International Relations Role-Play:

Ship Bumping Case


Andrew Clarkson

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


Please note: you must order a copy (a.k.a. license/usage fee) for every person participating in the simulation in your course. This simulation has multiple roles, so you will be unable to complete your purchase without meeting the minimum quantity requirement of copies per role.

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PON Teaching Negotiation Resource Center

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You may order this role simulation in either soft copy (electronic) or hard copy (paper) format. If you select the soft copy option, you will receive an e-mail with a URL (website address) from which you may download an electronic file in Adobe Acrobat PDF format. You will have one week to download your materials from when you receive the email. You are then only authorized to use, print, or share the materials as many times as the number of copies you purchase. The TNRC charges for use of this simulation on a per-participant basis. Therefore, you must purchase a separate copy of this simulation for each person who will be participating, regardless of the number of roles in the simulation. You will only receive a link to one electronic file, which includes all general instructions, confidential instructions, and any teaching notes for the simulation. You should separate out the instructions before distributing to participants.

If you select the hard copy option, you will receive paper copies of this role simulation via the shipping method you select.

For additional information about the soft copy option, please visit our FAQ section, or contact the PON Teaching Negotiation Resource Center at or 800-258-4406 (within the U.S.) or 301-528-2676 (outside the U.S.).

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Ordering a single copy for review

If you wish to review the materials for a particular role simulation to decide whether you’d like to use it, a PDF, or soft copy, version of the Teacher’s Package for the simulation is available as a free download from the description page of most role simulations and case studies. All Teacher’s Packages include copies of all participant materials. In addition, some Teacher’s Packages (but not all) include additional teaching materials such as teaching notes or overhead masters.

Ordering copies for multiple participants

To order multiple copies of a role simulation for use in a course or workshop, simply enter the total number of participants in the box next to “Quantity.” There is no need to calculate how many of each role is required.

If you are ordering hard copies, the Teaching Negotiation Resource Center will calculate the appropriate numbers of each role to provide, based on the total number of participants. For example, if you wish to order a 2-party role simulation for use with a class of 30 students, you would enter “30” in the box next to “Quantity.” You then would receive 15 copies of one role and 15 copies of the other role, for use with your 30 participants. As another example, if you ordered 30 participant copies of a 6-party role simulation, you would receive 5 copies of each role.

In the event that the number of participant copies you order is not evenly divisible by the number of roles in the simulation, you will receive extra copies of one or more roles. Participants receiving the extra roles may partner with other participants playing the same role, thus negotiating as a team. So, for instance, if you ordered 31 copies of a 2-party role simulation, you would receive 15 copies of the first role and 16 copies of the second role. One of the participants playing the second role would partner with another participant playing that same role, and the two would negotiate as a team.

Bulk Pricing Discount

For bulk orders, we offer the following pricing discounts. Please note that these only apply to bulk orders of the same simulation.

  • Between 100-250 copies – 10% discount
  • Between 251-500 copies – 25% discount
  • More than 500 copies – 50% discount
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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.



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.



  • 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.



For all parties:

  • Attachment One: The Law of the Sea Convention of 1982
  • Attachment Two: Department of State Bulletin


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 Notes



Assumptions; Authority; BATNA; Currently perceived choice analysis; Drafting; Legitimacy; Partisan perceptions; Precedents; Preparation; Trust; Yesable propositions

Ship Bumping Case Attributes

Time required: 2-3 hours
Number of participants: 4
Teams involved: Yes
Agent present: None
Neutral third party present: None
Scoreable: No
Teaching notes available: Yes