Proxy war

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 fascists and the anarchists and communists as Nazi Germany and Italy (on the fascist side) and the Soviet Union poured 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.

Cold War

Proxy wars were common in the Cold War, because the two nuclear-armed superpowers (the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and 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 Stalin and 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 1968 and carried out a succession of terrorist attacks in West Germany during the 1970s and to a lesser extent in the 1980s. After German reunification in 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.

In the Korean War the Soviet Union and the People's Republic of China aided 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.

In the Vietnam War the Soviet Union supplied North Vietnam and the Viet Minh with training, logistics and material but unlike the United States Armed Forces they fought the war through their proxies and did not enter the conflict directly.

In the war between the Mujahadeen and the Red Army during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the aid given by the U.S. to the Mujahadeen during the war included weapons, supplies and training.

During the Lebanese Civil War, Syria supported the Maronite Christian dominated Lebanese Front with arms and troops, while interestingly enough Syria's enemy Israel also 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 Portugal in 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, MPLA which received massive support from the Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc nations in the form of money, logistics and weapons. Later, after the government of Angola requested assistance, Cuba sent what would eventually amass to 40,000 members of the Cuban Armed Forces. The two primary right-wing insurgent groups were UNITA and the FNLA. UNITA an organization with Maoist roots that would eventually become conservative was originally supported by the People's Republic of China during 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 States and South Africa become UNITA's prime backers, U.S. cooperation with the apartheid regime of South Africa in supporting UNITA became controversial. Angolan Civil War started in 1975 and continued until 2002.

In 1975 the South African Defence Force invaded Angola to support UNITA and prevent South West African rebels from establishing a base in Angola. SWAPO a 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, Mozambique following a very similar independence war against Portugal (see the Portuguese Colonial Wars) a communist rebel group known as FRELIMO seized 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 War in which the governments of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda and Rwanda all 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.

ee also

* Asymmetric warfare
* List of proxy wars
* Client state
* Covert operation
* A Private Little War


* Bernd Greiner / Christian Müller / Dierk Walter (Ed.): "Heiße Kriege im Kalten Krieg". Hamburg 2006, ISBN 3-936096-61-9 ( [ Review by H. Hoff] , [ 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.

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Proxy war — Guerres proxy Une guerre proxy (ou guerre par proxy ) est une guerre où deux pouvoirs utilisent une tierce partie comme supplément ou substitut pour se battre chacun directement. Si les superpuissances ont parfois utilisé des gouvernements comme… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • proxy war — noun a war instigated by a major power that does not itself participate • Hypernyms: ↑war, ↑state of war …   Useful english dictionary

  • proxy war — noun A war where two powers use third parties as a supplement to, or a substitute for fighting each other directly …   Wiktionary

  • Hokuriku Proxy War — Infobox Film name = 北陸代理戦争 Hokuriku Proxy War image size = caption = director = Kinji Fukasaku producer = writer = Kôji Takada narrator = starring = music = Toshiaki Tsushima cinematography = Toru Nakajima editing = distributor = released =… …   Wikipedia

  • Proxy — may refer to something which acts on behalf of something else, as in:* Proxy (statistics), a measured variable used to infer the value of a variable of interest * Proxy (climate), a measured variable used to infer the value of a variable of… …   Wikipedia

  • War — This article is about war in general. For other uses, see War (disambiguation) and The War (disambiguation). Warfare Military history Eras …   Wikipedia

  • War in Darfur — Situation in Darfur redirects here. For the criminal investigation started by the International Criminal Court see International Criminal Court investigation in Darfur, Sudan. Conflict in Darfur Date 2003–2009[1]/2010 …   Wikipedia

  • War in Somalia (2006–present) — Infobox Military Conflict conflict=War in Somalia (2006–present) partof=the Somali Civil War and War on Terrorism date=July 20, 2006 – ongoing caption=Situation of the war in Somalia August 28th 2008. place=Southern Somalia result=Ongoing… …   Wikipedia

  • War in Afghanistan (2001–present) — War in Afghanistan Part of the Afghan civil war and the War on Terror …   Wikipedia

  • War of the Austrian Succession — The Battle of Fontenoy by Édouard Detaille. Oil on canvas …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.