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Interstate resource conflicts: international networks and the realpolitik of natural resource acquisition

Bareis, Luka (2018) Interstate resource conflicts: international networks and the realpolitik of natural resource acquisition. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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Identification Number: 10.21953/lse.rkbewhfa73dt


This work sets out to investigate the effects of natural resource conditions on interstate conflict. It is specifically concerned with understanding when states pursue a violent natural resource acquisition strategy and what the main factors explaining the choice between violent and non-violent resource acquisitions by states are. It has been hypothesized that conditions of natural resource scarcity and foreign resource concentrations have an impact on the conflict propensity of states; and furthermore, that the network level plays a fundamental role in conceptualising and assessing those conditions. In light of a large number of mechanisms posited in the literature, partly working in opposing directions, this study offers a conceptualization of resource conditions arising from threat and opportunity settings, a distinct multilevel resource access framework, and a structured approach to their empirical investigation. The main analysis is conducted in form of a fixed effects logistic model with standard errors clustered on the dyad-level and covering country-dyads of the period 1962-2010 with Military Interstate Dispute (MID) initiation as dependent variable. Overall, the findings of this research suggest that insights with regard to the resource conflict link could be enhanced by taking into account resource frameworks introduced in this work and the network level of analysis. In fact, significant support has been found for the conflict enhancing effect of resource scarcity conditions, especially so if conceptualized in form of perceived resource access security that is nested in the network dimension. With regard to foreign resource conditions this study identifies the costs of conquest as a key factor, even though empirical support is somewhat lower. The reason for this may be the opposing effect of the strategic oil hypothesis for which this analysis also finds considerable support, especially when captured through the network level. Overall, it appears that the conflict-related dynamics arising from a resource threat setting are stronger than those arising from an opportunity setting. The concepts and empirical findings of this study also have significant implications for the direction of future research as they shift the focus from resource ownership to resource access, and ultimately add to the understanding of the causes of war in general. In summary, the empirical findings of this study support that: 1. A conceptual distinction needs to be made between the set of mechanisms associated with resource scarcity (desperate predator mechanisms) and those associated with foreign resource concentrations (greedy predator mechanisms). This distinction is important because each set of mechanisms is nested in a different setting, threat vs. opportunity, respectively. As a result the underlying dynamics with regard to the nexus between resource conditions to interstate conflicts over resources are distinct. This has implications for the key aspects to consider under each set. 2. Resource scarcity should be framed in form of perceived resource access security when investigating scarcity-induced conflicts over resources. This implies a shift of focus from ‘how much’ to ‘who has control or access. Importantly, this means that even in face of general resource abundance, situations of individual resource scarcity are very possible and even likely. 3. The main dimension for assessing resource access security is the trade dimension, more specifically the degree of security with regard to imports of resources. 4. Access security through imports should be conceptualized in terms of embeddedness within global resource trade networks. 5. Unlike resource scarcity, conflicts associated with conditions of foreign resource concentrations should be assessed in terms of the degree to which such concentrations are perceived as an opportunity for conquest. 6. In addition to risks, the main dimension for assessing a resource acquisition opportunity is the degree of costs relative to benefits. 7. The network level appears to be helpful for assessing the degree to which a foreign resource concentration is perceived as opportunity, because it is able to (1) address the major risk factor associated predominantly with this resource-conflict mechanism, namely that of resource importer intervention; and (2) extend the assessment of potential benefits and costs beyond those only associated with the target state directly.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2018 Luka Bareis
Library of Congress subject classification: J Political Science > JZ International relations
Sets: Departments > International Relations
Supervisor: Koenig-Archibugi, Mathias

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