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Puppet State

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Russian Ambassador: And bring me some cigars, please. Havana cigars.
American General: Try one of these Jamaican cigars, Ambassador, they’re pretty good.
Russian Ambassador: Thank you, no. I do not support the work of imperialist stooges.
American General: Oh, only Commie stooges, huh?

A state under the effective control of another state. Technically independent and in charge of its own affairs, but in reality if it tries anything without the say-so of the government of the nation in charge of it, it's liable to end up occupied (again). An old term for this is Satrapies. Other terms for such a nation include vassal state, client state or satellite state.

The nation trying to break away and regain true independence may be a plot point. Normally part of The Empire (especially if it's a Hegemonic Empire) or The Federation. The Good Kingdom is usually a stand-alone thing. When our whole planet ends up this way, it's Vichy Earth.

This isn't always entirely one-sided; one reason for a state becoming a puppet state may have been in exchange for the larger state watching its back in case of war. Whether or not the puppet (or the empire) is happy with this state of affairs is another matter.

If the state is nominally democratic or republican and holds elections, and those are controlled by the parent state, see Corrupt Politician. Compare Voluntary Vassal, Les Collaborateurs, and The Quisling.

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    Anime and Manga 
  • Most countries in One Piece are part of a global alliance known as the World Government. There are very harsh penalties for a country's refusal to join, and the ones that do are subject to rules that give the officials almost totally free rein to do as they please.
    • Because there are so many countries so spread out, the World Government and the Marines can't possibly watch every single place at every moment, so it's not unheard of for a country to just do things covertly or secretly own contraband.
  • The Zeon home colonies (taking the name "the Republic of Zeon") at Lagrange Point 2 become one after the original Mobile Suit Gundam, necessitating The Remnant move to the Asteroid Belt (and, if you take some of the dodgier F91 spinoffs as canon, Mars). Eventually they give up the pretense and officially fold back into the Earth Federation around UC100.

    Fan Works 
  • Code Prime: The Autobots think Britannia is one to the Decepticons. The truth is slightly more complex — Megatron did help get Charles and V.V. into power, but Charles clearly has ambitions of his own. When Megatron realizes that Charles is plotting against him (as an extension of his Ragnarok plan), he has the empire destroyed and takes control of its territories directly.
  • Chasing Dragons:
    • While Mantarys is allowed to keep its own government after being brought to heel by Volantis, a Volantene military force stays present to make sure they follow Volantis' lead.
    • Lys essentially becomes this to Braavos at the end of the Fourth Slave War, as Braavosi troops are permanently stationed on the islands to make sure they hold to the terms of the peace treaty they were forced to accept with the Abolitionist Alliance.

  • In the Vietnam War documentary In the Year of the Pig, Senator Wayne Morse says that the U.S. used its power and influence to create one of these in Vietnam by not allowing elections to be held in accordance with the Geneva Accords, whereas then-House Minority Leader Gerald Ford's argues that refusing to allow elections to be held in Vietnam in 1956 was the only proper course of action because ones in communist-controlled North Vietnam would not have been free.
  • In Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, Klingon Ham-bassador Kamarag accuses Vulcan of being this.
    "Vulcans are well-known as the intellectual PUPPETS of this FEDERATION!"

  • In Tribesmen of Gor most of the desert tribes are vassals of either the Aretai or Kavar tribe. So when outsiders stir up trouble between those two tribes the entire desert is preparing for war with each other.
  • In Flora Segunda, the main characters' country, Califa, is a vassal state of the Huitzil empire, because it was pretty much that or be conquered entirely. Many people are still less than happy about it, though.
  • In A Dark Winter by Dave Luckett, the protagonist's homeland has become a puppet state of The Empire. A significant plot point concerns the revelation of how far another character is prepared to go secure its independence.
  • The Ministry of Magic in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, kind of. The person holding the strings is Lord Voldemort rather than a foreign power, but it follows the other aspects of this trope. As Lupin explains, Voldemort installed a puppet Minister, rather than declaring himself Minister, in order to avoid an outright rebellion.
  • Komarr in Vorkosigan Saga is a Zigzagged example. It is a conquered planet but municipal government is under Komarran jurisdiction so long as it doesn't interfere with Barrayaran interests. However the rule at the top was until recently Barrayaran. However more and more Komarran administrators are taking charge again, and of late even the head of ImpSec Komarr is a Komarran.
  • In the Honor Harrington books, there are quite a few nominally independent star nations in two broad regions of space known as the Shell and the Verge, lying on the edge of the Solarian League and just beyond it, respectively. Quite a few of these nations are in fact under the thumb of the Solarian Office of Frontier Security or various Solarian Transtellar corporations. A similar arrangement was in effect in various weaker star nations near the expanding Peoples' Republic of Haven before Haven and Manticore went to war.
  • In the Alternate History Timeline-191 series, after the United States defeats and occupies Canada during the World War I analogue, Quebec is granted independence and is placed squarely under US influence. It's also implied that many of the other states that emerged and recognized Quebec are puppets of Imperial Germany, a close ally of the United States in this timeline. In turn, the Entente powers such as the Confederate States have puppets as well; the Confederacy's main one is Mexico.
  • In Lucifer's Star, the Archduchy of Crius is destroyed by the Commonwealth and replaced by the Republic of Crius. The Republic of Crius is completely under its control and stated to be a transition before formal annexation. A lot of former Archduchy soldiers and citizens consider it to be a joke or an enemy nation. Amusingly, the Archduchy had its own puppet states with the ruling government of Xerxes being considered one of these by characters like William Balder.
  • In Tales from Netheredge, the Genzies are this for the Calisto Empire at the time of His Tribute: ever since a failed stealth invasion (which became known only as "the Horror" and whose defeat Calisto attributed to themselves) several decades ago, the empire has been steadily taking over their government, trade, and law.
  • The Man in the High Castle has America split into two of these, the Japanese-controlled Pacific States and the Nazi-controlled United States, with the Rocky Mountain States acting as a buffer zone between the two.

    Live-Action TV 
  • This is how Star Trek: Enterprise depicts Earth with regards to Vulcan, which seems determined to keep the impulsive and emotional humans under control—at least until Season 4, when Earth steps up to lay the groundwork for The Federation.
  • Rome. Egypt, though the child king Ptolemy XIII denies this until he gets a fatal dose of reality. Cleopatra however is entirely willing to be Caesar's Puppet Queen if it gets her the throne. After his death however she shows she has greater ambitions; not to cast off Roman rule but to establish a joint Egyptian-Roman empire by hooking up with Marc Antony.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In the backstory of Battletech the Star League peacefully integrated the five major states of the Inner Sphere mostly peacefully, and then launched the bloody Reunification War to integrate the four major periphery states. This led to the Taurian Concordat, Magistracy of Canopus, Rim Worlds Republic and the Outworlds Alliance becoming puppets of Star League and economically colonized and exploited. Even when a ruler of the Rim Worlds Republic ultimately caused the fall of Star League several centuries later, having been exploited by the League's economy led to long-term problems for the newly independent Periphery.
  • In Traveller basically any multi-system polity must be a collection of Puppet State s even though sometimes the central government is created by the substates rather then the reverse. The Third Imperium for instance does little more than patrol trade routes and prevent vassal planets from fighting one another (planetary wars are allowed so long as nukes aren't used).
  • As befits a Persian counterpart, the Padishah Empire of Kelesh in Pathfinder adores creating satrapies. Most of the information revealed on Kelesh is in relation to one of their satrapies, Qadira, as the setting mostly focuses on the Inner Sea region, and Qadira is Kelesh' frontier to the Inner Sea. In theory Qadira has a special status, with the satrapy confirmed as hereditary and granted complete internal autonomy in exchange for Qadiran diplomacy and foreign affairs being handled by a separate imperial vizier. In practice periods of strong Kelesh and weak Qadira sees a broad definition of foreign affairs and intense meddling by the imperial intelligence service in Qadira's politics while periods the other way around has Qadira pretty much ignore the vizier and act as a de-facto independent nation.

    Video Games 
  • The Last Remnant has this in Athlum, which is a vassal territory of Celapaleis.
  • Both Unification Wars and Galactic Conquest (sci-fi strategy games in which action points are a regularly renewable resource) feature Vassals, though in reality the "Lord" empire does not exert control over these vassals but instead receives tribute and can send/receive military aid in case of invasion (which is pretty darn frequent).
  • Crimea was suzerain to Begnion in Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn.
  • Civilization:
    • In one of the Expansion Packs for Civilization IV, any sufficiently powerful civ can make any sufficiently weak civ into their vassal state. If the vassal grows powerful enough (there are exact numbers), it can regain independence.
    • In Civilization V, you can't make an entire civ into one, but when you conquer an enemy city you have the option between razing it, annexing it (which simply makes it on of your civ's cities, but generates a lot of unhappiness) or making it a puppet (which gives all the science, culture, and gold it generates to your civ, but you cannot control its production, for either buildings or units). The game also introduces city-states, single-city NPC nations. They can be razed, annexed, or puppeted just like enemy cities, but you can also get them on your side through trade and diplomacy, which can have them providing you with their strategic resources, occasionally gifting you military units, and going to war with your enemies.
  • Dyztopia: Post-Human RPG: After being invaded by Zeta, Vulcanite nominally still has its own democratic system and Prime Minister. In reality, Zeta controls the outcome of the elections and ensures that the pro-Zeta Morgalia Evers always gets elected as PM. Zeta also rigged the mine and power plant to explode on command, which is intended to both punish Vulcanite if they ever overthrow the government and to force Vulcanite to become dependent on Zeta for electrical power.
  • A major part of most Paradox games like Europa Universalis and Hearts of Iron.
    • Crusader Kings probably has the strongest version; the player is able to create vassals by giving the aristocrats in his court titles. Assuming relations are good enough he can force these vassals to raise troops for him and even force to them to surrender their title and land (though this is very likely to result in rebellion instead.)
      • The Horse Lords DLC introduces a new mechanic which fits this trope even better: tributaries. Any ruler can subjugate a nearby ruler which makes him a suzerain. The tributary is forced to pay 40% of their income to the suzerain and has to join each of their wars. In exchange the suzerain can't attack or raid his tributaries and tributaries can call their suzerain to their wars (though they can refuse). However, this relationship will end once the suzerain dies, making the tributary independent again. The 2.8 update split this into multiple versions, one of which is permanent unless the suzerain releases them or the tributary wins a war to kick them out.
    • In Stellaris your empire's ruler can recruit governors to rule sectors semi-autonomously. If you uplift a pre-FTL species they become a protectorate of your empire until they achieve technological parity with your empire, then they're incorporated as a vassal. And pre-existing empires can be vassalized through war or diplomacy, update 1.2 introduced tributaries.
    • While most of the games have one or two variants of puppeting, Hearts of Iron IV with DLC have two exclusive scales of sovereignty (one general, one for fascist overlords), starting at close to annexed integrated puppets/reichskommissariate and ending at mostly independent outside foreign policy satellites and dominions (if they get to the point where they could be dropped a tier while already at the lowest, they can be annexed by the overlord, if they can go up a tier when a dominion or satellite they become independent).
  • Can also be established in the Total War series; in earlier games such as Rome, these had to be established through diplomatic negotiations, and this would only rarely work due to the horrific diplomacy system. In more recent games (namely Napoleon and Shogun 2), the game gives the player an option of whether to formally incorporate a conquered nation into its empire or establish a client state.
  • In The Legend of Heroes: Trails from Zero, Crossbell started out as a region fought over by two superpowers, the Empire of Erebonia and the Republic of Calvard, who eventually decided to turn it into an ostensibly autonomous buffer state. This is the ultimate source of most of its problems. Crossbell's Constitution was drawn up by Erebonia and Calvard without any thought for or input from the people living there, and is set up so that it is effectively impossible for the government to do anything of substance without first clearing it with people in the pocket of one or both powers. And the one thing the two mutually hostile powers can agree on is that they don't want Crossbell to have an effective government, because they're both hoping that sooner or later it will fail badly enough to provide an excuse to annex it outright.