Author ORCID Identifier

Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Arts and Sciences


Political Science

First Advisor

Dr. Jesse Johnson


An economic sanction issued by a group of states can impose large costs on a target state and induce a change in its behavior. However, there is considerable variation in the success of multilateral sanctions. I argue that multilateral sanctions will be more effective with higher cohesion within the sender network. This is because linked senders can use the threat of withdrawing cooperation on other issues to encourage their partners to enforce sanction laws domestically. I contend that the likelihood of sanction effectiveness increases with higher cohesion within the sender network and test this argument using social network analysis. Results show that multilateral sanctions are more likely to succeed when the sender network is cohesive due to greater military alliance and trade partnership linkages.

However, sanctions can still fail if target states avoid sanction costs by increasing trade with third-party states- through a process called sanction busting. An important unanswered question in sanctions research is: how can sanction busting be prevented from causing sanction failure? I argue that primary sanction senders can discourage busting by constraining third-party states that are likely to increase trade with the target post-sanctions. I identify these third-party states in two main ways: 1) the target's main trade partners, 2) states that trade similarly to senders, captured using above average export similarity with the primary sender. I argue that senders can constrain third-party states in two ways: 1) by threatening withdrawal of cooperation on shared issues, such as alliances and trade, and 2) offering additional benefits over these issues. This discourages sanction busting and ensures sanction success since third-party states value ties with the sender and would not want to lose associated, and potentially, additional benefits over these issues. Results show that sanctions are more likely to succeed with an increase in sender-third party ties.

If sanctions succeed with cohesive sender networks, and when third parties can be constrained, why do we not see more sanction coalitions including such states? I argue that states join sanctions for several reasons, ranging from foreign policy agreement with the primary sender, disagreement with the target, as a way to increase domestic approval, or to build their international reputation and legitimacy by sanctioning a target committing human rights abuse. Results show that the variety of reasons motivating sanction joining explain the number of suboptimal multilateral sanctions we see, and why it may not always be possible to form sanction coalitions with high cohesion or those that include potential sanction busters. This dissertation has implications for foreign policy making and discusses the necessity of and ways to utilize international cooperation to achieve important state objectives.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

Funding Information

This study was supported by the Lyman T. Johnson Fellowship at the University of Kentucky in Fall 2018, Fall 2019, and Fall 2020.