Skip to main content

Does Issue Linkage Work? Evidence from European Alliance Negotiations, 1860 to 1945

  • Paul Poast (a1)

Though scholars widely claim that issue linkage—the simultaneous negotiation of multiple issues for joint settlement—can help states conclude international agreements, there exist some notable skeptics. Resolving this debate requires empirical evidence. However, beyond a few case studies, there exists no direct and systematic evidence that issue linkages actually increase the probability of agreement. I address this lack of direct and systematic evidence by combing original data on failed alliance negotiations with data from the Alliance Treaty Obligations and Provisions (ATOP) database. Using matching techniques, I find that, for alliance negotiations between 1860 to 1945, offers of trade linkage did substantially increase the probability of agreement. Besides confirming issue linkage's ability to help clinch an agreement, this article's research design and evidence have far-reaching implications for the study of negotiations and alliances. The research design illustrates the value of considering the “dogs that didn't bark” as it identifies both successful and failed negotiations. The article's evidence explains the high rate of alliance compliance identified by previous scholars and highlights a need to rethink the alliance formation process.

Hide All
Abadie, Alberto, and Imbens, Guido W.. 2002. Simple and Bias-Corrected Matching Estimators for Average Treatment Effects. Technical Working Paper 283. Cambridge, Mass.: National Bureau of Economic Research.
Abadie, Alberto, and Imbens, Guido W.. 2006. Large Sample Properties of Matching Estimators for Average Treatment Effects. Econometrica 74 (1):235–67.
Abadie, Alberto, Drukker, David, Herr, Jane L., and Imbens, Guido W.. 2004. Implementing Matching Estimators for Average Treatment Effects in STATA. The STATA Journal 4 (3):290311.
Aggarwal, Vinod K., ed. 1998. Institutional Designs for a Complex World: Bargaining, Linkages, and Nesting. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press.
Albrecht-Carrié, René. 1958. A Diplomatic History of Europe Since the Congress of Vienna. New York: Harper and Row.
Axelrod, Robert, and Keohane, Robert O.. 1985. Achieving Cooperation Under Anarchy: Strategies and Institutions. World Politics 38 (1):226–54.
Bairoch, Paul. 1989. European Trade Policy, 1815–1914. In The Cambridge Economic History of Europe. Vol. 8, The Industrial Economies: The Development of Economic and Social Policies, edited by Mathias, Peter and Pollard, Sidney, 1160. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Becker, Sascha O., and Caliendo, Marco. 2007. Sensitivity Analysis for Average Treatment Effects. Stata Journal 7 (1):7183.
Bennett, Scott, and Stam, Allan C. III 2007. EUGene: Expected Utility Generation and Data Management Program. Version 3.2. Available at ⟨⟩. Accessed 26 October 2011.
Bernheim, B. Douglas, and Whinston, Michael D.. 1990. Multimarket Contact and Collusive Behavior. RAND Journal of Economics 21 (1):126.
Bordo, Michael D., Eichengreen, Barry, and Irwin, Douglas A.. 1999. Is Globalization Today Really Different from Globalization a Hundred Years Ago? In Brookings Trade Forum: 1999, edited by Collins, Susan M. and Lawrence, Robert Z., 150. Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution.
Cochran, William G. 1953. Matching in Analytical Studies. American Journal of Public Health 43 (6):684–91.
Colaresi, Michael P., Rasler, Karen, and Thompson, William R.. 2007. Strategic Rivalries in World Politics: Position, Space and Conflict Escalation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Davis, Christina L. 2004. International Institutions and Issue Linkage: Building Support for Agricultural Trade Liberalization. American Political Science Review 98 (1):153–69.
Davis, Christina L. 2009. Linkage Diplomacy: Economic and Security Bargaining in the Anglo-Japanese Alliance, 1902–23. International Security 33 (3):143–79.
Denemark, Robert A., and Hoffmann, Matthew J.. 2008. Just Scraps of Paper? The Dynamics of Multilateral Treaty-Making. Cooperation and Conflict 43 (2):185219.
Diamond, Alexis, and Sekhon, Jasjeet S.. 2010. Genetic Matching for Estimating Causal Effects: A General Multivariate Matching Method for Achieving Balance in Observational Studies. Unpublished manuscript, University of California, Berkeley. Available at ⟨⟩. Accessed 6 November 2011.
Dixon, William J. 1986. Reciprocity in United States-Soviet Relations: Multiple Symmetry or Issue Linkage? American Political Science Review 30 (2):421–45.
Downs, George W., Rocke, David M., and Barsoom, Peter N.. 1996. Is the Good News About Compliance Good News About Cooperation? International Organization 50 (3):379406.
Drezner, Daniel W. 2000. Bargaining, Enforcement, and Multilateral Sanctions: When Is Cooperation Counterproductive? International Organization 54 (1):73102.
Drezner, Daniel W. 2003. The Hidden Hand of Economic Coercion. International Organization 57 (3):643–59.
Eichengreen, Barry. 1996. Globalizing Capital: A History of the International Monetary System. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.
Eichengreen, Barry, and Frieden, Jeffry A.. 1993. The Political Economy of European Monetary Unification: An Analytical Introduction. Economics and Politics 5 (2):85104.
Fazal, Tanisha M. 2004. State Death in the International System. International Organization 58 (2):311–44.
Fazal, Tanisha M. 2007. State Death: The Politics and Geography of Conquest, Occupation, and Annexation. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.
Frieden, Jeffry A. 2006. Global Capitalism. Its Fall and Rise in the Twentieth Century. New York: Norton.
Friman, H. Richard. 1993. Side-Payments Versus Security Cards: Domestic Bargaining Tactics in International Economic Negotiations. International Organization 47 (3):387410.
Gibler, Douglas M., and Sarkees, Meredith. 2004. Measuring Alliances: The Correlates of War Formal Interstate Alliance Dataset, 1816–2000. Journal of Peace Research 41 (2):211–22.
Gibler, Douglas M., and Wolford, Scott. 2006. Alliances, Then Democracy: An Examination of the Relationship Between Regime Type and Alliance Formation. Journal of Conflict Resolution 50 (1):129–53.
Gowa, Joanne, and Mansfield, Edward D.. 1993. Power Politics and International Trade. American Political Science Review 87 (2):408–20.
Grieco, Joseph M. 1988. Anarchy and the Limits of Cooperation: A Realist Critique of the Newest Liberal Institutionalism. International Organization 42 (3):485507.
Haas, Ernst B. 1980. Why Collaborate? Issue-Linkage and International Regimes. World Politics 32 (3):357405.
Haas, Ernst B. 1990. When Knowledge Is Power. Three Models of Change in International Organizations. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Held, David, McGrew, Anthony, Goldblatt, David, and Perraton, Jonathan. 1999. Global Transformations: Politics, Economics, and Culture. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press.
Ho, Daniel E., Imai, Kosuke, King, Gary, and Stuart, Elizabeth A.. 2007. Matching as Nonparametric Preprocessing for Reducing Model Dependence in Parametric Causal Inference. Political Analysis 15 (3):199236.
Hoekman, Bernard M. 1989. Determining the Need for Issue Linkages in Multilateral Trade Negotiations. International Organization 43 (4):693714.
Hufbauer, Gary Clyde, Schott, Jeffrey J., Elliott, Kimberly Ann, and Oegg, Barbara. 2007. Economic Sanctions Reconsidered. 3d ed.Washington, D.C.: Peterson Institute for International Economics.
Imai, Kosuke, King, Gary, and Stuart, Elizabeth A.. 2008. Misunderstandings Between Experimentalists and Observationalists About Causal Inference. Journal of the Royal Statistical Society 171 (2):481502.
Keele, Luke. 2010. An Overview of rbounds: An R Package for Rosenbaum Bounds Sensitivity Analysis with Matched Data. Unpublished manuscript, Pennsylvania State University, State College. Available at ⟨⟩. Accessed 26 October 2011.
Kenwood, A. George, and Lougheed, Alan L.. 1999. The Growth of the International Economy, 1820–2000. An Introductory Text. 4th ed.New York: Routledge.
Keohane, Robert O., and Nye, Joseph S.. 1977. Power and Interdependence. World Politics in Transition. Boston: Little, Brown.
Koremenos, Barbara. 2005. Contracting Around International Uncertainty. American Political Science Review 99 (4):549–65.
Koremenos, Barbara, Lipson, Charles, and Snidal, Duncan. 2001. The Rational Design of International Institutions. International Organization 55 (4):761–99.
Kuziemko, Ilyana, and Werker, Eric. 2006. How Much Is a Seat on the Security Council Worth? Foreign Aid and Bribery at the United Nations. Journal of Political Economy 114 (5):905–30.
Langer, William L. 1966. European Alliances and Alignments, 1871–1890. 2d ed.New York: Knopf.
Leeds, Brett Ashley. 2003. Alliance Reliability in Times of War: Explaining State Decisions to Violate Treaties. International Organization 57 (4):801–27.
Leeds, Brett Ashley. 2005. Alliance Treaty Obligations and Provisions (ATOP) Codebook, Version 3.0. Available at ⟨⟩. Accessed 31 October 2011.
Leeds, Brett Ashley, Long, Andrew G., and Mitchell, Sara McLaughlin. 2000. Reevaluating Alliance Reliability: Specific Threats, Specific Promises. Journal of Conflict Resolution 44 (5):686–99.
Leeds, Brett Ashley, Ritter, Jeffrey M., Mitchell, Sara McLaughlin, and Long, Andrew G.. 2002. Alliance Treaty Obligations and Provisions, 1815–1944. International Interactions 28 (3):237–60.
Limão, Nuno. 2005. Trade Policy, Cross-Border Externalities and Lobbies: Do Linked Agreements Enforce More Cooperative Outcomes? Journal of International Economics 67 (1):175199.
Limão, Nuno. 2007. Are Preferential Trade Agreements with Non-Trade Objectives a Stumbling Block for Multilateral Liberalization? Review of Economic Studies 74 (3):821–55.
Lohmann, Susanne. 1997. Linkage Politics. Journal of Conflict Resolution 1 (1):3867.
Long, Andrew G., and Leeds, Brett Ashley. 2006. Trading for Security: Military Alliances and Economic Agreements. Journal of Peace Research 43 (4):433–51.
Long, Andrew G., Nordstrom, Timothy, and Baek, Kyeonghi. 2007. Allying for Peace: Treaty Obligations and Conflict Between Allies. Journal of Politics 69 (4):1103–17.
Lyall, Jason. 2010. Do Democracies Make Inferior Counterinsurgents? Reassessing Democracy's Impact on War Outcomes and Duration. International Organization 64 (1):167–92.
Manski, Charles F. 1997. Monotone Treatment Response. Econometrica 65 (6):1311–34.
Marshall, Monty G., Gurr, Ted Robert, and Jaggers, Keith. 2010. Polity IV Project: Political Regime Characteristics and Transitions, 1800–2009. Dataset Users' Manual. Center for Systemic Peace. Available at ⟨⟩. Accessed 6 November 2011.
Martin, Lisa L. 1993. Credibility, Costs, and Institutions: Cooperation on Economic Sanctions. World Politics 45 (3):406–32.
Mayer, Frederick. 1992. Managing Domestic Differences in International Negotiations: The Strategic Use of Internal Side-Payments. International Organization 46 (4):793818.
McGillivray, Fiona, and Stam, Allan C.. 2004. Political Institutions, Coercive Diplomacy, and the Duration of Economic Sanctions. Journal of Conflict Resolution 48 (2):154–72.
McGinnis, Michael. 1986. Issue Linkage and the Evolution of International Cooperation. Journal of Conflict Resolution 30 (1):141–70.
Molinari, Francesca. 2010. Missing Treatments. Journal of Business and Economic Statistics 28 (1):8295.
Moravcsik, Andrew. 1998. The Choice for Europe: Social Purpose and State Power from Messina to Maastricht. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press.
Morgan, T. Clifton. 1990. Issue Linkages in International Crisis Bargaining. American Journal of Political Science 34 (2):311–33.
Morgan, Stephen L., and Winship, Christopher. 2007. Counterfactuals and Causal Inference: Methods and Principles for Social Research. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Morgenthau, Hans J. 1973. Politics Among Nations: The Struggle for Power and Peace. 5th ed.New York: Knopf.
Morrow, James D. 1991. Alliances and Asymmetry: An Alternative to the Capability Aggregation Model of Alliances. American Journal of Political Science 35 (4):904–33.
Morrow, James D. 1992. Signaling Difficulties with Linkage in Crisis Bargaining. International Studies Quarterly 36 (2):153–72.
Oatley, Thomas. 2004. International Political Economy. New York: Pearson.
Oneal, John, and Russett, Bruce M.. 1997. The Classical Liberals Were Right: Democracy, Interdependence, and Conflict, 1950–1985. International Studies Quarterly 41 (2):267294.
Oye, Kenneth A. 1992. Economic Discrimination and Political Exchange: World Political Economy in the 1930s and 1980s. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.
Pahre, Robert. 2008. Politics and Trade Cooperation in the Nineteenth Century: The ‘Agreeable Customs’ of 1815–1914. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Pearson, Glenda J. 2001. Rohn's World Treaty Index: Its Past and Future. International Journal of Legal Information 29 (3):543–59.
Poast, Paul. 2010. (Mis)Using Dyadic Data to Analyze Multilateral Events. Political Analysis 18 (4):403–25.
Powers, Kathy. 2004. Regional Trade Agreements as Military Alliances. International Interactions 30 (4):373–95.
Powers, Kathy. 2006. Dispute Initiation and Alliance Obligations in Regional Economic Institutions. Journal of Peace Research 43 (4):453–71.
Powers, Kathy L., and Goertz, Gary. 2006. The Evolution of Regional Economic Institutions into Security Institutions. Unpublished Manuscript, Pennsylvania State University, State College and University of Arizona, Tucson.
Putnam, Robert D. 1988. Diplomacy and Domestic Politics: The Logic of Two-Level Games. International Organization 42 (3):427–60.
Rogowski, Ronald. 1989. Commerce and Coalitions: How Trade Affects Domestic Political Alignments. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.
Rosenau, James N. 1969. Linkage Politics: Essays on the Convergence of National and International Systems. New York: Free Press.
Rosenbaum, Paul R. 2002. Observational Studies. 2d ed.New York: Springer.
Rubin, Donald B. 2006. Matched Sampling for Causal Effects. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Sabrosky, Alan Ned. 1980. Interstate Alliances: Their Reliability and the Expansion of War. In The Correlates of War. Vol. 2, Testing Some Realpolitik Models, edited by Singer, J. David, 161–98. New York: Free Press.
Schonhardt-Bailey, Cheryl, ed. 1996. Free Trade: The Repeal of the Corn Laws. Bristol, England: Thoemmes Press.
Schroeder, Paul W. 1994. The Transformation of European Politics, 1763–1848. Oxford, England: Clarendon Press.
Sebenius, James K. 1983. Negotiation Arithmetic: Adding and Subtracting Issues and Parties. International Organization 37 (2):281316.
Singer, J. David, Bremer, Stuart, and Stuckey, John. 1972. Capability Distribution, Uncertainty, and Major Power War, 1820–1965. In Peace, War, and Numbers, edited by Russett, Bruce M., 1948. Beverly Hills, Calif.: Sage Publications.
Singer, J. David, and Small, Melvin. 1966. Formal Alliances, 1815–1939: A Quantitative Description. Journal of Peace Research 3 (1):131.
Spagnolo, Giancarlo. 2001. Issue Linkage, Credible Delegation, and Policy Cooperation. Working Paper 2778. London: Centre for Economic Policy Research.
Stein, Arthur A. 1980. The Politics of Linkage. World Politics 33 (1):6281.
Steiner, Zara S. 2005. The Lights That Failed: European International History, 1919–1933. New York: Oxford University Press.
Stone, Randall W. 2008. The Scope of IMF Conditionality. International Organization 62 (4):589620.
Taylor, Alan J.P. 1954. Struggle For Mastery In Europe, 1848–1918. Oxford, England: Clarendon Press.
Thacker, Strom C. 1999. The High Politics of IMF Lending. World Politics 52 (1):3875.
Thompson, William R. 2001. Identifying Rivals and Rivalries in World Politics. International Studies Quarterly 45 (4):557–86.
Tollison, Robert D., and Willett, Thomas D.. 1979. An Economic Theory of Mutually Advantageous Issue Linkages in International Negotiations. International Organization 33 (4):425–49.
Tomz, Michael. 2007. Reputation and International Cooperation: Sovereign Debt Across Three Centuries. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.
Wagner, R. Harrison. 1988. Economic Interdependence, Bargaining Power, and Political Influence. International Organization 42 (3):461–83.
Wallace, William. 1976. Issue Linkage Among Atlantic Governments. International Affairs 52 (2):163–79.
Walt, Stephen. 1987. The Origins of Alliances. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press.
Waltz, Kenneth N. 1979. Theory of International Politics. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Wilkenfeld, Jonathan, ed. 1973. Conflict Behavior and Linkage Politics. New York: David McKay.
World Politics. 1985. 38 (1).
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

International Organization
  • ISSN: 0020-8183
  • EISSN: 1531-5088
  • URL: /core/journals/international-organization
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
Type Description Title
Supplementary materials

Poast supplementary zip1
Poast supplementary zip1

 Unknown (132 KB)
132 KB
Supplementary materials

Poast supplementary zip2
Poast supplementary zip2

 Unknown (172 KB)
172 KB


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed