Buffer state

A buffer state is a country lying between two rival or potentially hostile greater powers. Its existence can sometimes be thought to prevent conflict between them. A buffer state is sometimes a mutually agreed upon area lying between two greater powers, which is demilitarized in the sense of not hosting the military of either power (though it will usually have its own military forces). The invasion of a buffer state by one of the powers surrounding it will often result in war between the powers.

Research shows that buffer states are significantly more likely to be conquered and occupied than are nonbuffer states.[1] This is because "states that great powers have an interest in preserving—buffer states—are in fact in a high-risk group for death. Regional or great powers surrounding buffer states face a strategic imperative to take over buffer states: if these powers fail to act against the buffer, they fear that their opponent will take it over in their stead. By contrast, these concerns do not apply to nonbuffer states, where powers face no competition for influence or control."[1]

Buffer states, when authentically independent, typically pursue a neutralist foreign policy, which distinguishes them from satellite states.

The concept of buffer states is part of the theory of balance of power that entered European strategic and diplomatic thinking in the 17th century.

Distinction from militarized marches

Main article: March (territory)

A march is a fortified non-homeland territory for defense against a rival power. A march is controlled by a greater power, whereas a true buffer state is deliberately left alone by rival powers situated either side of it.

Historic buffer states

Other examples of buffer states include:





See also


  1. 1 2 Fazal, Tanisha M. (2004-04-01). "State Death in the International System". International Organization. 58 (02): 311–344. doi:10.1017/S0020818304582048. ISSN 1531-5088.
  2. "The Colonies | Georgia". www.smplanet.com. Retrieved 2015-11-20.
  3. "Getting China to Become Tough with North Korea". Cato Institute. Retrieved 2016-02-10.
  4. Pholsena, Vatthana (2007). LAOS, From Buffer State to Crossroads. Silkworm Books. ISBN 978-9749480502.
  5. Macgregor, John (1994). Through the Buffer State : Travels in Borneo, Siam, Cambodia, Malaya and Burma. White Lotus Co Ltd; 2 edition. ISBN 978-9748496252.
  6. Debarbieux, Bernard; Rudaz, Gilles; Todd, Jane Marie; Price, Martin F. (2015-09-10). The Mountain: A Political History from the Enlightenment to the Present. University of Chicago Press. p. 150. ISBN 9780226031118.
  7. "Nepal: Dictated by Geography | World Policy Institute". www.worldpolicy.org. Retrieved 2016-02-10.
  8. The World Today; Bhutan and Sikkim: Two Buffer States Vol. 15, No. 12. Royal Institute of International Affairs. 1959. pp. 492–500.
  9. Suvorov, Viktor (2013). The Chief Culprit: Stalin's Grand Design to Start World War II. Naval Institute Press. p. 142. Retrieved 1 January 2015. Chapter 25: Destruction of the Buffer States between Germany and the Soviet Union.
  10. Stent, Angela E. (1998). "Russia and Germany Reborn: Unification, the Soviet Collapse, and the New Europe". Princeton University Press. Retrieved 1 January 2015. Moscow's German Problem before Detente - The Federal Republic - In 1945, the major Soviet preoccupation was to prevent any future German attack; hence the imposition of Soviet-controlled governments in a ring of buffer states between Germany and the USSR.
  11. 1 2 Mearsheimer, John J. (13 March 2014). "Getting Ukraine Wrong". New York Times. Washington has a deep-seated interest in ending this conflict and maintaining Ukraine as a sovereign buffer state between Russia and NATO.
  12. 1 2 3 Walt, Stephen M. (2 September 2014). "History Shows Caution Is the Best Approach for Foreign Action". New York Times. Retrieved 1 January 2015. Instead of rushing to back the demonstrators who ousted the former president, Viktor Yanukovich, the United States and its European allies should have worked cooperatively with Moscow to craft a deal that would have preserved Ukraine’s status as an independent but neutral buffer state.
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