Marinov, Nikolay. 2005. “Do Economic Sanctions Destablize Country Leaders?”
Do economic sanctions destabilize the governments they target? A form of foreign pressure, sanctions are typically meant to alter the policies of other countries. There is much pessimism on whether they ever work. This article shows that economic pressure works in at least one respect: it destabilizes the leaders it targets. I present a theoretical argument that explains why destabilization is a necessary condition for successful coercion. I find evidence that pressure destabilizes in a large panel of cross-country time-series data. The destabilization finding indicates that sanctions may be more effective at altering policies than we think. I conclude by noting that greater optimism regarding the effectiveness of sanctions should be balanced by a careful consideration of the policy's real and sizeable costs for those caught in the middle.