Democracies have a stronger incentive to comply with international law than autocracies, but they will not comply when faced with violations by other states. International law is a mechanism of cooperation between states: it can make states vulnerable to betrayal, but also increase their chances for successful collaboration. In other words, complying with international law is like playing cooperate in a stag hunt game. Cooperating is an efficient strategy but not a strategy that is evolutionarily stable. If an autocracy emerges and starts to violate international law, democracies will violate international law in response. This makes violating international law contagious. However, because democracies fare better than autocracies even when they break international law, a democratic regime type can also be contagious in some settings.
"Violating International Law Is Contagious,"
Chicago Journal of International Law:
1, Article 5.
Available at: https://chicagounbound.uchicago.edu/cjil/vol23/iss1/5