Fredrik Stanton is the author of Great Negotiations: Agreements That Changed the Modern World. Stanton is no newcomer to international relations and foreign policy. He is the former president of the Columbia Daily Spectator and has written for both the Boston Herald and the United Nations publication A Global Agenda. Stanton was also an election monitor in Armenia, the Republic of Georgia, Bosnia, Kosovo and Azerbaijan.
Fredrik is currently promoting his book and has kindly taken time out of his hectic touring schedule to speak to us.
Can you tell us a little about Great Negotiations?
Great Negotiations: Agreements that Changed the Modern World tells the stories of the highest stakes poker games in history, moments when the strategic forces were so finely balanced that individuals were able to leave their mark on the course of events. It explores how great leaders make choices under pressure, and introduces a new way of seeing history. History is traditionally viewed through the lens of war or biography, and this fills in a missing piece of the puzzle.
Can you tell us how you came up with the idea for the book?
The book began as a question: what examples were there of people changing history with language and wits alone?
What made you choose this specific set of negotiations? Were there any that might have been included but didn’t quite fit your criteria?
The negotiations I picked met three criteria. They had to have had a large footprint and lead to changes that still affect our lives today. They couldn’t be a dictation of terms or a natural unfolding of events. The individuals at the table had to have the ability to affect the outcome. Finally, there had to be enough material available to recreate the give and take of the discussions, to give the reader a seat at the table as the drama unfolded. There are any number of other good examples of important, successful negotiations, and others I considered included Yalta, Camp David, and the Alaska Purchase. In the end I felt that the ones I included presented an array of different situations and personalities that give a sense of the possibilities and the pitfalls of these turning points in history.
These were all fine examples of negotiation and the diplomatic process even if the result was not always a success. Can you think of any examples of negotiations that were clear examples of disasters or failures?
The Munich agreement in September 1938 is obviously an example of a disastrous failure, and serves as an enduring reminder that appeasement which rewards aggression does not buy peace for long. The Paris Peace Conference, which I cover in my book, is an example of a flawed agreement that led to wars on several continents.