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This article claims:

Wartime land grabs tend to end badly for tyrants, historian warns

The central thesis is as follows:

“If a conquest is recognized internationally, the conqueror has a chance to hold on to new lands and bequeath them to future generations,” said Zubov.

“If, however, the world refuses to acknowledge these annexations, anschlusses, unifications, and reunifications – if the conqueror simply starts drawing new borders of their empire during a war – it all tends to end very poorly and comically if we set aside the all the blood that is spilled in the process.”

The article goes on to cite Napoleon and Hitler as examples supporting the thesis.

However, I'm wondering if there are any counter examples in recent times (post world war 2)? Specifically, counter examples that meet the following criteria:

  1. Invading country seizes land of another country by force.
  2. Conquest is not internationally recognized.
  3. Invaders retains the seized territory, in the long term, despite international condemnation. (Let's say even after the death of the original "conqueror" political leader).
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    The history stackexchange might be an even better fit for this question. Jun 12, 2022 at 8:23
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    I think you might be better to ask for examples that don't meet those criteria. Most countries were ruled by dictators (hereditary monarchs) until recently. International recognition was hardly a concept. And the conquerors often retained their territory for centuries. The conquest of most of Latin America in the name of the Spanish kings and queens world be one example.
    – Obie 2.0
    Jun 12, 2022 at 10:50
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    @Trilarion OK, I have retracted my close vote.
    – Alexei
    Jun 12, 2022 at 13:49
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    UK, very broadly: Romans, Saxons, Vikings, French. Then the UK itself went on to claim about 1/4 of the Earth's landmass, some of which it still tentatively holds to this day.
    – Tetsujin
    Jun 12, 2022 at 17:11
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    Wikipedia lists Golan Heights, East Jerusalem, Hyderabad, Goa and Tibet. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Annexation Feb 28, 2023 at 21:27

4 Answers 4

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Western Sahara seems to meet your requirements:

Dictator

From Wikipedia:

The Kingdom of Morocco is a monarchy with a Parliament and an independent judiciary. Morocco was an authoritarian regime according to the Democracy Index of 2014. The constitution grants the king honorific powers (among other powers); he is both the secular political leader and the "Commander of the Faithful" as a direct descendant of the Prophet Mohammed. He presides over the Council of Ministers; appoints the Prime Minister from the political party that has won the most seats in the parliamentary elections, and on recommendations from the latter, appoints the members of the government. The constitution of 1996 theoretically allowed the king to terminate the tenure of any minister, and after consultation with the heads of the higher and lower Assemblies, to dissolve the Parliament, suspend the constitution, call for new elections, or rule by decree.

seizes land of another country by force

On 6 November 1975 Morocco initiated the Green March into Western Sahara; 350,000 unarmed Moroccans converged on the city of Tarfaya in southern Morocco and waited for a signal from King Hassan II of Morocco to cross the border in a peaceful march. A few days before, on 31 October, Moroccan troops invaded Western Sahara from the north.

Conquest is not internationally recognized.

On 18 December 2019, the Comoros became the first nation to open a consulate in Laayoune in support of Moroccan claims to Western Sahara. In January 2020, The Gambia and Guinea opened consulates in Dakhla; meanwhile, Gabon opened a consulate general in Laayoune. As part of the Moroccan-Israeli normalisation deal, the United States established a temporary consulate post in Dakhla in January 2021 as a transition to establishing a permanent consulate within the near future.

Invaders hold the seized territory over the long term. (Let's say for two or more generations after the death of the original "conqueror").

Hassan II, King in 1975, only died in 1999, so only one generation. However the way international recognition is going, it seems plausible that this occupation will last another generation.

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    Israel would qualify too. Nobody recognizes the occupied territories as part of Israel, but Israel is doing well without international recognition - but with ample support of the USA.
    – Rekesoft
    Jun 13, 2022 at 11:16
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    I would not describe Israel as a dictatorship, so did not use that.
    – User65535
    Jun 13, 2022 at 12:09
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    Ups, yes, I forgot the part about dictatorships. Although it seems a spurious one, now that I think about it. The USA annexed Hawai the same way Russia did with Crimea, first sending the marines then sporting a referendum. Is it any better when a democracy does it?
    – Rekesoft
    Jun 13, 2022 at 12:15
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    @Fizz OMG americans and their ultranationalism! Last week it's Obie 2.0, now it's you, both experienced users that should know better than replying to a comment in a way that doesn't help at all to the answer they are commenting upon - and in your case, you're doing to an old and buried post. I suggested Israel as a possible adition to this answer, they pointed to me that the original redaction of the question specified "dictatorships"; I apologized for not noticing that, then suggested that there's no reason why democracies shouldn't be included. Now, what the f*ck is your rant about?
    – Rekesoft
    Mar 2, 2023 at 14:05
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    @Rekesoft "Nobody supports" and "ample support of the USA" is contradictory. If enough countries(especially powerful ones) acknowledge the annexation, it becomes successful.
    – Eugene
    Mar 2, 2023 at 20:21
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    I don't believe South Ossetia & Abkhazia are considered part of Russia, even by Russia.
    – Allure
    Mar 3, 2023 at 2:24
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    @Allure: You're right; they're allegedly "independent" countries. I've removed that one from my list.
    – dan04
    Mar 3, 2023 at 22:49
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This answer was written before "Post World War 2" was added to the question

I wonder if War of the Pacific would qualify. Chile attacked Bolivia and Peru, eventually got peace/ceasefire treaty and eventually got to keep large parts of the country for good.

Chile was de jure Republic back then, but so is Russian Federation. Wikipedia mentions that transition to more representative parliamentary democracy only happened after this war.

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  • On that angle, the US occupied the Philippines for two generation, around the same time. I'm not even sure Chile qualified as much of a dictatorship at the time (1880s). Especially since they apparently had a change of leadership during the war (1881). Jun 12, 2022 at 17:14
  • And can you explain how this war qualifies for "conquest is not internationally recognized"? I don't seen anything like that in the wiki page. Jun 12, 2022 at 17:19
  • "Chile was also to occupy the provinces of Tacna and Arica for 10 years, when a plebiscite was to be held to determine nationality. ...Finally, in 1929, mediation under US President Herbert Hoover caused the Treaty of Lima to be signed by which Chile kept Arica, and Peru reacquired Tacna." - i.e. it was not recognized for around 30 years
    – alamar
    Jun 12, 2022 at 17:47
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    And the mutual relations between Bolivia and Chile are still bad; they e.g. didn't have full diplomatic relations for 60 years. Recent Bolician presidents like Evo Morales wan't the 1904 treaty "scrapped" bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-22287222 But still that doesn't mean the resulting borders aren't internationally recognized. Jun 12, 2022 at 18:02
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    Interestingly Chile was the only country somewhat actively involved in the League of Nations, after it was founded in the aftermath of WW1. Most other Latin/South American countries seem to have considered the League largely irrelevant, at least according to a British report of the era. Brazil even formally withdrew. They were apparently not happy with article 21 explicitly mentioning the "Monroe doctrine" and the number of permanent seats that Europe had in the Council of the League jstor.org/stable/3015127 Jun 12, 2022 at 18:43
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The definition given in the OP doesn't necessarily constitute annexation, which is a legal term, when the territory is incorporated into a state. Thus, e.g., Golan Heights were annexed by Israel - Israeli law applies on these territories, their inhabitants obtained Israeli citizenship, etc.

On the other hand, Northern Cyprus or Guantanamo are held by force, but not incorporated into the states that hold them. In case of Guantanamo this was notably used to detain there terrorist suspects without giving them the same rights that they would have under the US law, if they were on the US territory (even if not US citizens) - subject that generated much controversy during the George W. Bush and later Obama administration (the latter tried first hold trials in the US, but then decided on transferring the inmates to other countries.)

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  • Guantanamo doesn't fit this question. It wasn't taken by force. The second paragraph isn't very useful. Mar 2, 2023 at 11:05
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    @Trilarion Guantanamo is held by force. But I think you missed the main point that I am making. Mar 2, 2023 at 11:16

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