Buffer state

Buffer state

A buffer state is a country lying between two rival or potentially hostile greater powers, which by its sheer existence is thought to prevent conflict between them. Buffer states, when authentically independent, typically pursue a neutralist foreign policy, which distinguishes them from satellite states. The conception of buffer states is part of the theory of balance of power that entered European strategic and diplomatic thinking in the 17th century. In the 19th century, the manipulation of buffer states like Afghanistan and the Central Asian emirates was an element in the diplomatic "Great Game" played out between Britain and Tsarist Russia for control of the approaches to strategic mountain passes that led to British India.

Other examples of buffer states include:

The invasion of a buffer state by one of the powers surrounding it will often result in war between the powers. For example, in 1914 the German invasion of Belgium triggered the entry of Great Britain into World War I.

The earlier forms of highly defended border regions, where defensive castles stood at a distance of a day's march are discussed at Marches. Some political remains of borderland marches established under the Carolingian and Ottonian Empires can be seen on the European map today: Belgium, Luxembourg, Lorraine. The Carolingian Empire also created some independent duchies in the Pyrenean border acting as buffer states against the Muslim kingdoms, an area called the Hispanic March, giving form to today's Andorra and the region of Catalonia.

Even earlier, compare the highly-defended Roman Empire's limes with its "client kingdoms" like Palmyra, Judaea, Numidia or Mauretania, and the Persian Empire's system of satrapies.

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