Quid Pro Quo Diplomacy

Matt Malis, Alastair Smith

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Political leaders value public demonstrations of support from foreign leaders and frequently make concessions in order to obtain them. We model the bargaining dynamics surrounding these exchanges and their impact on the recipient leader’s political survival, with a focus on top-level diplomatic visits as a means of signaling international support. Our model addresses two interrelated questions; first, we consider how symbolic displays of support from one leader to another can be informative even when they are “purchased” with concessions, and second, we derive the equilibrium price and political impact of a visit under different bargaining protocols. The incentive to make a concession in exchange for a visit generally undermines a visit’s signaling value. We identify a diplomatic resource curse, where the existence of opportunities for diplomatic exchange can force leaders into accepting visit-for-concession deals that leave them worse off than if they were diplomatically isolated. Visits never occur when negotiations are fully transparent. Mutually beneficial quid pro quo diplomacy requires opacity in negotiations.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Article number14
    Issue number2
    StatePublished - Apr 2024


    • bargaining
    • diplomatic visits
    • leader survival
    • state visits

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Statistics and Probability
    • Statistics, Probability and Uncertainty
    • Applied Mathematics


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