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HKS Authors

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Abstract

In times of unfettered international threats, the wise advice of Thomas Schelling deserves attention. Tom prized communication. He stressed the need for enemies to establish channels of communication so that neither chance events nor innocent acts would be misinterpreted and thereby escalate a crisis, and possibly lead to catastrophic consequences. Tom was the intellectual father of the hotline that has connected first the Soviet Union and now Russia to the United States from 1963 to the present day. He worked tirelessly with international missions between the two nations, seeking to establish better communication and its hopeful follow-on, greater trust. In the current Syrian conflict, Russian and U.S. forces – albeit aligned on opposite sides – communicate regularly to avoid force-to-force clashes. Tom also emphasized the importance of tacit communication between adversaries in order to avoid the hostilities mistakes can produce.

Citation

Mukharji, Aroop, and Richard J. Zeckhauser. "Back Channel Negotiations and Dangerous Waiting." Negotiation Journal (July 2018): 297-307.