Buffer state

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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.

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 militarised Marches[edit]

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[edit]

Other examples of buffer states include:


  • Paraguay was maintained after the end of the Paraguayan War in 1870 as a territory separating Argentina and Brazil.



  • 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.

See also[edit]