Dissertation

Syrian Civil War: a proxy war in the 21st Century

The Syrian Civil War is one of the most devastating conflicts of the 21st century and the cause of the worst humanitarian crisis in recent history. It stems between the ruling Al-Assad Regime and a series of opposition rebel groups. The Assad Regime has had the backing of this historical ally, the Russian Federation. Rebel forces have had the continued backing from a collation between western nations, led by the United States. The purpose of this thesis is to determine if the Syrian Civil War was a proxy war between the United States and Russia, and to determine what it means for the future of US-Russia relations. SInce the end of the Second World War and the rise of the nuclear deterrent, war by proxy has become a common strategy used by larger powers. If the Syrian Civil War is truly a proxy war between the United States and Russia, it brings to question the validity of the end of the Cold War. By comparing it to previous Cold War-era proxy wars, we can derive the features that make up a proxy war and apply them to the Syrian Civil War. This thesis uses several precious proxy wars as case studies. These include the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the Afghan-Soviet War. While each of these was a very different war, they each share a handful of similarities that make them Proxy Wars. They involved more powerful “patron” states using smaller “sponsor” states as proxies over a long-term conflict. This must happen while the “patrons” avoid direct conflict with each other.

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