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Abstract: In June 1977, US and Soviet negotiators met in Moscow for the first round of talks on arms control in the Indian Ocean. Over the preceding decade, the growing political importance of that area had led both nations to establish a limited naval presence there. In pushing for talks, the Carter administration sought agreement on arms limitation while both sides still maintained relatively low levels of forces in the Indian Ocean, with complete demilitarization the ultimate objective. The initial round of talks yielded some promising results, despite substantial areas of disagreement. Those differences remained unresolved, however: after four sessions, the US terminated the talks, citing Soviet involvement in the Horn of Africa. By the end of 1979, in the aftermath of events in Afghanistan and Iran, the Carter administration had not only dropped its quest for arms control in the Indian Ocean, but had begun to assert its right to protect US interests in the region by military force where necessary.
Learning Objective: The case allows discussion about what determines whether a particular situation is ripe for negotiation. It also leads to consideration of key negotiating features (units of account, scope, asymmetry). The case can also be used to provoke a more general assessment of the utility of negotiation as a tool of national security policy.