The Surrogate War and Patron-Client Relationship in International Relations: The USA-PYD/YPG Cooperation as a Sample Case


This article examines the “patron state - client organization relationship” between the United States of America (USA) and the regime-opponent PYD (Democratic Union Party)/YPG (People’s Protection Units) in Syria through the surrogate warfare literature to reveal the causality and temporality among them with the process tracking method. The article has three original efforts: 1) To make the patron-client relationship (PCR) literature and its main discussion points much visible in foreign policy analyses in Türkiye; 2) To compare and contrast the surrogate warfare and proxy war while showing the possibility of synthesizing the surrogate warfare with the PCR literature; and 3) To analyse the USA-PYD/YPG partnership, which has conceptually and theoretically been examined limitedly in national/international literature, through surrogate warfare and PCR; thus, to achieve some findings regarding the relations between “patron” great powers and “client” armed non-state actors (ANSAs). According to this study, the patron USA in Syria has been trying to get faster outcomes at less cost by applying surrogate warfare through the client organization PYD/YPG. In a civil war environment, the PYD/YPG, receiving money, military equipment and training from the USA and putting its local resources at the USA’s disposal, acts obediently and does not set a counter agenda. The USA-PYD/YPG cooperation, which has been going on since 2014, also fulfilled the PCR’s endurance criteria, despite the objections of various actors, notably Türkiye.


patron-client relationship (PCR) surrogate warfare armed non-state actors (ANSAs) USA PYD/YPG Syria