- Proxy war
A proxy war is the war that results when two powers use third parties as substitutes for fighting each other directly.
While powers have sometimes used whole governments as proxies, terrorist groups, mercenaries, or other third parties are more often employed. It is hoped that these groups can strike an opponent without leading to full-scale war.
Proxy wars have also been fought alongside full-scale conflicts.
It is almost impossible to have a pure proxy war, as the groups fighting for a certain nation usually have their own interests, which are often divergent from those of their patron.
panish Civil War
A famous conflict which exhibits patterns of a proxy war was the
Spanish Civil War. An internal political conflict soon involved a battle between the Francisco Franco's loyalist fascistsand the anarchists and communists as Nazi Germanyand Italy(on the fascist side) and the Soviet Unionpoured resources and advisers into Spain. This war served as a useful proving ground for the great powers to test equipment and tactics that would later be employed in the Second World War.
Proxy wars were common in the
Cold War, because the two nuclear-armed superpowers (the Union of Soviet Socialist Republicsand the United States of America) did not wish to fight each other directly, since that would have run the risk of escalation to a nuclear war, at least according to the official versions on both sides. Proxies were used in conflicts in Afghanistan, Angola, Korea, Vietnam, and many other countries.
The first proxy war in the Cold War was the
Greek Civil War, in which the Western-allied Greek government was nearly overthrown by Communist rebels with limited direct aid from Soviet client states in Yugoslavia, Albania, and Bulgaria. The Greek Communists managed to seize most of Greece, but a strong government counterattack forced them back. The Western Allies eventually won, due largely to an ideological split between Stalinand Tito. Though previously allied to the rebels, Tito closed Yugoslavia's borders to ELAS partisans when, despite the nonexistence of Soviet aid to the rebels, Greek Communists sided with Stalin. Albania followed Tito's suit shortly thereafter. With no way to get aid, the rebellion collapsed.
Another example of a proxy war was
East Germany's covert support for the Red Army Faction(RAF) which was active from 1968and carried out a succession of terrorist attacks in West Germany during the 1970s and to a lesser extent in the 1980s. After German reunificationin 1990, it was discovered that the RAF had received financial and logistic support from the Stasi, the security and intelligence organization of East Germany. It had also given several RAF terrorists shelter and new identities. It had not been in the interests of either the RAF or the East Germans to be seen as co-operating. The apologists for the RAF argued that they were striving for a true socialist society not the sort that existed in Eastern Europe. The East German government was involved in Ostpolitik, and it was not in its interest to be caught overtly aiding a terrorist organization operating in West Germany. For more details see the History of Germany since 1945.
Korean Warthe Soviet Union and the People's Republic of Chinaaided the Communists in North Korea and China against the United Nations forces led by the United States. The Soviet Union did not enter the war directly, though it was allegedly reported that the Soviets had been sending over pilots to fly for the Communists in MiG 15 fighter jets. China, however, did enter the war directly and sent millions of its troops in 1950 preventing the U.N. coalition from defeating the communist government of the north.
Vietnam Warthe Soviet Union supplied North Vietnamand the Viet Minhwith training, logistics and materialbut unlike the United States Armed Forcesthey fought the war through their proxies and did not enter the conflict directly.
In the war between the
Mujahadeenand the Red Armyduring the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the aid given by the U.S. to the Mujahadeen during the war included weapons, suppliesand training.
Lebanese Civil War, Syriasupported the Maronite Christiandominated Lebanese Frontwith arms and troops, while interestingly enough Syria's enemy Israelalso supported the Lebanese Front by providing them with arms, tanks and money. The Soviet-aligned Palestine Liberation Organization(PLO) supported the leftist Lebanese National Movement(NLM).
Following Angola's independence from
Portugalin 1975(see the Angolan War of Independence) rival nationalist groups began to fight each other for control of the country. The largest and most powerful of these groups was the Marxist-Leninist, MPLAwhich received massive support from the Soviet Unionand Eastern Blocnations in the form of money, logistics and weapons. Later, after the government of Angola requested assistance, Cubasent what would eventually amass to 40,000 members of the Cuban Armed Forces. The two primary right-wing insurgent groups were UNITAand the FNLA. UNITAan organization with Maoistroots that would eventually become conservative was originally supported by the People's Republic of Chinaduring the 1960s in its war against Portuguese rule. This was at a time when the Soviets and Chinese were supporting opposing forces elsewhere in an attempt to counter each others influence.
Following the end of the independence war the
United Statesand South Africabecome UNITA's prime backers, U.S. cooperation with the apartheidregime of South Africain supporting UNITA became controversial. Angolan Civil Warstarted in 1975 and continued until 2002.
1975the South African Defence Forceinvaded Angolato support UNITA and prevent South West African rebels from establishing a base in Angola. SWAPOa left-wing organization dedicated to ending South Africa's rule over South West Africa(now Namibia) was fighting a guerrilla war against the South Africans with the support of Angola's new communist government. The Central Intelligence Agency, through strong cooperation with South Africa provided aid to both UNITA and the FNLA, however UNITA quickly became the main benefactor of American support. The FNLA on the other hand, despite a long history of support from the United States was primarily supported by the conservative dictator of Zaire, Mobutu Sese Seko.
In another former Portuguese colony,
Mozambiquefollowing a very similar independence war against Portugal (see the Portuguese Colonial Wars) a communist rebel group known as FRELIMOseized power. The communist government of Mozambique supported the rebellion against the white minority led government of Rhodesia(now Zimbabwe). In response, the Rhodesian government organized and then funded an anti-communist rebel group called RENAMO(Mozambique National Resistance) beginning the Mozambican Civil War. After Rhodesia collapsed and became Zimbabwe in 1980, South Africa took over supporting RENAMO. In 1991 the South African government began reforms at ending apartheid and also ending its involvement in armed conflict elsewhere. Later that year both South African and Cuban troops withdrew from Angola and in 1992 RENAMO and the government of Mozambique signed a peace accord. UNITA continued to fight the elected government of Angola, eventually losing its support from all of its former allies (including the United States and South Africa).
econd Congo War
Since the end of the Cold War the largest war by proxy has been the
Second Congo Warin which the governments of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ugandaand Rwandaall used (and are perhaps still using) third party armed irregular groups.
Proxy Wars in South Asia
During recent years, South Asia has been heavily hit by proxy wars between various countries. It has also been speculated by some political and strategic analysts that South Asian countries are actually facing a proxy war involving Western powers.
List of proxy wars
A Private Little War
* Bernd Greiner / Christian Müller / Dierk Walter (Ed.): "Heiße Kriege im Kalten Krieg". Hamburg 2006, ISBN 3-936096-61-9 ( [http://hsozkult.geschichte.hu-berlin.de/rezensionen/2006-3-024 Review by H. Hoff] , [http://www.akweb.de//ak_s/ak521/03.htm Review by I. Küpeli] )
* Scott L. Bills: "The world deployed : US and Soviet military intervention and proxy wars in the Third World since 1945". From: Robert W. Clawson (Ed.): "East West rivalry in the Third World". Wilmington 1986, p. 77-101.
* Chris Loveman: "Assessing the Phenomeon of Proxy Intervention". From Journal of Conflict, Security and Development, edition 2.3, Routledge 2002, pp 30-48.
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