Autocracies and Economic Sanctions: The Divergent Impact of Authoritarian Regime Type on Sanctions Success


There is some consensus in the literature that economic sanctions targeting authoritarian regimes are less effective than those against democratic regimes. This line of research, however, assumes that autocratic regimes are monolithic and that they have similar capacities to resist foreign pressure. This study argues that the success rate of sanctions against dictatorships is contingent on institutional differences across different types of autocracies. I develop a theoretical model indicating that single-party and military regimes are less likely to concede to foreign pressure compared to democracies. This is because they effectively use various repressive tactics and positive inducements to endure the costs of the coercion. Sanctions against personalist regimes, on the other hand, are likely to be as effective as sanctions directed at democracies. Personalist regimes might be inclined to acquiesce to foreign pressure due to their lack of strong institutional capacity to weather the costs of the sanctions. Results from the selection-corrected models show that sanctions against military or single-party regimes are less likely to induce concessions relative to democratic target regimes. The findings also indicate that there is no significant difference in the success rate of sanctions against personalist regimes and democratic governments.

Publication Title

Defence and Peace Economics