The International Community's Reaction to Coups


  • An earlier version of this paper was presented at the 2012 ISA Midwest Annual Conference. The authors would like to thank the reviewers and journal editor at FPA for their valuable comments. Replication data and appendices are available at:


With ten attempts since 2010, coups d'état are surprisingly common events with vital implications for a state's political development. Aside from being disruptive internally, coups influence interstate relationships. Though coups have important consequences, we know little about how the international community responds to these upheavals. This paper explores what drives global actors to react to coups. Our theory differentiates between normative concerns (for example, protection of democracy) and material interests (for example, protection of oil exports) as potential determinants of international responses to coups. We argue that coups against democracies, coups after the Cold War, and coups in states heavily integrated into the international community are all more likely to elicit global reaction. Using newly collected data, we explore the number of signals that states and IOs send to coup states from 1950 to 2011. The analyses reveal that coups against democracies and wealthy states draw more attention. States react when democracies are challenged by coups, while IOs react to coups in Africa and coups during the post-Cold War period. We surprisingly find that heavy traders and oil-rich states do not necessarily receive more reaction, suggesting that international actors are more driven by normative concerns than material interests when reacting to coups.