Discussion paper

DP10073 Growth, Import Dependence and War

Existing theories of pre-emptive war typically predict that the leading country may choose to launch a war on a follower who is catching up, since the follower cannot credibly commit to not use their increased power in the future. But it was Japan who launched a war against the West in 1941, not the West that pre-emptively attacked Japan. Similarly, many have argued that trade makes war less likely, yet World War I erupted at a time of unprecedented globalization. This paper develops a theoretical model of the relationship between trade and war which can help to explain both these observations. Dependence on strategic imports can lead follower nations to launch pre-emptive wars when they are potentially subject to blockade.


O'Rourke, K and R Bonfatti (2014), ‘DP10073 Growth, Import Dependence and War‘, CEPR Discussion Paper No. 10073. CEPR Press, Paris & London. https://cepr.org/publications/dp10073