Targeted Sanctions Against Authoritarian Elites
44 Pages Posted: 3 May 2022
Date Written: April 26, 2022
A significant part of economic coercion deployed by the US, EU and the UN targets authoritarian regimes' ruling elites, and aims to promote liberalization by encouraging defections and discouraging repression. We develop a model to study the effects of such measures. The ruler chooses how much power to delegate to elites, while bracing for a challenge that can come from elites or from the masses. The elite decides whether to fight for the ruler, walk away, or stage a coup. If elites get more power, they can serve the ruler better - or they can stage a coup, a decision that depends on their loyalty. Depending on how much the ruler trusts the elite, targeted sanctions may lead to more power being delegated, thus inducing coups and repression, or it may lead to less power being delegated, which results in moderation and liberalization. In addition to the static effects, the model identifies the unintended dynamic effect of sanctions. Because targeted measures are individually costly, they act as a screening mechanism for the ruler and reveal the true loyalty of elites. This helps stabilize weak regimes. We illustrate the predictions of the model leveraging within within-case and cross-case empirical evidence.
Keywords: Authoritarian Elites, Targeted Sanctions
JEL Classification: F51
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation