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A satellite state (sometimes referred to as a client state) is a political term that refers to a country which is formally independent, but under heavy influence or control by another country. The term was coined by analogy to stellar objects orbiting a larger object, such as smaller moons revolving around larger planets, and is used mainly to refer to Central and Eastern European countries [1] of the Warsaw Pact during the Cold War or to Mongolia between 1924 and 1990, for example.[citation needed] As used for Central and Eastern European countries it implies that the countries in question were "satellites" under the hegemony of the Soviet Union. In some contexts it also refers to other countries in the Soviet sphere of influence during the Cold War - such as North Korea (especially in the decades surrounding the Korean War) and Cuba (particularly after it joined the Comecon). In Western propaganda, the term has seldom been used to refer to states other than those in the Soviet orbit. In Soviet propaganda, the term was used to refer to the states in the orbit of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy.[citation needed]

A satellite state is a country that is dominated politically and economically by another nation. In times of war or political tension, satellite states sometimes serve as a buffer between an enemy country and the nation exerting control over the satellite.[2] "Satellite state" is one of several contentious terms used to describe the (alleged) subordination of one state to another. Other such terms include puppet state and neo-colony. In general, the term "satellite state" implies deep ideological allegiance to the hegemonic power, whereas puppet state implies political and military dependence, and neo-colony implies (abject) economic dependence. Depending on which aspect of dependence is being emphasised, a state may fall into more than one category.


Soviet Satellite States

At the end of World War II, all eastern and central European capitols were controlled by the Soviet Union.[3] The Soviets remained in these countries after the war's end.[4] Through a series of coalition governments including Communist parties, and then a forced liquidation of non-communist coalition members, communist systems were established in each country.[4] Communists gained control of existing governments, police, press and radio outlets in these countries.[4] Soviet satellite states in Europe included:[4][5][6][7]

The Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia is sometimes also referred to as a Soviet satellite,[4][5] though it broke from the Soviet Union in the 1948 Tito-Stalin split and subsequently helped to form the Non-Aligned Movement. The People's Republic of Albania, under the leadership of Stalinist Enver Hoxha, broke ties with the Soviet Union in 1960 following the Soviet de-stalinization.[8] These countries were all members of the Eastern Bloc.

Post-Cold War use of the term

Commentators have sometimes expressed concern that United States military and diplomatic interventions in the Middle East might lead to the equivalent of a satellite state. William Pfaff has warned that a permanent American presence in Iraq would "turn Iraq into an American satellite state."[9] The term has also been used to describe the relationship between Lebanon and Syria, which has been accused of intervening in Lebanese politcal affairs.[10]

See also


  1. ^ Source: NATO website 2nd Footnote at bottom
  2. ^ Wood, Alan (2005) [1990]. Stalin and Stalinism. Routledge. p. 62. ISBN 9780415307321. Retrieved 2009-09-10. 
  3. ^ Wettig 2008, p. 69
  4. ^ a b c d e Rao 2006, p. 280
  5. ^ a b Langley 2006, p. 30
  6. ^ Merkl 2004, p. 53
  7. ^ Rajagopal 2003, p. 75
  8. ^ Olsen 2000, p. 19
  9. ^ Cooley, John (June 18, 2008). "How to silence that Iran war drumbeat". Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved 2009-11-09. 
  10. ^ Wachter, Paul (January 26, 2002). "Who killed Elie Hobeika?". Salon. Retrieved 2009-11-09. 


  • Langley, Andrew (2006), The Collapse of the Soviet Union: The End of an Empire, Compass Point Books, ISBN 0756520096 
  • Merkl, Peter H. (2004), German Unification, Penn State Press, ISBN 0271025662 
  • Olsen, Neil (2000), Albania, Oxfam, ISBN 0855984325 
  • Rajagopal, Balakrishnan (2003), International law from below: development, social movements, and Third World resistance, Cambridge University Press,, ISBN 0521016711 
  • Rao, B. V. (2006), History of Modern Europe Ad 1789-2002: A.D. 1789-2002, Sterling Publishers Pvt. Ltd, ISBN 1932705562 
  • Wettig, Gerhard (2008), Stalin and the Cold War in Europe, Rowman & Littlefield, ISBN 0742555429 
  • Wood, Alan (2005), Stalin and Stalinism, Routledge, ISBN 9780415307321 


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