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Bargaining, Enforcement, and Multilateral Sanctions: When Is Cooperation Counterproductive?


  • Drezner, Daniel W.


Scholars and policymakers generally assume that multilateral cooperation is a necessary condition for economic sanctions to be of any use. However, previous statistical tests of this assumption have shown that sanctions are more successful with lower levels of cooperation. This puzzle calls into question established theories of economic statecraft as well as theories of international cooperation. In this article I test possible explanations for the ineffectiveness of multilateral cooperation on sanctions events using James Fearon's (1998) breakdown of cooperation into bargaining and enforcement phases as a framework for discussion The empirical results show that when multilateral economic sanctions fail, their failure is due to enforcement, not bargaining problems Without the support of an international organization, cooperating states backslide from promises of cooperation Backsliding occurs because of domestic political pressures and uncertainty about the intentions of the other sanctioning countries; backsliding causes an initial burst of cooperative behavior to decay over time. Without institutional support, cooperation is worse than useless—it is counterproductive. This result suggests that international cooperation is a more fragile equilibrium than previously thought but undercuts realist arguments that international organizations are unimportant.

Suggested Citation

  • Drezner, Daniel W., 2000. "Bargaining, Enforcement, and Multilateral Sanctions: When Is Cooperation Counterproductive?," International Organization, Cambridge University Press, vol. 54(1), pages 73-102, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:cup:intorg:v:54:y:2000:i:01:p:73-102_44

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    1. Bernhard Reinsberg & Centre for Business Research, 2018. "Blockchain Technology and International Relations: Decentralised Solutions To Foster Cooperation In An Anarchic World?," Working Papers wp508, Centre for Business Research, University of Cambridge.
    2. Nikolay Marinov, 2005. "Do Economic Sanctions Destabilize Country Leaders?," American Journal of Political Science, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 49(3), pages 564-576, July.
    3. Zornitsa Kutlina-Dimitrova, 2017. "The economic impact of the Russian import ban: a CGE analysis," International Economics and Economic Policy, Springer, vol. 14(4), pages 537-552, October.
    4. Caruso Raul, 2003. "The Impact of International Economic Sanctions on Trade: An Empirical Analysis," Peace Economics, Peace Science, and Public Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 9(2), pages 1-36, April.
    5. Valentin L. Krustev & T. Clifton Morgan, 2011. "Ending Economic Coercion: Domestic Politics and International Bargaining," Conflict Management and Peace Science, Peace Science Society (International), vol. 28(4), pages 351-376, September.
    6. von Soest, Christian & Wahman, Michael, 2013. "Sanctions and Democratization in the Post-Cold War Era," GIGA Working Papers 212, GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies.
    7. Baran Han, 2018. "The role and welfare rationale of secondary sanctions: A theory and a case study of the US sanctions targeting Iran," Conflict Management and Peace Science, Peace Science Society (International), vol. 35(5), pages 474-502, September.
    8. Dizaji, S.F. & Lis, P. & Murshed, S.M. & Zweiri, M., 2020. "What the political economy literature tells us about blockades and sanctions," ISS Working Papers - General Series 663, International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University Rotterdam (ISS), The Hague.
    9. Rixen, Thomas, 2008. "The institutional design of international double taxation avoidance [Das Design der internationalen Institutionen zur Vermeidung von Doppelbesteuerung]," Discussion Papers, Research Unit: Global Governance SP IV 2008-302, WZB Berlin Social Science Center.
    10. David Lektzian & Rimvydas Ragauskas, 2016. "The great blockade of Lithuania: Evaluating sanction theory with a case study of Soviet sanctions to prevent Lithuanian independence," International Area Studies Review, Center for International Area Studies, Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, vol. 19(4), pages 320-339, December.
    11. Timothy M Peterson, 2020. "Reconsidering economic leverage and vulnerability: Trade ties, sanction threats, and the success of economic coercion," Conflict Management and Peace Science, Peace Science Society (International), vol. 37(4), pages 409-429, July.
    12. David Lektzian & Glen Biglaiser, 2014. "The effect of foreign direct investment on the use and success of US sanctions," Conflict Management and Peace Science, Peace Science Society (International), vol. 31(1), pages 70-93, February.
    13. Rixen, Thomas & Rohlfing, Ingo, 2020. "The Institutional Choice of Bilateralism and Multilateralism in International Trade and Taxation," SocArXiv uwge8, Center for Open Science.
    14. Caba-Maria Flavius & Muşetescu Radu-Cristian, 2020. "The impact of international economic sanctions on national economies. The Islamic Republic of Iran - a case in point," Proceedings of the International Conference on Business Excellence, Sciendo, vol. 14(1), pages 1014-1023, July.
    15. Denise Guthrie & Erick Duchesne, 2003. "(Mis)Selection Effects and Sovereignty Costs: An Alternative Measure of the Costs of Sanctions," University of Western Ontario, Economic Policy Research Institute Working Papers 20032, University of Western Ontario, Economic Policy Research Institute.
    16. William Seitz & Alberto Zazzaro, 0. "Sanctions and public opinion: The case of the Russia-Ukraine gas disputes," The Review of International Organizations, Springer, vol. 0, pages 1-27.
    17. Jiawen Yang & Hossein Askari & John Forrer & Lili Zhu, 2009. "How Do US Economic Sanctions Affect EU's Trade with Target Countries?," The World Economy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 32(8), pages 1223-1244, August.
    18. Nyoni, Thabani, 2019. "The curse is real in Zimbabwe: economic sanctions must go!," MPRA Paper 96911, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    19. Alexandra E. Cirone & Johannes Urpelainen, 2013. "Trade sanctions in international environmental policy: Deterring or encouraging free riding?," Conflict Management and Peace Science, Peace Science Society (International), vol. 30(4), pages 309-334, September.
    20. Scott Helfstein, 2012. "Liabilities of Globalization: Sovereign Debt, International Investors and Interstate Conflict with Other People's Money," International Finance, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 15(3), pages 277-288, December.
    21. Brzoska Michael, 2008. "Measuring the Effectiveness of Arms Embargoes," Peace Economics, Peace Science, and Public Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 14(2), pages 1-34, July.

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