Studies often assume that empty sanction threats inflict reputation costs on senders. However, target response to senders' previous decisions whether to back down or impose sanctions remains unexamined. In this paper, I argue that the target of sanction threats looks to the sender's actions against prior resistant targets. When the sender has backed down recently, the target, inferring that the sender is prone to making empty threats, is less likely to acquiesce. Conversely, when the sender has recently imposed sanctions against a resistant target, the current target infers that sanction imposition is likely to follow resistance, and therefore, it is more likely to acquiesce, all else equal. In statistical tests of US sanction threats spanning 1971-2000, I find strong evidence that the target is less likely to acquiesce when the United States recently backed down from a sanction threat. I find somewhat weaker evidence that the target is more likely to acquiesce when the United States recently imposed sanctions.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Sociology and Political Science
- Political Science and International Relations