Does Issue Linkage Work? Evidence from European Alliance Negotiations, 1860 to 1945 International Organization
Paul Poast  |  2012

Though scholars widely claim that issue linkage—the simultaneous negotiation of multiple issues for joint settlement—can help states conclude international agreements, there exist some notable skeptics. Resolving this debate requires empirical evidence. However, beyond a few case studies, there exists no direct and systematic evidence that issue linkages actually increase the probability of agreement. I address this lack of direct and systematic evidence by combing original data on failed alliance negotiations with data from the Alliance Treaty Obligations and Provisions (ATOP) database. Using matching techniques, I find that, for alliance negotiations between 1860 to 1945, offers of trade linkage did substantially increase the probability of agreement. Besides confirming issue linkage's ability to help clinch an agreement, this article's research design and evidence have far-reaching implications for the study of negotiations and alliances. The research design illustrates the value of considering the "dogs that didn't bark" as it identifies both successful and failed negotiations. The article's evidence explains the high rate of alliance compliance identified by previous scholars and highlights a need to rethink the alliance formation process.