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Trust, Reassurance, and Cooperation

  • Andrew Kydd

Many scholars have argued that mistrust can prevent cooperation. These arguments often fail to adequately address the possibility that states can take steps to reassure each other, build trust, and thereby avoid conflict. I present a rational choice theory of reassurance focusing on costly signals and identify the conditions under which players can use costly signals to reassure the other side. The central result is that reassurance will be possible between trustworthy players in equilibrium if trustworthy actors are more willing to take risks to attain mutual cooperation than untrustworthy actors. I discuss the implications of the model in the context of the reassurance strategies pursued by Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev at the end of the Cold War.

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International Organization
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