My research is mostly about how states negotiate agreements with each other. In particular I'm interested in situations where those agreements are riskier for one side than the other, and in how states manage agreements despite those unequal risks.
Negotiating International Organizations
Outside options matter, because they give parties to an agreement the ability to renegotiate the terms of the agreements after they've been implemented. When risks are unequal, institutional mechanisms that promote flexibility and easy exit can reduce the appeal of cooperation, since unequal dependence raises the risk that, once cooperation has begun, the less-dependent side will renegotiate terms to its advantage.
Contrived Symmetry through the IAEA. Negotiations in the 1940s-50s over international cooperation to regulate atomic energy illustrate the problem. In a book project, in progress, I examine the development of the nonproliferation regime through the following 70 years.
Federation and National Reunification States form federations when cooperation would lead them to make unequal investments, making some vulnerable to later renegotiation. Federal unions create contrived symmetry, which solves the contracting problem. States form international organizations when they fundamentally trust each other to refrain from future renegotiations (or when the potential downside of renegotiation is low) and form federations when they mistrust each other. Federations therefore occur when the only realistic alternative is a complete failure of cooperation; federations do not emerge in a linear way from international organizations.
The struggles surrounding regional integration projects in Australia, Argentina, Germany, East Africa, and the Caribbean provide evidence for the argument. (Federations: The Political Dynamics of Cooperation. Cornell U. Press, 2009. Amazon. Ebook. Data used in chapters 3 and 4.)