February 2015
Raphael Lapin



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Dear Clients and Friends






In this February '15 edition of NEGOTIATION STRATEGIES I use the recent Ukrainian/Russian negotiations in Minsk, to help us better define success in negotiations and how to achieve it.


For your reading convenience, we also distill this into a brief lessons learned at the end of the column.


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With Best Wishes 


Raphael Lapin




Evaluating true success in a negotiation can sometimes be elusive. Yet knowing the extent to which our negotiations are a success is important. It enables us to commit with confidence; it helps us to persuade  other stakeholders, superiors  and constituents as to why the agreement reached was a good one; and it allows us to feel positively about the agreement, without resentment or feeling exploited. This translates into  better  compliance, stronger durability of the agreement and better working relationships.


In  studying  how to measure success in a negotiation, the latest negotiations in Minsk between the Ukraine and Russia is a good case to examine. In a recent article, the Washington Post declared Putin as the unequivocal "winner" in those negotiations, because he avoided further economic and military costs to Russia. This implies that Poroshenko of the Ukraine, was the loser.

However, as we analyze the concerns of the Ukraine and Russia and how the thirteen points of the Minsk agreement addresses those concerns respectively, a different picture begins to emerge. 

Let us look at how the Minsk Agreement meets Russia's and the Ukraine's respective concerns:


Firstly, Russia is concerned with the Ukraine's alliance with NATO and the West. The Minsk Agreement does not really address this, other than a very vague promise for dialogue between Russia and NATO countries sometime in the future.  A further interest of Russia is federalization for Russian nationals in Eastern Ukraine. Although the Minsk Agreement allows for limited self-rule and decentralization, it does not however provide independence or federalization. Another need that Russia could certainly do with, is  to restore influence in the Ukraine. This too,  the Minsk Agreement makes no provision for whatsoever. Finally Putin, would like to avoid further sanctions and military costs which the Minsk Agreement could potentially alleviate if the ceasefire holds and other terms of the agreement are complied with. 


On the Ukraine side, a key interest is a stabilized government. The Minsk agreement is definitely a step in the right direction.  Economic reform is another important need closely linked to a stabilized government. With  an agreement in place,  Russian influence and interference will be curtailed and the Ukraine is cleared towards economic reform. Closer ties to NATO and the West is of further concern of the Ukraine, a concern with which the Minsk Agreement does not seem to conflict. Sovereignty and control of it's  borders is important to the Ukraine also. This too they have achieved with the Agreement which stipulates that by the end of 2015  the Ukraine will control the Eastern border with Russia (contingent upon decentralization of the Russian Nationals in Eastern Ukraine).


Based on this analysis it appears that the Minsk Agreement directly addresses more of the Ukraine's concerns than Russia's, which would declare Poroshenko the "winner" contrary to the Washington Post's opinion.


Are we to conclude then that these negotiations are a failure from Putin's standpoint? Why then would Putin agree?  He must also have decided that this was a successful outcome, but measured in different terms.


One item of contention that was conspicuous by its absence at the negotiation table, was the issue of the Crimean Peninsula that Russia annexed almost a year ago. It was, in fact, this very event that started the sanctions in the first place. In addition to accommodating one of Russia's most important naval bases,  the Crimean Peninsula is of major strategic importance to Russia as it controls the Black Sea and allows for quick access to the Eastern Mediterranean, Baltic and the Middle East. 


This may have been Putin's primary interest, and the other needs surrounding the Ukraine dispute only secondary. He was successful in these negotiations to the extent that the Minsk Agreement made neither any explicit nor implied provisions for him to surrender Crimea. Paradoxically, his success was built on what was NOT addressed in the negotiations rather than what was.


Success in negotiations is not measured in terms of a winner and a loser. It is measured by the extent to which one's vital interests are met and  crucial concerns alleviated. In this sense, the outcome for both Putin and Poroshenko was successful because they both had very different interests which were met. 


Poroshenko interests were a stabilized government, economic reform and sovereignty. Putin's were primarily the Crimean Peninsula, relieving economic and military costs and autonomy for Russian nationalists in Ukraine. Both men had their interests met to the extent that they could live with,  and both could confidently declare their negotiation successful. 

About1About Lapin Negotiation Strategies 


Lapin Negotiation Strategies 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:
  • Help your organization build a highly effective negotiation competency and culture which translates into increased revenue and strong business relationships.
  • Develop high impact, customized learning systems to develop advanced skills and powerful techniques in negotiation, dispute resolution and relationship management.
  • Provide advice, strategy, guidance and representation in live negotiation challenges
  • Facilitate, mediate and advise in dispute resolution
  • Create a culture of collaboration by guiding and training teams and divisions to engage in dialogue, to negotiate and to partner
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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