Cold War Proxy Wars

Proxy wars allowed the United States and the Soviet Union to compete for worldwide influence during the Cold War without having to fight each other directly, possibly leading to the use of nuclear weapons. When American-backed fighters won, American influence and capitalist systems spread into a region. A Soviet victory led to the expansion of Russian power and communist systems.

What is a proxy war?

The word proxy means someone who does something for someone else. Proxy wars are conflicts where bigger groups or counties use smaller groups or countries to fight for them—the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

Types of support the Americans and Soviets provided to Cold War proxies who fought for them included:  



Training of troops


The Cold War had many proxy conflicts between the 1940s and 1980s.

The Chinese Civil War (1944 – 1949)

Chinese communist victory

The Greek Civil War (1944 – 1949)

non-communist Greek victory

The Korean War (1950 – 1953)

communist victory in North Korea and non-communist victory in the South Korea

The Vietnam War (1955 – 1975)

Vietnamese communist victory

The Angolan Civil War (1975 – 2002)

Angolan communist victory