, Volume 10, Issue 3, pp 393-411

Economic Sanctions and Political Repression: Assessing the Impact of Coercive Diplomacy on Political Freedoms

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Abstract

This article offers a thorough analysis of the unintended impact economic sanctions have on political repression—referred to in this study as the level of the government respect for democratic freedoms and human rights. We argue that economic coercion is a counterproductive policy tool that reduces the level of political freedoms in sanctioned countries. Instead of coercing the sanctioned regime into reforming itself, sanctions inadvertently enhance the regime’s coercive capacity and create incentives for the regime’s leadership to commit political repression. Cross-national time series data support our argument, confirming that the continued use of economic sanctions (even when aimed at promoting political liberalization and respect for human rights) will increase the level of political repression. These findings suggest that both scholars and policy makers should pay more attention to the externalities caused by economic coercion.