Christian von Soest / Michael Wahman

Not all Dictators Are Equal: Coups, Fraudulent Elections and the Selective Targeting of Democratic Sanctions

Journal of Peace Research, 52, 2015, 1, 17–31
Publisher website | DOI
Open Access | URN

Abstract
Since the end of the Cold War, Western powers have frequently used sanctions to fight declining levels of Democracy and human rights violations abroad. However, some of the world’s most repressive autocracies have never been subjected to sanctions, while other more competitive authoritarian regimes have been exposed to repeated sanction episodes. In this article, we concentrate on the cost–benefit analysis of Western senders that issue democratic sanctions, those which aim to instigate democratization, against authoritarian states. We argue that Western leaders weight domestic and international pressure to impose sanctions against the probability of sanction success and the sender’s own political and economic costs. Their cost–benefit calculus is fundamentally influenced by the strength of Trigger events indicating infringements of democratic and human rights. Western sanction senders are most likely to respond to coups d’e´tat, the most drastic trigger events, and tend to sanction vulnerable targets to a higher extent than stable authoritarian regimes. Senders are also more likely to sanction poor targets less integrated in the global economy and countries that do not align with the Western international political agenda, especially in responding to ‘weaker’ Trigger events such as controversial elections. The analysis is carried out using a new dataset of US and EU sanctions against authoritarian states in the period 1990–2010.

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