Paul Poast

Can Issue Linkage Improve Treaty Credibility? Buffer State Alliances as a “Hard Case”

Do linkage provisions enhance compliance with treaty obligations?

Time and again scholars point to “issue linkage”—the simultaneous discussion of two or more issues for joint settlement—as a tool for enhancing the credibility of negotiated international commitments. But despite this strategy’s popularity, there is little direct and systematic empirical evidence that including linkage provisions bolsters treaty credibility. Poast uses existing alliance data to test and verify the causal effect of linkage on the credibility of peace commitments. He uses the alliance relations of buffer states as a ‘‘hard case’’ for the ability of linkage provisions (specifically, provisions calling on the states to engage in trade cooperation) to create credible alliance commitments. Poast finds that buffer states in alliances with trade provisions experience fewer opportunistic violations of alliance terms by their alliance partners. Second, buffer states in alliances with trade provisions avoid occupation and invasion at a higher rate than buffer states in other alliance arrangements. Third, and related to the second finding, buffer states in alliances with trade provisions are attacked at a lower rate than buffer states in other alliance arrangements. Finally, the likelihood a buffer state is attacked in the first place has no statistically discernible impact on which buffer states are able to form an alliance with a trade provision.

Journal of Conflict Resolution (2013)

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