Foreign pressure destabilizes autocracies through three mechanisms: limiting the regime's capacity to maintain support; undermining its repressive capacity; and altering the expected utility of stepping down for political elites. Foreign Pressure and the Politics of Autocratic Survival distinguishes between three types of autocracies: personalist rule, party-based regimes, and military dictatorships. These distinct institutional settings influence the dictators' strategies for surviving in power as well as the propensity with which their leaders are punished after a regime transition. Consequently, the influence of foreign pressure varies across autocratic regime types. Further, the authors show that when foreign coercion destabilizes an autocracy, this does not always lead to democratic regime change because different regimes breakdown in distinct ways. While democratization is often equated with the demise of autocratic rule, it is just one possible outcome afteran autocratic regime collapses. Many times, instead of democratization, externally-induced regime collapse means that a new dictatorship replaces the old one. This theory is tested against an extensive analysis of all dictatorships since 1946, and historical cases which trace the causal process in instances where foreign policy tools helped oust dictatorships.
Abel Escribà Folch is Associate Professor at the Department of Political and Social Sciences of Universitat Pompeu Fabra (Barcelona).