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A proxy war or proxy warfare is a war that results when opposing powers use third parties as substitutes for fighting each other directly. While powers have sometimes used governments as proxies, violent non-state actors, mercenaries, or other third parties are more often employed. It is hoped that these groups can strike an opponent without leading to full-scale war. Proxy wars have also been fought alongside full-scale conflicts. It is almost impossible to have a pure proxy war, as the groups fighting for a certain nation usually have their own interests, which can diverge from those of their patron. Typically proxy wars function best during cold wars, as they become a necessity in conducting armed conflict between at least two belligerents while continuing cold warfare.

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