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When Are Sanctions Effective? A Bargaining and Enforcement Framework

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 November 2014

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Although a considerable literature identifies the conditions under which sanctions are more likely to be successful, few studies examine the question of when sanctioning states or senders are willing to enforce their sanctions laws against their firms. Using a game theoretic model, we argue that imposing sanctions creates a strategic dilemma for senders. We demonstrate that senders often have disincentives to enforce their sanctions policies, given that the restriction on economic transactions with targeted states may undermine their firms' competitiveness. The model indicates that sanctions are more likely to succeed when the sender's firm retains a moderate share of the target's market relative to its foreign competitors. However, the model also demonstrates that sanctions are likely to be imposed only when the conditions do not favor their success. The empirical implications of the model are tested using the Threat and Imposition of Economic Sanctions (TIES) data set.

Research Article
Copyright © The IO Foundation 2015 

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We thank Skyler Cranmer, Mark Crescenzi, Bryan Early, Stephen Gent, Andrew Kydd, Cliff Morgan, Layna Mosley, Michael Mousseau, Mark Nance, Jon Pevehouse, Patricia Sullivan, and the reviewers of this journal for their helpful comments. All remaining errors are our responsibility.


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