China and Russia…don’t…click…on…this.
A new study on how states have conquered new land over the last century has important implications for global politics from Asia to Europe.
The new study was published by Daniel Altman in the the December 2017 issue of International Studies Quarterly, an academic journal. Using a new data source of all “land grabs” since 1918, Altman finds that states have overwhelming used fait accompli rather than coercion to conquer new land.
“From 1918 to 2016, 112 land grabs seized territory by fait accompli, with Crimea being the most recent. In that same span, only thirteen publicly declared coercive threats elicited cessions of territory,” Altman writes. These numbers are slightly misleading, however. For starters, there were only eighty-four distinct cases of a fait accompli during this time. Altman reports 112 of them because in twenty-eight cases the target of the attack tried to immediately retake the land, which he counts as twenty-eight separate land grabs. Moreover, his database does not include times when states conquered others through brute force—such as when Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990.
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Still, the results point to a definitive trend as coercion has becoming an increasingly uncommon strategy for conquering new land, while instances of fait accompli are on the rise. “From 1945 onward, coercive threats have only resulted in territorial acquisition twice, as compared to eighty-two land grabs in this period,” Altman writes.