July 3, 2022

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Negotiator Wendy Sherman leaves her poker face at home, even as she tries to keep Putin away from Ukraine

Negotiator Wendy Sherman leaves her poker face at home, even as she tries to keep Putin away from Ukraine

Wendy ShermanBuild Chip Somophila / Getty

A few years ago, Wendy Sherman, the US Deputy Secretary of State who is currently in Geneva to prevent a war between Russia and Ukraine, explained why the world is known as one of the best negotiators of her time.

2015 was, and after 25 days of negotiations at the Coburg Palace, a five-star hotel in Vienna, Shermann, as chief negotiator on behalf of the United States, had one last item on the agenda: a final meeting with Abbas Araqchi, chief negotiator on behalf of Iran.

For weeks, the two, along with dozens of other diplomats from Brussels, England, France, Germany, Russia and China, have been busy crafting the so-called Iran deal, in an effort to freeze that country’s nuclear ambitions. This last conversation was the last hurdle.

Sherman dined out of the hotel only once every four weeks, as every new word in the deal had to be coordinated with all the individual country teams in the hotel’s various meeting rooms, hallways or breakfast tables. “It was like a Rubik’s Cube,” Sherman later said of those weeks in Vienna. “If you solve one side, it turns out that you have mixed the other side completely.”

However, after 25 days, there was an agreement that could be presented to the world. At least, until her Iranian colleague Araghchi abruptly bowed out during that last conversation and brought things up for discussion days ago.

silver fox

Sherman realized it was about tactics—a final attempt to get something extra out of him—and yet she “lost control,” she remembered that moment later. “I started talking and out of my frustration and anger I could feel tears welling up in my eyes. I said this tactic threatens the whole deal.”

Sherman: They teach women from a young age that seeing you cry is a sign of weakness, but Araghchi and Ravanchi (his negotiating partner, red.) They were surprised. For the first time in a month, they closed their mouths. After a long period of silence, Araqchi rejected his earlier objection and agreed to the deal.

Not that she has had tears in her eyes during the negotiations since then. It was not a tactical move. It was fidelity. 72-year-old Sherman later summed it up: “If you add originality, perseverance and commitment to the table, you are incredibly strong.”

So what will you do in 2022 when Vladimir Putin has maneuvered over a hundred thousand soldiers on the border with Ukraine and the whole world fears an imminent war? She then sends the silver fox to the Russians, a nickname Sherman got from the same conversations with the Iranians after they found out how smart their female counterpart really was. Clever like a fox.

Not up to par

Sherman’s methods may differ slightly from international standards because she learned her diplomatic skills in a different class than most of her male colleagues. After college in Baltimore, she worked for years with children in need of alternative care. However, realizing her efforts to provide abused children with the help they really need, she decided to change the system by entering politics.

It was a very successful career and soon took her to the prestigious Foreign Ministry. There, under President Bill Clinton, she was already the driving force behind successful negotiations with North Korean President Kim Jong Il. She later negotiated with the Chinese, Russians, Syrians, and Iranians—all of these conversations made her difficult, according to nearly all of her colleagues in the interviews. Shermans are known for not getting around hot messes and not going everywhere. “There is no better deal than a bad deal,” she told the Senate in 2013.

Also important: It is better to lay your cards on the table than on the face of the poker game. “It’s not because these are relationships that are all about trust,” she said in an interview last year. New York times. But relationships are all about respect. You can best earn each other’s respect if you know each other’s interests, and then try to represent both interests as best you can.

She then said she began her talks with the Russians on Monday with the aim of “better understanding each other’s priorities.” Or in the words of her Russian colleague Sergei Ryabkov, who remembers Sherman from the time they negotiated the dismantling of the Syrian arsenal: “The talks were difficult, long, very professional, deep and concrete, without trying to cut through the sharp edges. “.

Three classmates around Wendy Sherman

Among her immediate colleagues, Sherman, a master of difficult conversations, arouses not only much respect, but also little fear. “It can be very intense,” diplomat James Jeffrey told the BBC recently.

Former colleague Rose Gottemoeller described her opposite New York times As follows: “She’s a consummate professional with a rather sharp edge. You knew you had to be well prepared before you spoke to her, or else you’d see the door again soon.”

“She maintains close relations with her interlocutors,” said EU diplomat Catherine Ashton. For example, during one of her trips to Pyongyang, then-North Korean President Kim Jong Il Bescherman admitted that he was a huge fan of American films. He’s owned every Academy Award winning movie and watched them all. He assured Sherman of his favorite movies: the James Bond movie.

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