So you want to negotiate with Russians

Negotiating with Russians

There is a great Russian proverb: “Don’t hurry to reply, but hurry to listen.” Most Americans will generally regard compromise as desirable and inevitable, to them it’s a logical way of doing business. But Russians regard this kind of compromise as a sign of weakness, they feel it’s a retreat from what is correct and morally a justified position. They will often out-wait impatient Americans to produce more concessions from them.

Procedures and Tactics

If you are an American you better know what you want, and stick to it.

The Paperwork

Russians often like to put agreements on paper, even recording what was discussed in negotiations. They also like to fill out lots of little forms for Russian bureaucrats to sort through. e.g. Sending a parcel by mail takes filling out six different forms, all asking the same information. Although Russians like paperwork, take note that written documents and contracts are often worth less than the paper they are written on. Knowing the legal rule and rights are essential. Current legal counsel is very important in contracts.


Trust, but verifyRonald Reagan (after an old Russian proverb). Areas such as determining profit or loss, or reporting on how funds were spent are not common skills developed under Communism.

Expect the Unexpected

Things seldom go as planned with Russians. They often say, “In principle, it can be done,” but in practice, it may be another matter. Moreover, in trying to please and be good hosts, they may promise much more than they can actually deliver. A  “yes”, or “of course” does not always mean the same to Russians and Americans.

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