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Invasions by the Major Powers Since World War Two

Invasions by the Major Powers Since World War Two:

Invasions by America, Russia, and China since 1945


The 2022 Invasion of Ukraine by Russia has been called the largest conventional military attack from one nation to another since the Second World War. (CNN)


We decided to compile a list of invasions or attacks by the world’s three great Post-World War Two powers. These “great powers" are, for our purposes, the United States, Russia/The Soviet Union, and China.


Before we get to the list of wars, we need to define our terms. We are looking at invasions or attacks by one of these three powers on other nation-states. What we are NOT looking at are wars that come about due to a great power being invited in by one side of an existing conflict. That means we will not include the Korean War (both American and China were invited in to assist their allies in that war), nor will the Vietnam War count (same reason as in Korea). Similarly, the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 is not included since the Soviet military invaded and conquered the nation at the invitation of the Hungarian communist government, which needed Soviet aid to survive a revolution.


Why only include America, Russia, and China as “great powers?" Why not include Britain and France?


During the Cold War and after, the only “near-peer" powers were the big three just mentioned. Britain and France, if they had to fight one-on-one with any of the three big powers, would not be in the same weight class, to use a boxing term. While both Britain and France have the ability to project limited military power in far-off lands, they usually do so in conjunction with either each other, or the U.S. Without their nuclear arsenals, the British and French are definitely second-class powers militarily.


US Army Artillery Targeting ISIS in Iraq 2019

US Army Artillery Targeting ISIS in Iraq 2019

Now that we have defined out terms, let us look at the nation-to-nation military invasions by the U.S., Russia, and China since World War Two:


Post-War Invasions by the United States:


1983-The Invasion of Grenada-This was the first real military offensive military action by the U.S. after Vietnam. A Marxist revolution in the Caribbean island nation of Grenada and the alleged involvement of rival Cuba, led to an American invasion. This also led to combat between U.S. troops and Cuban soldiers stationed on the island.


1989-The U.S. Invasion of Panama-After a period of tension between the U.S. and the government of Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega, the United States invaded Panama to eliminate Noreiga and secure the Panama Canal.


1994-Invasion of Haiti-In an intervention authorized by the United Nations, the U.S. military occupied Haiti and facilitated the end of the military junta’s rule. Very little actual combat, as the invasion was largely unopposed.


2001-The Invasion of Afghanistan-Following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the U.S., along with allied nations, invaded the nation and overthrew the Taliban government. A long insurgency followed, with American troops remaining in the nation and fighting until the final withdrawal in 2021.


2003-The Invasion of Iraq-Considered at the time to be part of President Bush’s Global War on Terror, the invasion of Iraq was a follow-up to the 1990-1991 Gulf War. The 2003 invasion toppled the Saddam Hussein regime, and installed a new, more-or-less democratically elected government. U.S. forces remained until 2011, engaging in combat with various insurgents for most of that time period.


Post-War Invasions by China:


1949-Chinese Invasion of Tibet-Following the Communist victory in China’s long civil war, the victorious People’s Liberation Army of the new Communist regime invaded the mountainous nation of Tibet. During the long period of Chinese instability and civil war in the first half of the 20th Century, Tibet had become independent (a fact which no Chinese government recognized). Tibet has remained under Chinese control ever since, despite a 1959 uprising that led the Dalia Lama to flee Tibet.


1979-Chinese Invasion of Vietnam-China had supported the North Vietnamese against both the French and Americans in Vietnam’s wars of independence and reunification, but following North Vietnam’s final victory in 1975, the Hanoi government aligned itself with the Soviet Union, a rival to China in the Communist world. Then, in 1978, Vietnam invaded China’s ally Cambodia (in response to Cambodian military provocations), which led China to launch an invasion of northern Vietnam in 1979. The unprepared Chinese military (which had not fought a real war since Korea in the early 1950s), was roughly handled by the veteran Vietnamese military. After a month of bloody fighting, China declared that Vietnam had been taught a lesson, and withdrew.


Post-War Invasions by the Soviet Union/Russia:


1968-The Invasion of Czechoslovakia-For most of the post-World War Two period, the Soviets effectively controlled most of Eastern Europe, having installed pro-Soviet Communist regimes in the nations they “liberated" at the end of World War Two. Hungarians tried to throw off the Soviet yoke in 1956 in a violent revolution, only to be crushed by the Soviet army. In 1968, the new leadership in Czechoslovakia (now the separate nations of Czechia and Slovakia), attempted a peaceful change called the “Prague Spring." The leadership in Moscow did not like this and led a combined Warsaw Pact army in a massive invasion of the nation. The Czechs offered no real military resistance.


1979-The Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan-A Communist regime came to power in Afghanistan in 1978 in a very violent coup. The Soviets immediatly provided assistance to the new regime as it battled Muslim rebels. Infighting among various Afghan Communist factions, and continued battlefield problems against the Mujahideen rebels, led the Soviets to decide to invade Afghanistan, overthrow the current leadership and install an Afghan Communist more to their liking. This led to a ten-year long war for the Soviets before they gave up and withdrew in 1989.


2008-Russian-Georgian War-Russia had encouraged separatist forces in two regions of Georgia, and provoked Georgia into taking action against the separatists in 2008. Russia then invaded Georgia and forced the Georgians to halt any action against the pro-Russian separatist regions. This pattern would be repeated in Ukraine in 2022.


2014–Russia-Ukraine Conflict:

2014 Russian Invasion and Annexation of Crimea

2014 Donbass War

2022 Russian Invasion of Ukraine (see also Wars of Ukraine)


Russia began taking Ukraine apart, piece-by-piece in 2014, with the sudden invasion and annexation of the Ukrainian region of Crimea. Soon after, Russian-supported separatists in Ukraine’s eastern Donbass region rebelled with significant Russian military assistance and intervention. An 8-year low-level conflict ensued, with regular Russian military units crossing the border to engage Ukrainian forces, and Russian artillery stationed on the Russian side of the border firing across into Ukraine.


The situation escalated dramatically with what is now considered the largest land invasion by a great power since World War Two, when Russia invaded Ukraine along three fronts in February of 2022.


Since the end of World War Two, the three most powerful nations in the world have intervened in other nations many, many times, both during the Cold War and after, but actual, nation-on-nation invasions by the U.S., China, and Russia account for eleven major invasions. The Ukraine War may end up resulting in a wider regional or world war, but as of this writing (March 6, 2022), the fighting is confined to Ukraine.