The case of US diplomacy: What makes coercive diplomacy particularly useful in diplomatic relations? What are its limitations?

I will refer to two recently published articles, from Reuters and Politico, to analyse the developing outcomes as a result of coercive diplomacy in USA’s current international relations. The focus of these two articles is the USA’s negotiating strategies with the European Union and the United Nations International Court of Justice, which I will conclude with a review on the usefulness and limitations of such approaches in the given contexts.

Coercive diplomacy is applied in diplomatic negotiations as ‘deterrence’ or ‘compellence’   (Byman and Waxman, 2008,158 in Holmes and Rofe, 2016) aiming to change the policy or regime of the coerced state. There is a root weakness in coercive diplomacy as it is revealing of intention, and given it is applied in the pre-text of military action, it is also revealing the coercer is on their last option (Kerr and Wiseman, 2013). Coercive diplomacy is often seen as a pre-text for more serious actions (such as military), and is carried on the coersor’s power, military, or economic weight, motivated by a combination of ‘sticks and carrots’ (Jentleson, 2006)

In the Politico article (Cassella, Hanke and Oliver, 2018), the current US president’s application of coercive diplomacy threatens the EU with introducing car tariffs even though in July 2018 the EU and the USA had shared aspirations of zero tariffs between them. USA applied coercive diplomacy through threats of cancelling this proposition, and by attacking EU’s slow decision making, whilst seeking trade deals with non EU states. In the specific three month time-frame, the EU decision making process would not have changed, leading to my conclusion that the USA’s approach is misleading and misaligned with the apparent objectives in which it was applied. 

Outside the trade deal issue, the USA may well have aspirations for a regime change in the EU, thus placing the development of an influential market collaboration with the 27 member state block at risk of stalling altogether.

In a Reuters article published 3 October 2018, (Rampton, Wroughton and van den Berg, 2018), the USA threatened to resign from the Vienna Convention to show discontent in response to Iran’s and Palestine’s complain to the United Nations International Court of Justice about the USA’s upcoming tightening of sanctions against Iran. 

The Vienna Convention has been followed as a prescription of conduct for international relationships, including facilitating a platform for diplomatic immunity. 

USA Secretary of State Mike Pompeo concluded to threaten with USA’s resignation from the Vienna convention, as a result of the application of international law by the United Nations, to unfavourably to the extend it is threatening the domestic security of the USA. Pompeo simultaneously threatens to leave the platform, whilst reminding states they are still very much party to it, undermining the UN.

The application of coercive diplomacy in both situations attempts to manipulate those that have historically been allies of the US. 

This is a standard scenario before military action, contradictory to the USA’s objective. Is coerciveness used to widen the gap between prescriptions, thus creating spaces for exploitation?

Bibliography

Holmes, A. and Rofe, J. (2016). Global Diplomacy. Boulder: Routledge, p.199.

Kerr, P. and Wiseman, G. (2013). Diplomacy in a globalizing world. Oxford University Press, p.6.

Jentleson, B. (2006). Coercive Diplomacy: Scope and Limits in the Contemporary World. The Stanley Foundation Policy Analysis Brief, December 2006, p.1.

Cassella, M., Hanke, J. and Oliver, C. (2018). Juncker and Trump’s transatlantic trade truce falters. [online] Politico.com. Available at: https://www.politico.com/amp/story/2018/10/17/trade-truce-europe-trump-911940 [Accessed 28 Oct. 2018].

Rampton, R., Wroughton, L. and van den Berg, S. (2018). U.S. withdraws from international accords, says U.N. world court…. [online] U.S. Available at: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-diplomacy-treaty/u-s-withdrawing-from-vienna-protocol-on-dispute-resolution-bolton-idUSKCN1MD2CP [Accessed 3 Oct. 2018].

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