Autocratic Stability in the Shadow of Foreign Threats
55 Pages Posted: 19 Aug 2019 Last revised: 14 Oct 2019
Date Written: August 15, 2019
Autocrats confront a number of threats to their power, some from within the regime and others from foreign actors. To understand how these threats interact and affect autocratic survival, we build a model where an autocratic leader can be ousted by a domestic opposition and a foreign actor. We concentrate on the impact that foreign threats have on the stability of autocratic leadership and show that the presence of foreign threats increase the probability an autocrat retains power. Focusing on two cases, one where a foreign actor and the domestic opposition have aligned interests, and one where their interests are misaligned, we elucidate two distinct mechanisms. First, when interests are aligned, autocrats are compelled to increase domestic security to alleviate international pressure. Second, when interests are misaligned, autocrats exploit the downstream threat of foreign intervention to deter domestic threats. We also show that autocrats have incentives to cultivate ideological views among politically influential domestic actors that are hostile to broader interests.
Keywords: Autocracy, Foreign Intervention, Repression, Regime Change
JEL Classification: D72, D74
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation