises Fortune 500 companies and governments around the world and is the author of "Working with Difficult People" (DK Penguin Essential Managers Series)
Working with Difficult People
 Learn more about Raphael Lapin's book, "Working with Difficult People" by clicking on the image above