The Barents Sea Conflict: Russia and Norway Competing Over Fossil Fuel Riches in the Arctic

By Niklas Witte
2013, Vol. 5 No. 09 | pg. 2/5 |

A review of the literature shows a generally limited amount of applicable research regarding coalition forces in negotiations, although some related contribution may be acknowledged from the area of Social Science and Psychology. Walker (1973) reviews Caplow's theory of coalitions in triads (developed in 1956), which states that weaker players in negotiations may form coalitions only if this allows them to overpower the strongest player of the negotiation party. In a dyadic negotiation scenario however, this would assume that secondary or tertiary parties would be willing and able to build coalitions with primary players. This may cause conflict in dyadic scenarios and shift the atmosphere from co-operation to conflict.

Caplow's theory of coalitions considers coalitions build on a resource basis only (Walker, 1973), implying that by forming a coalition the resource power may have changed in the negotiation scenario, other contemporary aspects such as political power advantages though may still lie with the single party outside of the coalition.

To clarify the role of politics in negotiations Viroli (1992) proposes that 'an impersonal structure of domination called the state is the core of politics … any other conception appears counter-intuitive.' So, can a party's 'impersonal, dominating structure', i.e. the party's national politics really have an influence on coalition building in bi-lateral negotiations? Agnew (2001) theorises that power in a political context has two main attributes; one of which is - 'an ability to make others do the state's will as this reflects the state's advantage of location, resources and populations.' Based on this, coalitions on the grounds of state politics would only be feasible if two or more states pursue the same or similar political agendas, which links back to Weiss's (1993) notion that relationships are affected by the parties' commonality of interest.

Although this may allow us to comprehend why coalitions are built, based on the existing body of research I am unable to evaluate what the exact impact of coalitions is other than the change of the level of resource or political power.

Due to the scarcity of existing research, I hypothesize the following: ultimately a coalition's advantage on a resource or political power base may shift the power dependency in the coalition's favor to become a dominating party in the negotiation; given that the context of a dyadic negotiation scenario allows secondary or tertiary parties to form a coalition with a primary party.

As a final point, this paper will consider the influence of media attention on negotiation scenarios. Again, research in this specific area is rare, but similar research in other areas may allow for assumptions. Betsill and Corell (2001), compile extensive research as to how and under what conditions NGOs influence the negotiation of international environmental agreements. They find that 'NGOs... intentionally transmit information to negotiators that alters both the negotiating process and outcome.'

Although strictly speaking NGOs are not the same as 'the media', they serve a similar purpose as they attempt to 'raise public awareness and lobby state decision-makers' (Betsill and Corell, 2001). The authors conclude that for NGOs 'Information is the primary tool used... to exert influence.' This allows the NGO, or the media to exert external and internal pressures on nation states to alter the outcome of negotiations to their policy expectations.

Clark (1995) notes that 'there is evidence that most states care how they are regarded by others, suggesting that international [NGO] pressure alone can affect state action....' Therefore, due to the recent increase in media attention on environmental, political and ethical issues (Palmer et. al., 2006), I hypothesise that governments are being pressured into increasing compliance with public opinion, hence influencing the outcome of negotiations. Further research is necessary to establish the true extent of this influence.

Conclusion of Theory

After reviewing over 100 negotiation papers, Reynolds et. al. (2003) note that existing research is 'less than decisive' and that 'IB negotiations are highly complex.' They agree that unless a dominant paradigm in IB negotiation emerges, the likelihood of major advances in negotiation theory is 'rather slim.' Weiss (2006) adds that existing negotiation research reveals 'fragmentation and atomistic treatment' and that no model has 'gained general acceptance.'

These conclusions underline the extensive discussion above. Even the combined efforts of researchers and academics has not yet yielded an overpowering and all-encompassing theory to assess International Business Negotiation scenarios, although a variety of frameworks and theories complement each other to a certain extent.

Methodological Framework

I will be using the variety of negotiation models and theories discussed above to formulate a combined model relevant to my case study.

For this purpose I will be using a modified version of Ghauri's (2003) negotiation framework. I will be analysing the contextual environment using Background factors and Atmosphere as identified by Ghauri (2003), while ignoring the 'Negotiator' factor in his Background dimension as well as 'Expectations' in Atmosphere. I also consider the influencing strategic factors as of minor importance to my case and as such will not be applying this aspect.

The framework will be expanded using contributions from Hofstede (2001), Lewis (2006) and Ott (2011) to address cultural factors of the negotiation. Weiss' (1993) and Metcalf and Birds' (2003) research will be used to include relationship and trust issues. Issues regarding coalition building and power dependencies shall also be considered. While Ghauri's framework was designed for a business-to-business negotiation context, the following case is a geopolitical scenario. Little academic evidence has been collected to assess the effectiveness of Ghauri's framework for geopolitical cases. The concluding section of this paper will attempt to establish to framework's effectiveness for this kind of case.

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