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This article is about the type of war. For a list of proxy wars, see List of proxy wars.
Not to be confused with proxy fight.

The term proxy war has a variety of definitions, but due to the wide variety of wars which are considered proxy wars, it is best defined as a war in which two or more nations oppose each other, but never directly fight each other. This means that they are fighting their opponent's allies, or their allies are fighting either their opponent or their opponent's allies.

Proxy wars have been common since the end of World War II and the rise of the Cold War. This is for a number of reasons. During the Cold War, there was a fear that direct conflict between the United States and Soviet Union would result in a nuclear war and the total annihilation of all participants (see mutually assured destruction). In addition, the USSR, especially towards the end, didn’t have a large enough pool of resources to directly fight the US, and the media had and still has heavy influence on American policy. Often following major wars, the media and general population hold antiwar views. When this happens, the US has needed to provide heavy justification to go to war. When unable to do so, they have resorted to having other entities fight the wars. An example of this circumstance was when the US didn’t get directly involved in the Soviet-Afghan War, instead choosing to supply and fund the Mujahideen. Note that the Soviet-Afghan War happened four years after the Vietnam War.

Proxy wars can start as independent conflicts, but develop into proxy wars as major powers seek to protect their interests. For example, the Spanish Civil War began as a civil war between the pro-fascist revolutionary Nationalists under General Francisco Franco and the supporters of the Spanish Republic, called the Republicans. However, it developed into a proxy war as Nazi Germany and its allies began supporting the Nationalists, while the USSR, Mexico and many international volunteers supported the Republicans.


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