Strategic Third-Party Actors in Economic Sanctions

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Economic sanctions are a potent tool of coercive statecraft for states wishing to induce change in their targets' behavior. However, the sanctioning state and its target are not the only relevant stakeholders or strategic players in the dynamic. Third-party actors, be they other states, corporations, or international institutions, have outsized influences on whether and how economic sanctions are imposed and enforced. This dissertation, a series of three papers, examine the roles of third parties in economic sanctions. Each chapter touches on a different third party: cooperative state actors, non-cooperative state actors, and private and semi-private actors (corporations and state-owned enterprises).

In the first paper, I formally model and empirically test the argument that sanction-sending states select into multilateral sanctioning regimes, weighing the cost of coalition formation with the increase coercive power. I find that greater ideal point distance does lead to less willingness to form multilateral sanctioning coalitions on the part of the sanction sender, while the more that a potential partner is able to contribute to sanction coerciveness has the opposite effect.

The second chapter argues that geopolitical costs imposed by third-party states, which could stem from active sanction-busting or the imposition of costs on the sanctioning state by the third party along other foreign policy dimensions, affect whether the sanctioner implements economic sanctions. I model the argument formally and find that when the third-party state sanction-busts for geopolitical reasons, the sender is less likely to impose economic sanctions. Similarly, when a third-party state is likely to retaliate along other foreign policy dimensions, the sanction-sending state is less likely to impose economic sanctions. I test the implications through a novel method by integrating time series matching method with triplet matching.

In the third and last chapter, I examine the effects of non-state actors on the target's ability to evade and resist economic sanctions. Specifically, I look at how the economic structure of the target state, especially the industries it is engaged in, affects the ease with which it is able to maintain economic relations with third parties post-sanction imposition. The impact is aggregated to the state level. Nightlights data is used to estimate sanction evasion. The theory also carries implications for regional variations with the target state. These implications are also empirically tested using nighttime luminosity.





Wei, Pei-Yu (2023). Strategic Third-Party Actors in Economic Sanctions. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from


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