Trusting Enemies: Interpersonal Relationships in International Conflict

G03 Alan Walters Building
Thursday 26 April 2018 (18:00-19:00)

For more information, please contact Ceara Wason by email or by phone on +44 (0)121 415 1050.

wheeler book cover contensis
Trusting Enemies book cover

As part of the College of Social Sciences Inaugural lecture series, Professor Nicholas J. Wheeler looks at interpersonal relationships in international conflict.

This event will be livestream, watch along on our Facebook page.

How can two enemies, locked into a spiral of fear and insecurity, transform their relationship into a trusting one? Wheeler argues that the field of International Relations has been looking in the wrong place to answer this question because it has focused on the state and individual levels of analysis. Instead, he argues for a focus on the interpersonal level and the potential for a relationship of trust to emerge out of interaction between two state leaders. 

Building on years of research in this field, this lecture, based on his new book published with Oxford University Press with the same title, argues that the key to overcoming uncertainty about the intentions of other leaders is the development of trust at the interpersonal level between two state leaders. If two leaders trust in each other's trustworthiness, then they will interpret the other's signals in ways that promote cooperation and de-escalation in conflict situations. He argues that a particular type of interpersonal interaction is crucial to the building of trust, namely, face-to-face diplomacy and the process of social bonding this makes possible. The lecture will illustrate his argument with reference to the successful case of American and Soviet leaders, Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, whose face-to-face summitry played a key role in ending the Cold War. He will consider the implications of his theory for reducing tensions in other cases of international conflict, including the possibility of a future summit meeting between President Donald Trump and the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

Following the lecture, copies of Trusting Enemies will be available to purchase with a 30% discount and Nicholas on hand to sign copies.  

Open to all University staff, Government and Society students and alumni (drinks and canapés from 19.00 onwards)

Nicholas J. Wheeler

About Professor Nicholas Wheeler

After graduating from North Staffordshire Polytechnic in 1983, Nicholas was awarded his MSc(Econ) in International Studies in 1984 and his PhD in 1988 from the University of Southampton. Prior to joining the University of Birmingham in 2012, Nicholas taught at the Universities of Hull and Aberystwyth. He was promoted to Professor in 2004 and served as Director of the David Davies Memorial Institute of International Studies from 2005 to 2010. Nicholas joined the University of Birmingham as Professor of International Relations in the Department of Political Science and International Studies and was appointed Director of the then newly created Institute for Conflict, Co-operation and Security (ICCS). He is the author of the highly acclaimed Saving Strangers: Humanitarian Intervention in International Society (OUP 2000) and co-author (with Ken Booth) of The Security Dilemma: Fear, Cooperation and Trust in World Politics (Palgrave Macmillan, 2008). He is co-editor of the Cambridge Series in International Relations and a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences.

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