This study addresses the dynamics of how states employ proxies to achieve their strategic goals in the so-called gray zone between normal competition and armed conflict. The basic question is whether the use of proxies by the challenger in a crisis decreases the probability that the defender state will respond with violence. We start by examining a broad set of crises where the initial triggering act is either nonviolent or violent, to assess whether defenders respond to proxy triggers or triggers by the challengers themselves with a greater propensity for violence (hypothesis A). We also consider a narrower set of cases, where the triggering act is violent, asking whether the defender is more likely to respond in a tit-for-tat manner to a proxy, or to a state challenger (hypothesis B). We find that proxy use is associated with a higher probability of defender violence, regardless of whether the initial crisis trigger was itself violent. In addition, when the trigger is violent, defenders are more likely to respond in a tit-for-tat manner when a proxy does the triggering. Proxy usage actually leads to violent escalation, potentially questioning the assumption that challengers may minimize damage through the use of proxies.
Wilkenfeld, Jonathan, Egle E. Murauskaite, David Quinn, Devin Ellis, Allison Astorino-Courtois, and Corinne DeFrancisci. 2022. "Escalation Management in Gray Zone Crises: The Proxy Factor." International Studies Quarterly 66 (September). https://academic.oup.com/isq/article/66/3/sqac038/6646033