Over the morning coffee today, I watched commentary on the first formal visit to Russia by the current US administration. Blogs and media seem to take the refusal to meet an appointed Secretary of State as some sort of snub, but I see it differently. Consider the position of both parties. One party is backing a very unpopular decision and it is almost a certainty the conversation will revolve around Russia support of Syria and it’s current leadership. The position becomes difficult as you consider the, from Russia’s public point of view, position possibly denying use of SARIN and opposite views of use of force to incapacitate planes.
In any negotiation, how would you approach a choice, if you were faced with an answer you lose by giving directly. This may sound like code, so I’ll give an example. An owner or group of owners want to sell. Their positon is weak and absolutely nothing good will come from meeting with the buyer directly. In fact, it is possible someone will ask an unpleasant question….”What’s your bottom number?” or “Didn’t you pay half the asking price last year?”. Adding an intermediary makes all the difference. The intermediary has time to consider the reply or can slow a reply by deferring to the owner. As a broker, I’m really a professional intermediary. Putin is just responding in a reasonable fashion. It is far less damaging to Russia if they meet Tillerson, but buffer a reply. Again, I’m assuming the answer is not yet mutually agreeable. This is an early meeting and equivalent to meeting to discuss terms in a future relationship, leading toward mutual agreement, I hope.
Now, consider the trade with China and recent concessions to the US. The best path is to offer “least offensive”, but mutually acceptable solutions, while keeping what I need to reach my objective. Push only as much as necessary.