Paul Poast, Jordan Becker, Sarah E Kreps, and Rochelle Terman

Transatlantic Shakedown: Presidential Shaming and NATO Burden Sharing

Abstract: Does “shaming” work in NATO? More precisely, does publicly using negative language criticizing allies’ defense spending improve burden-sharing, or is it counterproductive, leading to lower spending? We evaluate the effectiveness of public shaming language; specifically, whether it increases allies’ defense spending or whether other considerations like external threat, domestic budgets, economic growth, or unemployment rates are better predictors of contributions. Using an original dataset of presidential statements and NATO defense spending data disaggregated across the four categories tracked by the alliance, we conclude that negative language toward allies’ spending is at best ineffective and may even adversely affect burden-sharing in the long run. These findings have important implications for the political economy of alliances and both theories and policies on the use of rhetorical pressure to elicit compliance in asymmetric power relationships.

Journal of Conflict Resolution

The University of Chicago