Time Essay: How to Deal with the Russians

In the reign of Elizabeth I, an English agent for the Muscovy Co. of London had this advice about dealing with the Russians: "Make your bargains plain, and put them in writing." Americans staring across the mahogany of detente sometimes learn the hard way —in the 1972 wheat deal, for example —that, for Communists, the Russians can be very good at doing business.

They can also be extremely difficult, full of contradictions and imperatives that are hard for Americans to comprehend. Westerners tend to regard negotiations as a vehicle leading to compromise. The Soviets...

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