Chapter 10 Case Studies (Week 11-12)

10.1 Discussion questions

  • Collins (2009): Can positive economic statecraft help promote democracy? What argument and evidence do the authors offer? Are they convincing?

  • Early and Preble (2020): What are the characteristics of OFAC’s sanctions enforcement actions? Which figure(s) in the paper is most intriguing to you? What are the policy implications?

Dozens reportedly dead after week of unrest in Kazakhstan

US threatens Germany with sanctions over Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline | DW News

10.2 Democracy promotion

Collins (2009) studies the U.S.’ use of positive economic statecraft to promote peace. He situates the topic against the tradition of liberalism in U.S. foreign policy and the indirect measure advocated by modernization theory. Collins divide the U.S. strategies into three categories:

  • A top-down approach that leverage aid and trade to persuade authoritarian regimes to undertake political liberalization
  • An inside approach that funds democratic institutions (e.g. legislatures and courts) and fosters democracy norms and practices in state agencies
  • A bottom-up approach that provide election aid and civil society support to empower the mass population

For the first approach, Collins traced the U.S. policies in aid and trade preferences. He argues that both can be effective if they are offered conditionally. In the case of foreign aid, additional scope conditions include the economic development and strategic importance of recipient states. In terms of trade, the U.S. policy makers tend to prioritize trade liberalization over democracy promotion.

The latter two approaches are the dominant ones. Institutional aid, though claiming the lion’s share in the U.S. democracy assistance, appears to be the weakest instrument. Election assistance appears to be quite effective. And civil society have “yielded significant returns on investment,” particularly in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet republics.

Interestingly, when discussing the selection effects of election assistance, Collins argue:

“While selection effects may explain some of the apparent success of election aid, an examination of the set of cases in which election aid has been imparted suggests that selection bias is not a compelling explanation for why aid correlates with election success. Instead of election aid going principally to states with significant democratic legacies—where elections might be expected to occur without substantial irregularities—aid has gone instead disproportionately to states with little or no experience with democracy, and ⁄ or with histories of deeply flawed elections. Election aid, therefore, appears to foster authentic elections despite its use in some of the most challenging environments.”

In a report at the Atlantic Council, Is Kazakhstan experiencing the early stages of a democratic awakening?, Kypshakbayev writes:

"Kazakhstan is perhaps best-placed among the nations of Central Asia to achieve a peaceful transition to democracy. The country has a consolidated and numerically large population of well-educated, middle class liberals, many of whom have studied abroad and are now impatient to see reforms implemented at home. This demographic would likely serve as the driving force behind the country’s democratic transformation.

If democracy does take root in Kazakhstan, it will inevitably influence the entire region. Kazakhstan is home to more than a quarter of Central Asia’s population of over 70 million. It accounts for around 60% of the region’s entire GDP."

10.3 U.S. sanctions enforcement

Early and Preble (2020) addresses an important topic on sanctions enforcement. They traced how the lead agency on enforcing U.S. sanctions moved from a strategy of “going fishing” to “hunting whales.” Although the enforcement cases against entities have dropped (Figure 2 in the paper), the fines have increased quite sharply (Figure 9). They showed that this is driven by the shift of focus from sanctioning Cuba to Iran and by the passage of International Emergency Economic Powers Enhancement Act (IEEPEA) in 2007. This studies allies with the discussion on U.S. financial power and recent work on the Obama administration’s reform on export control (the hallmark expression being “higher walls around fewer items”).

The authors suggest that this shift to “hunting whales” has been quite effective. They also suggest that by allowing enforcement agencies to impose significant penalties, states can improve the efficiency of sanctions enforcement.

There could be two additional implications. Fist, as the authors’ acknowledge, the U.S. is an extreme case. After all, it enjoys the exorbitant privilege of U.S. dollars. And depending on how one sees the future trends of dollar goes, one may interpret the threats of U.S. financial sanctions quite differently. Relatedly, our previous readings also suggest that financial sanctions should be applied in a very cautious manner as they may drain away U.S. leverage in the future. Second, there are also concerns about the extraterritorial reach. For instance, the EU has been talking about amending the blocking statute in recent years, which can be attributed partly to the impact of U.S. secondary sanctions on EU corporations.

10.4 Discussion questions (Week 12)

  • Lim, Ferguson, and Bishop (2020): What is unique about outbound tourism? What are the things you’ve learned from this paper? What are the limitations of it?

  • Wigell and Vihma (2016): What exactly is the unique operational logic of geoeconomic power (compared to geopolitics)? What counterarguments can you offer? What are the limitations of the paper?

  • [* ] If Russia does invade Ukraine, will it unify the EU?

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Biden predicts Russian invasion of Ukraine

10.5 Chinese outbound tourism

Lim, Ferguson, and Bishop (2020) investigate an interesting topic of economic statecraft. While most studies of economic coercion focus on trade (in commodities) and finance, this paper studies trade in services. The overarching question that a reader might have is about the uniqueness of tourism and relatedly the unique perspectives and lessons that we can learn from the study.

The growing volume and importance of service trade is of course a good reason to motivate the analysis. But how can we move the existing scholarship forward? The discussions in pp.3-4 concerning the studies on economic interdependence and vulnerability and how is existing framework may not be able to explain coercion in service trade are not very clear to me. I assume the authors are pointing toward the complications of controlling/restricting trade in services. But this can bring up tensions with the case selection here since China is likely to be an outlier in this case. The three mechanisms identified in the paper (ADS, trade agencies, and nationalism) may not easily travel beyond the China case.

10.6 Russia’s geostrategy

Table 1 in Wigell and Vihma (2016) summarizes the differences between geopolitics and geoconomics. The distinctions laid down here appear to be narrower (and more idealistic as the authors acknowledge). Let us contrast this with the definitions from Blackwill & Harris (2016).

“The use of economic instruments to promote and defend national interests, and to produce beneficial geopolitical results; and the effects of other nations’ economic actions on a country’s geopolitical goals.”

—– Blackwill & Harris (2016, 20)

Note that geopolitics is also a term that is not well-defined.

“But most geopolitical accounts traditionally explain and predict state power by reference to a host of geographic factors (territory, population, economic performance, natural resources, military capabilities, etc.). Geoeconomics, in our view, is about providing a parallel account of how a state builds and exercises power by reference to economic factors rather than geographic ones.”

—– Blackwill & Harris (2016, 24)

Coming back to Wigell and Vihma (2016), the discussions concerning the means and operational logic make sense. But why is it the case that states are more likely to free ride when confronted with geoeconomics? Their main explanation appears to be that states can use selective inducement to “divide and conquer.” Therefore,

“An offensive geopolitical operation exacerbates a target’s threat perception, triggering centripetal action–reaction forces and encouraging it either to balance or to bandwagon with the agent, depending on whether conditions are reinforcing or countervailing. An offensive geoeconomic operation, by contrast, aims to mitigate or at least confuse the threat perception, exacerbating centrifugal action–reaction forces and thereby reducing the propensity for counterbalancing.”

—– Wigell and Vihma (2016, 612)

One counterargument, however, can be that responses to geopolitical threats are also more costly. Responses to geoeconomic threats, in contrast, often require less costly actions (joining a sanctions regime vs a joint military operation). Therefore, it is not very clear why coordination problems are more likely to be overcome in the former case. One also need to take into account whether the assumption that positive economic inducements are more effective than other alternatives (e.g. hybrid warfare) holds.

The meat of the empirical section is the case study concerning how Russia’s military operation against Ukraine in 2014 sabotage its geoecnomics in dividing and weakerning Europe.