How do target leaders survive economic sanctions? The adverse effect of sanctions on private property and wealth


What domestic policies do targeted regimes pursue to survive economic sanctions? Despite an abundance of research on the use and effectiveness of sanctions, scant research has been conducted on the domestic sources of the target’s defiance to foreign pressure. This study explores the extent to which sanctions prompt the target regime to manipulate the domestic economic conditions through arbitrary confiscation and redistribution of private property and wealth. It is argued that economic coercion as a direct threat to political survival and coercive capacity of the target government creates incentives for politically insecure elites to engage in the policy of predation to counter the negative economic effects of the coercion on themselves and their constituency. Using timeseries cross-national data from 1960 to 2005, the results indicate that as sanctions exact significant economic damage on the economy, the target government is more likely to pursue predatory policies. Further, the suggested impact of sanctions on property rights abuses does not appear to be conditioned by political regime type of the target and the involvement of the United States or multiple countries in the imposition of sanctions. Focusing on the government use of predatory policies to evade foreign pressure, this study expands the current understanding of sanction ineffectiveness in pressuring the government to acquiesce to external demands. It also shows that one major inadvertent consequence of sanctions is the deterioration of the economic security and private property rights of citizens in target countries.

Publication Title

Foreign Policy Analysis