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A buffer state is a country lying between two rival or potentially hostile greater powers, which by its existence is thought to prevent conflict between them. Buffer states are a mutually agreed upon demilitarised area lying between two greater powers. The invasion of a buffer state by one of the powers surrounding it will often result in war between the powers.
Distinction from militarised Marches
A March (territory) is a fortified non-homeland territory for defence 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.
Historical buffer states
Other examples of buffer states include:
- Uruguay served as a demilitarised buffer-zone between Argentina and the Empire of Brazil during the early independence period in South America.
- Paraguay was maintained after the end of the Paraguayan War in 1870 as a territory separating Argentina and Brazil.
- The colony of Georgia in the 18th century, as a buffer state between Spanish-controlled Florida and the American colonies that comprised the Atlantic Seaboard.
- Tibet was a buffer between czarist Russia, the British India, and Qing China in the early 20th century.
- North Korea during and after the Cold War, seen by some analysts as a buffer state between the military forces of the People's Republic of China and American forces in South Korea.
- The Sultanate of Aceh, located on the north part of Sumatra, as a buffer state between Kingdom of the Netherlands, ruler of Dutch East Indies and British Empire, ruler of Malaya.
- Siam — The king of Siam (now Thailand) had to surrender his country's hegemony over Laos and Cambodia and to grant commercial concessions to France, but managed to retain independence as a buffer state between British Raj, British Malaya and the French Indochina.
- Afghanistan was a buffer state between the British Empire (which ruled much of South Asia) and Russian Empire (which ruled much of Central Asia) during the Anglo–Russian conflicts in Asia during the 19th century.
- The Himalayan nations of Nepal, Bhutan and Sikkim were buffer-states between the British and Chinese empires, later between China and India, which in 1962 fought the Sino-Indian War in places where the two regional powers bordered each other.
- Kingdom of Hungary, and later Transylvania between the Austrian Empire and Ottoman Empire; see also Banat.
- The Republic of Central Lithuania, existing from 1918 to 1922, was a buffer state between the Second Polish Republic and the Republic of Lithuania.
- Austria between Germany and Italy during the interwar period following World War I, and between West Germany, and Switzerland in the Western bloc and Hungary and Yugoslavia during the Cold War.
- Belgium before World War I, serving as a buffer between France, Prussia (after 1871 the German Empire), the United Kingdom and the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
- The Rhineland served as a demilitarised buffer-zone between France and Germany during the inter-war years of the 1920s and early 1930s. There were early French attempts at creating a Rhineland Republic.