Although coercion literature has traditionally focused on two-actor dyads, coercion in three-actor settings is a prevalent yet understudied strategy in International Relations. Such cases of “triangular coercion” represent a phenomenon whereby a coercer who lacks direct leverage over a resilient target coerces a third party who does possess leverage over the target, and to whom the target is vulnerable, and manipulates it into a clash of interests with the target. By forcing an otherwise uninvolved intermediary to align with the coercer, a coercer can alter the balance of vulnerability vis-à-vis its otherwise resilient target and enhance its susceptibility to coercion, albeit by extension. Existing scholarship tackles triangular coercion from different angles and mostly focuses on actor typology. This article seeks to promote our understanding of this strategy by proposing a conceptual model that distills its logic into the abstract components of vulnerability, resilience, and leverage. To demonstrate the dynamics of triangular coercion, the article draws on three empirical cases: Israel’s failed attempts to force Lebanon to rein in Hezbollah in the 1990s, Nazi Germany’s successful manipulation of Britain and France into coercing Czechoslovakia in 1938, and the Soviet Union’s success at forcing the United States to coerce Israel in 1973.
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