Puppet state

A puppet state, puppet régime, or puppet government is a state that is de jure independent but de facto completely dependent upon an outside power, and does its bidding.[1] Puppet states have nominal sovereignty, but a foreign or otherwise alien power effectively exercises control, for reasons such as financial interests, economic or military support.[2] Puppet states are distinguished from allies in that allies choose their actions on their own, or in accordance with treaties they voluntarily entered.

A puppet state preserves the external paraphernalia of independence - such as a name, flag, anthem, constitution, law codes, motto and government - but in reality is an organ of another state which created,[3] sponsors or otherwise controls the government of the puppet state. International law does not recognize occupied puppet states as legitimate.[4]

Puppet states can transition from puppet status through:

  • military defeat of the puppet-master state (as in Europe and Asia in 1945)
  • absorption into the puppet-master state (as in the early Soviet Union)
  • achievement of independence through standard state-building methods (especially through de-colonisation)

Etymology of the term

In the Middle Ages vassal states existed which were based on delegation of rule of a country from a King to noble men of lower rank. Since the Peace of Westphalia of 1648 the concept of a nation came into existence where sovereignty was connected more to the people who inhabited the land than to the nobility who owned the land. The term is a metaphor which compares a state or government to a puppet controlled by an outside puppeteer using strings.[5] The first recorded use of the term "puppet government" is from 1884, in reference to the Khedivate of Egypt.[6]