Date of Award




Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of Political Science

Content Description

1 online resource (xii, 164 pages) : illustrations (some color)

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

Bryan R Early

Committee Members

Zsófia Barta, Brian Greenhill


arms embargoes, economic sanctions, economic statecraft, opportunism, sanctions busting, trade, Economic sanctions, Economic sanctions, European, International economic relations, International trade, Opportunism (Psychology)

Subject Categories

European Languages and Societies | International Relations | Public Policy


Sanctions busting refers to instances where third-party states increase their material support for states targeted by economic sanctions by increasing trade as well as foreign aid and investment, which, in turn, minimize the economic costs that sanctions imposed on target states. This concept privileges the sender and contributes to the “sender bias” inherent in the literature on economic sanctions. My dissertation instead argues that the terms sanctions opportunism may better reflect the nature of the processes at work when third-party states engage in sanctions busting either for commercial profit or as a “black knight” (or a combination of them both). As my research reveals, economic sanctions impact trade between not only the sender and target but also third-party states, many of whom are impacted when economic sanctions disrupt important economic linkages. This dissertation explores how third-party states respond to the imposition of economic sanctions and arms embargoes and how these third-party states engage in opportunism. I explore the various forms of sanctions opportunism by using the European Union as a critical case to understand how and why this behavior occurs. I also explore opportunism from the vantage point of the target state to show how some states targeted by sanctions create more potential for opportunism than other sanctioned states. Utilizing descriptive statistics and regression analyses across three chapters, I show how European and EU member states engage in opportunism when economic sanctions and arms embargoes are imposed on their trading partners. I further demonstrate that the European Union can both dampen sanctions opportunism through the creation of its Single European Market or exacerbate sanctions opportunism through supranational policies, such as the Common Position on arms exports, that accelerate a “race away from Brussels” that undermines interstate cooperation that international institutions are meant to facilitate.