Coercion, Information, and the Success of Sanction Threats


  • Taehee Whang (corresponding author) is Assistant Professor, Division of International Studies, Korea University, 529 International Studies Hall, Anam-dong, Seongbuk-gu, Seoul, 136-701, Korea ( Elena V. McLean is Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, Texas A&M University, 2010 Allen Building, 4348 TAMU, College Station, TX 77843-4348 ( Douglas W. Kuberski is Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, Florida State College at Jacksonville, Deerwood Center, 9911 Old Baymeadows Road, Jacksonville, FL 32256 (

  • The name ordering is reverse alphabetical and does not denote unequal contributions. We thank our anonymous reviewers, the editor, Clifton Morgan, Quan Li, Kim Hill, Ahmer Tarar, and seminar participants at the Program on International Conflict and Cooperation at Texas A&M University for their valuable feedback. Replication data and supporting information will be available at an author's website at and the Dataverse Network:


This article explores when and why sanction threats succeed in extracting concessions from the targeted country. We focus on two different, albeit not mutually exclusive, mechanisms that can explain the success of sanction threats. The first mechanism relates to incomplete information regarding the sanctioner's determination to impose sanctions and suggests that threats help to extract concessions by revealing the sanctioner's resolve. The second mechanism underscores the direct impact of common interest between the two countries and explains the success of sanction threats by the targeted country's greater dependence on this link between the two countries and the sanctioner's ability to exploit this dependence. We test the hypotheses using a new strategic structural estimator. Our results provide no evidence in favor of the informational hypothesis, while lending robust support for the coercive hypothesis.