Article | Negotiation Journal | January 2013

Level Two Negotiations: Helping the Other Side Meet Its 'Behind-the-Table' Challenges

by James K. Sebenius


A long analytic tradition has explored the challenge of productively synchronizing "internal" with "external" negotiations, with a special focus on how each side can best manage internal opposition to agreements negotiated "at the table." Implicit in much of this work has been the view that each side's leadership is best positioned to manage its own internal conflicts, often by pressing for deal terms that will overcome internal objections and by effectively "selling" the agreement to key constituencies. Far less frequently have analysts considered how each side—to further its own goals—can help the other side with the other's "behind-the-table" barriers to successful agreement. Following Robert Putnam's (1988) two-level games schema, I characterize such "behind the table," or "Level Two,' barriers more broadly, offer several innovative private and public sector examples of how each side can help the other overcome them, and develop more general advice on doing so most effectively. As a fuller illustration of a Level Two negotiator helping the other side with its formidable behind-the-table challenges, I pay special attention to the end-of-Cold-War negotiations over German reunification in which former United States Secretary of State James Baker played a key role.

Keywords: negotiation; James Baker; internal negotiation; dispute resolution; bargaining; Two-level games; Negotiation; Germany; United States;


Sebenius, James K. "Level Two Negotiations: Helping the Other Side Meet Its 'Behind-the-Table' Challenges." Negotiation Journal 29, no. 1 (January 2013): 7–21.