Why are some changes to the territorial status quo sustained over time while others are subject to new challenges and ongoing dispute? This article examines variation in the sustainability of territorial change, arguing that under certain conditions, international law facilitates the consolidation of the new territorial order. Specifically, when international law supports the new status quo, it helps solve enforcement problems associated with international cooperation by generating precedent-based costs for issuing a new challenge. If a territorial loser has other ongoing territorial disputes in which it enjoys a legal advantage, it will avoid challenging its current loss out of fear that doing so would establish a precedent for nonadherence to the law in territorial settlement and would therefore jeopardize its bargaining strength in other ongoing disputes. We test this argument on an original dataset of territorial changes and settlements during territorial disputes, 1945-2009. Empirical results strongly support our theoretical expectations.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Sociology and Political Science