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. 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. 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, sponsors or otherwise controls the government of the puppet state. International law does not recognize occupied puppet states as legitimate.
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. The first recorded use of the term "puppet government" is from 1884, in reference to the Khedivate of Egypt.