Spoiler States and Sanctions Regimes: Explaining Sanctions-Busting on Cuba's Behalf

54 Pages Posted: 11 Aug 2010 Last revised: 24 Sep 2010

See all articles by Bryan R. Early

Bryan R. Early

State University of New York (SUNY), Albany

Date Written: 2010


The United States has had economic sanctions in place against Cuba for over fifty years. During that time, Fidel Castro’s regime in Cuba has received substantial amounts of trade and assistance from a diverse array of third parties, including: the Soviet Union, China, Spain, Canada, Great Britain, Japan, and Venezuela. Despite all the works that have addressed to the issue of sanctions efficacy, few have examined why spoiler states emerge and the role they play in affecting sanctions’ outcomes. Thus, no explanation really exists for why all these states deliberately undermined the United States’ sanctions against Cuba. This study conducts a comparative analysis of the more than ten states that engaged in extensive sanctions-busting trade on Cuba’s behalf from 1960-1974 and 1991-2006. It seeks to uncover why some sanctions busters were profit-driven, while others provided Cuba with costly assistance. The analysis indicates that states’ political ideology can motivate them to engage in costly sanctions-busting, which constitutes a causally distinct explanation for sanctions-busting than the profit-driven account. The study also reveals major shortcomings with how previous analyses have accounted for the effects of third party assistance and how third party behaviors change over time. The results suggest that U.S. policymakers should abandon their sanctions against Cuba, as they are unlikely to ever obtain their objectives.

Keywords: Economic Sanctions, Sanctions-Busting, Sanctions Busters, Cuba, U.S. Foreign Policy

Suggested Citation

Early, Bryan R., Spoiler States and Sanctions Regimes: Explaining Sanctions-Busting on Cuba's Behalf (2010). APSA 2010 Annual Meeting Paper. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1657335

Bryan R. Early (Contact Author)

State University of New York (SUNY), Albany ( email )

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