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Connecting the Dots: Dispute Resolution and Escalation in a World of Entangled Territorial Claims


Journal of Conflict Resolution

Published online on


We explore states’ decisions to escalate disputes over their territorial claims or settle them peacefully. We complement existing arguments by accounting for the fact that states are often simultaneously entangled in multiple territorial claims. We build on previous scholarship in positing that two states involved in a territorial dispute will act based on information they glean from each other’s reputation for dealing with claims with other states and their recent actions involving disputes with other states. Because states know that their actions will impact their adversaries’ calculations, the existence of multiple ongoing territorial claims will act as a deterrent from any type of action to resolve the dispute, whether militarized or peaceful. Our hypotheses therefore consider the impact of the number of states’ other territorial claims as well as the number of their adversaries’ claims. Tests using the Issue Correlates of War data support our arguments.