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Telephone Diplomacy

How are international crises resolved? Unbeknownst to the public, many of them are handled by way of back channel negotiations (BCN). These secret, private communications between representatives of each side seek to find solutions to conflicts away from the heated rhetoric of politicians and the public.

In Telephone Diplomacy: The Secret Talks Behind US-Soviet Detente During the Cold War, 1969-1977, Daniel S. Stackhouse, Jr. reveals how one such back channel operated between United States Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and Soviet Ambassador to the US Anatoly Dobrynin. Through an examination of telephone transcripts of private conversations between the two diplomats, Stackhouse demonstrates how Kissinger and Dobrynin helped the United States and the Soviet Union achieve a detente, or relaxation of Cold War tensions in the 1970s. Stackhouse argues that the conversations, often serious - but sometimes quite humorous, reveal that Kissinger and Dobrynin formed a relationship based upon empathy which enabled them to achieve numerous diplomatic successes in spite of strongly conflicting American and Soviet ideologies. Consequently, the Kissinger-Dobrynin "special relationship" provides an ideal case study of the potential for back channel negotiations to resolve international disputes.

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