Instructing the negotiator

By — on / Daily, Negotiation Skills

The Clearinghouse at PON offers hundreds of role simulations, from two-party, single-issue negotiations to complex multi-party exercises. The Ship Bumping Case is a two-party international negotiation between Russian and U.S. negotiators over a naval incident. Teams internally prepare instructions for a representative not involved in the preparation.

SCENARIO: Vessels from the United States Navy equipped for electronic espionage recently entered Russian territorial waters and proceeded to within seven miles of the Russian naval installations at Sevastopol, where they were bumped in order to force them to leave. Both governments now want to engage in negotiations in order to reduce the chance of such scenarios in the future.

MECHANICS: There are two steps to this case. First, participants are put into U.S. or Soviet groups of 3-4 and asked to draft instructions for their respective country’s negotiator at the upcoming talks. Second, each participant negotiates one-on-one with written instructions from a group different from their own in the first step.


  • For all parties:
    • Attachment One: The Law of the Sea Convention of 1982
    • Attachment Two: Department of State Bulletin
    • Illustrative Preparation Memorandum (for debriefing)
  • Role specific:
    • Drafting Instructions for the following:
      • Memorandum from Minister of Foreign Affairs, Russia
      • Memorandum from U.S. National Security Council
    • Instructions to the United States Negotiator (for debriefing)
    • Instructions to the Russian Negotiator (for debriefing)
  • Teacher’s Package:
    • All of the above
    • Teaching Note

PROCESS THEMES: assumptions; authority; BATNA; currently perceived choice analysis; drafting; legitimacy; partisan perceptions; precedents; preparation; trust; yesable propositions


This exercise explores issues of authority and power in situations where internal negotiations produce instructions for external negotiations.

This case offers participants an opportunity to practice drafting negotiation guidelines for a negotiator, and then to evaluate the effectiveness of their guidelines.

Some participants will apply more foresight in resolving this situation than others. Those who recognize that their decisions will have substantial impact on the future relationship between the two parties will be far more effective than those who negotiate from a reactionary point of view.

To purchase a copy of this role simulation, click here.

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