Oil Prices and Interstate Conflict

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Josef Korbel School of International Studies, International Studies


Conflict, Diplomacy, Iran, Oil, Resource curse, Russia, Venezuela


Anecdotal evidence suggests that high oil prices embolden oil-rich states to behave more aggressively. This article contends that arguments linking oil-exporter status to interstate conflict are implicitly price contingent, and tests this via a reanalysis of works by Colgan and Weeks. It finds a contingent effect of oil prices on interstate disputes, with high oil prices associated with significant increases in dispute behavior in petrostates, for which oil exports constitute more than 10% of GDP, while having a null effect in non-petrostates. Directed-dyadic tests indicate that this is due to petrostates initiating disputes, rather than becoming more attractive targets for conquest or coercion.

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