What were ‘proxy wars’ in the context of the Cold War?
A 'proxy war' is a conflict instigated by major powers but fought by surrogates or 'proxies' on behalf of the major players. The term is commonly used in the context of the Cold War. During the Cold War era, the two major world powers, the United States and the Soviet Union, used proxy wars as a means to fight each other indirectly. This approach helped both countries avoid the high risks associated with direct military clashes which had the potential to escalate into a full-blown nuclear war. These proxy wars occurred globally, primarily in developing countries where influence was contested between the US and the USSR. The reason behind these conflicts is twofold: ideological differences (communism vs. capitalism), and the determination of each superpower to establish its dominance and sphere of influence in the changing world order post World War II. Some notable examples of such conflicts include: 1. **The Korean War (1950-1953)**: This was fought between South Korea (backed by the US and its allies) and North Korea (backed by China and the Soviet Union). The war ended with no clear victor and set the precedent for many subsequent Cold War confrontations. 2. **The Vietnam War (1955-1975)**: Here, the US backed South Vietnam against the communist North Vietnam, supported by the Soviet Union and China. This war resulted in significant disruptions to the socio-political fabric of Southeast Asia. 3. **The Soviet-Afghan War (1979-1989)**: The US funded Afghan Mujahideen groups to counter the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan. As for their impacts, these proxy wars led to millions of civilian casualties, significant socio-economic disruption, and regional destabilization. In the broader context, they contributed to the prolonged tension and hostility of the Cold War era. Despite these considerable ramifications, proxy wars did not, however, escalate to a direct confrontation between the two superpowers, thus 'successfully' maintaining the status-quo of the Cold War until its end in 1991.