Armed Forces of the World
Data current to 2002-2008
European Nations | Middle East Nations | American Nations
East Asian Nations | African Nations | South Asian Nations
The charts shows key data on most of the world's nations as of mid-2008.
One very important things to keep in mind is that a small number of nations possess the majority of the worlds economic power and population. Just eight nations (U.S., China, Japan, Germany, France, India, Britain and Russia) possess two thirds of the world's economic activity (GDP), 51 percent of the population and 31 percent of the real estate. This small group of nations, out of some 200 on the planet, also possess nearly all nuclear weapons. Very few nations have armed forces that can do much more than fight internal foes, or neighbors.
Small nations not shown on the Charts; Bahamas, Bahrain, Belize, Bhutan, Cape Verde Islands, Comoro Islands, Cyprus (Greek and Turkish), Guyana, Iceland, Kosovo, Luxembourg, Maldives, Malta, Mauritius, Suriname and Trinidad. All of these nations have miniscule armed forces (although the two halves of Cyprus can call on the armed forces of Greece and Turkey).
HOW TO READ THE CHART
For details on the nations in each continent, see the individual nation notes below.
These charts give evaluations of the quantity and quality of each nation's armed forces. The quantity of each combat unit has been derived from various open sources. Quality has been determined by evaluating historical performance. All armed forces are not equal, and this inequality has been expressed numerically. In calculating the numerical value of total strength it is important to differentiate between what floats and what doesn't. Aircraft carriers and tank divisions are very different instruments of destruction. Both cost about the same, but a carrier cannot march on Moscow, nor can a tank division hunt submarines in the Atlantic. For this reason, land force capabilities only are listed. In reality, they are not entirely separate. Naval forces, particularly carriers, can support ground combat. Tank divisions can seize ports needed by naval forces for their sustenance. Destructive effect was the main consideration in assigning values. This was modified by the mobility and flexibility of the system. Tank divisions can move over a wide area to fight while most air defense forces are limited in their capabilities and mobility. While the numbers of men and weapons are fairly accurate, estimates of quality factors are subjective. Readers may impose their own evaluations. The assessments given are based on current conditions and historical experience. Don't underestimate the historical trends.
Naval power is difficult to compare to land power, as it is with land power that you ultimately defend yourself or overwhelm an opponent. For nations that are not dependent on seaborne trade, naval power is less important than those that are. For most industrial nations, and many third world countries that have periodic food shortages, loss of sea trade is a serious problem.
The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 led to most of the second largest fleet in the world rapidly decaying in the 1990s. Russia lost about 80 percent of its naval power. Itís still the second largest fleet in the world, but the U.S. Navy now has over half the naval combat power in the world, and even more of the kinds of ships that can be sent anywhere on the planet. We are now in the third century of either Britain or the United States as the dominant naval power in the world.
When the Cold War ended, all navies shrunk, even the U.S. Navy. But those of the European nations were reduced the most. In the Pacific, Japan, South Korea and China continued to expand their fleets. So did India. But the U.S. naval forces in the Pacific are still the major player in that region.
European Nations | Middle East Nations | American Nations
East Asian Nations | African Nations | South Asian Nations
COUNTRY lists every nation with a combat value of one or more. Nations with a combat value of less than 1 have little more than national police capability. Many smaller countries, especially those that lack a threatening neighbor, use their forces primarily for internal security. These lesser military powers often repel an invasion most effectively simply by arming the population. Nations are grouped into six regions:. European Nations, Middle East Nations, American Nations, East Asian Nations, African Nations, South Asian Nations.
RNK is the ranking of each nation within its region
COMBAT POWER LAND is the total combat capability of the nation's armed forces except for their navies. Certain nations like Israel and Switzerland have a rapid mobilization capability which achieves the combat value shown within three days of mobilization. Their normal, unmobilized, combat value is less than one third of the value shown. As explained elsewhere, combat value is modified by geographical, climate and political factors. The value given here is a combination of the quantity and quality of manpower, equipment and weapons. This raw combat value is then multiplied by the force multiplier (see below) to combat value shown in this column.
NAVAL capability is separate from land value and is found on the Naval Forces chart.
TOT QUAL (total force quality) is a fraction by which raw (theoretical) combat power should be multiplied to account for imperfect leadership, component of force quality, support, training and other "soft" factors. Think of it as an efficiency rating, with "100" being perfect and "55" being a more common 55 percent efficiency.
TOT POP (population in millions) indicates the nation's relative military manpower resources. Population is also a more meaningful indicator of a nation's size than territory. By our count, the world population is 6.6 billion.
GDP (Gross Domestic Product, in billions of dollars) is a rough gage of the nation's economic power. This does not translate immediately into military power because of the time needed to convert industry from civilian to military production. Mobilization of some types of military equipment takes years. Other types of weapons, especially those using electronics, can be brought to bear in months. By our count, the world GDP is $57.7 trillion (thousand billion).
ACT MEN (active military manpower in thousands) is the total uniformed, paid manpower organized into combat and support units. Because of the widely varying systems of organizing military manpower, this figure is at best a good indicator of the personnel devoted to the military. Industrialized nations hire many civilians to perform support duties, while other nations flesh out skeleton units with ill-prepared reserves, uncertain effect on wartime strength. The use of reserve troops varies considerably. By our count, the world total of active troops is 20.6 million.
MIL BUD (Military Budget in millions of dollars) is the current annual armed forces spending of that nation. All nations use somewhat different accounting systems for defense spending. Efforts are made to eliminate some of the more gross attempts at hiding arms expenditures. Some of the figures, particularly for smaller nations, may be off by 10 percent either way. By our count, the world defense spending is $1.35 trillion (2.34 percent of GDP).
BUD MAN is the annual cost per man for armed forces in thousands of dollars. This is an excellent indicator of the quantity and, to a lesser extent, the quality of weapons and equipment. Some adjustments should be made for different levels of personnel costs, research and development, strategic weapons and waste. The United States, in particular, is prone to all four afflictions. The precise adjustments for these factors are highly debatable. One possible adjustment would be to cut the US cost per man by at least one third. Other nations with strategic programs and large R&D establishments (Russia, Britain, France, China, etc.) should be adjusted with deductions of no more than 15 percent. Britain could also take another 5 or 10 percent cut because of its all-volunteer forces higher payroll. Most nations are willing to pay for a volunteer force, if they can afford it. Thatís because volunteers tend to be more effective. At the other extreme, many nations produce a credible defense force using far less wealth. Low paid conscripts, good leadership and the sheer need to improvise enables many of these poorer nations to overcome their low budgets. However, most nations end up getting what they pay for.
AFV (Armored Fighting Vehicles) These include tanks, armored personnel carriers and most other armored combat and support vehicles. AFV are the primary components of a ground offensive, and greatly enhance chances of success.
AIRCRAFT CMBT are the number of combat aircraft available, including helicopter gunships and armed maritime patrol aircraft. This, like AFV, is a good indicator of raw power. The quality of the aircraft, their pilots, ground crew and leadership, air force are the most important factors in the air power's overall value.
The Total Quality is calculated by assigning 0 (lowest) to 9 (highest) values for the following components of combat capability.
Ldrs is leadership. The quality of officers and NCOs.
Eqp is equipment. The quantity and quality of military equipment.
Exp is experience. Not just combat experience, but the quality of training.
Spt is support. This is logistics, the ability to get military supplies to the troops.
Mob is mobilization. The ability to mobilize the national resources for combat.
Trad is tradition. Military tradition, good military habits, based on practical experience.
Notes on National Military Power
(for those who are not keen on numerical analysis)
What follows is a brief comment on each nation covered in
the chart. In alphabetical order.
Afghanistan- The Taliban attempt at a comeback has been
reinforced by drug gang profits and al Qaeda choosing the Pakistani border area
as the location for their last stand. With all that, violence nationwide is
still lower than last year. A sharp
increase in Taliban activity in 2006 brought forth a sharp response from
government and NATO forces. Independent minded tribes, warlords and drug gangs
remain a greater threat to peace,
prosperity and true national unity, than the Taliban (which is based
across the border in Pakistan).
The newly elected Pakistani government is reluctant to make on the pro-Taliban
tribes and various Islamic terrorist organizations. That has increased the flow
of gunmen from Pakistan into
But the violence inside Afghanistan
is growing, largely because of the growth of the drug gangs, and their support
for tribes (especially pro-Taliban ones) that oppose the national government.
Too small, too obsessed with internal post-communist disorder and surrounded by
stronger powers. Major military threat beyond its borders is official or
unofficial support to ethnic Albanian populations in neighboring countries,
especially Serbia, Macedonia, Kosovo and Greece.
A few hundred Islamic rebels persist, despite the hostility of most Algerians.
The local Islamic terrorists have now officially become a part of al Qaeda, and
have turned to suicide bombing. This kills a lot of civilians, and increases
the hatred the population already feels towards the Islamic radicals. The level
of terrorist violence is still much lower than it was a few years ago. The
population is not happy, and a general uprising remains a threat because of
dissatisfaction with the old revolutionaries that refuse to honor election results,
share power or govern effectively.
The long war between the (formerly) communist government and the US backed UNITA
ended shortly after the Cold War did. Peace brought with it oil wealth and
government corruption. Another civil war is brewing over that, and rebels still
fight on in oil rich Cabinda province.
The after effects (low morale and reduced budgets) of their 1982 defeat by Britain in the Falklands
war have finally faded. Conscription was abolished and the military became much
more professional and effective. Now a major participant in peacekeeping
Armenia- Nagorno-Karabakh is a province in Azerbaijan
populated by Armenians. This has led to
a war between Azerbaijan and
and the Armenians won. But Armenia's
economy was wrecked, and Azerbaijan
wants a rematch.
An economic boom, and fears of Islamic radicalism, have led to more investment
into the armed forces. Troops are well equipped and professional. Regarded by
many as, at the individual troop level,
the best force in the world.
Austria- Officially neutral since the 1950's, and now
without a Warsaw Pact threat. Armed forces have been shrinking.
Azerbaijan- Has had a series of internal disputes since
gaining its independence from the Soviet Union
in 1991. Also an ongoing war with neighboring Armenia over long disputed
territory. But sharp rise in oil income has provided cash for military buildup.
Threatened by Iran, friendly
forces and increasing its own.
Bangladesh- Poverty stricken and without any armed threats
except from within.
Another new nation formed in the wake of the Soviet Union's
demise. Poor economy, poor armed forces and not much else.
Belgium- Never quite able to meet all of its NATO
commitments, now retrenching in the face of the non-existent Warsaw Pact
Belize- Long standing tension with Guatemala (which claims Belize as a "lost province") produces
avid attention to military matters and ties with Great Britain.
Benin- Poor African nation with no active external enemies.
Bhutan- Poverty stricken monarchy on India's
northern border. Nominal defense forces and no disputes with anyone.
Bolivia- Long festering dispute with Chile over lost
access to ocean. Nation is too poor to create an armed force that can do
anything about it. Military activity largely against internal opposition, or
trying to control long simmering conflict between wealthier urbanites (who tend
to have European ancestors) and poor farmers (who are mostly Indians.)
† Bosnia-Herzegovina was
torn up the 1992-95 civil war between Serb, Muslim and Croat factions. The 1995
peace deal leaves the country split in half, with the Serb half still talking
about what a bad deal they got. The Muslims keep an eye on Islamic
conservatives and pro-al Qaeda groups. Bosnia continues to attract Islamic
terrorists, despite the local government becoming increasingly hostile to these
foreign troublemakers and alien Islamic conservatism.
Botswana- Poor, land-locked African nation with minor border
disputes with neighbors. Insignificant armed forces. Simmering border dispute
with Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The major military power in South America.
Minor border disputes with Paraguay
Brunei- Incredibly rich oil state surrounded by Malaysia. No
disputes with larger neighbor, but protected by British Gurkha mercenaries and
Bulgaria- Fear of the Turks, and a weakening of its
traditional Russian "protector", caused it to join NATO in 2004.
Corruption still a major problem.
Faso- Landlocked, poor, internal strife and
not much military power.
Burma- Poor nation ruled by junta and beset by many internal
disputes. No disputes with neighbors. Ethnic and political opponents to the
government operate in remote border areas.
Burundi- Poor, landlocked, no external disputes. War between
better organized and more aggressive Tutsis and more numerous Hutu tribes
continues to simmer. It's been going on for centuries, but the latest
installment has finally ended, with the last Hutu group in Burundi giving
up, then changing its mind.
Cambodia- Poor, corrupt and militarily insignificant.
Cameroon-Minor border disputes with neighbors, little
internal unrest. Nominal armed forces.
Maintains nominal armed forces, used mainly for peacekeeping. Relies on U.S. for
protection from any potential threats.
Verde Is. Nominal armed forces, no internal
or external disputes.
Central African Republic- Poor, land locked, no external
disputes, much internal. Nominal armed forces have been torn apart by current
Chad- Rebel movements grew and united, aided by Sudanese
backed Arab militias from across the border. The Chad government gave refuge to
Sudanese Darfur rebels. The government thought they had a peace deal, but it
quickly fell apart. European peacekeepers are arriving, but are having problems
obtaining sufficient helicopters and air transport in general. Much of the
unrest along the border is caused by refugees from tribal battles in Sudan, who
bring their feuds with them. Prospects for peace are not good.
Chile- Strong economy, democratic government, efficient
military tradition but shrinking armed forces because of lack of internal or
external threat. The Tacna-Arica region provides a long standing territorial
dispute between Chile, Peru and Bolivia.
confrontation with Taiwan
continues, as do hostilities with neighbors, separatists, dissenters and
ancient enemies. A new government in Taiwan
plays down independence, and China
responds with soothing words. But also China speeds up modernization of
its armed forces, but in ways Westerners have a difficult time understanding. China has
developed a major Cyber War capability, and has been using it for over a year.
The targets of this, in Western Europe and the U.S., have figured this out, and a
new crises is born. China
has become major secret supplier of cheap weapons to bad guys everywhere. World
class weapons are planned for the future, some 10-20 years from now.
Colombia- After over four decades of violence, leftist
rebels are rapidly losing support, recruits and territory. Even leftist
demagogue Hugo Chavez of Venezuela
has dropped support for the Colombian rebels, although he is still providing
sanctuary for them and their cocaine producing allies. The drug gangs and
leftist rebels have merged in many parts of the country, and war in
increasingly about money, not ideology. The leftist rebels are definitely
losing, but all that drug money will keep them in the game for quite a while.
Comoro Is. Militarily insignificant mini-state that is prone
to coups by foreign mercenaries. France rescues government regularly.
Congo- Minor dispute with Zaire over border, minor internal
opposition. Nominal armed forces.
(Democratic Republic, formerly Zaire)-
Multiple tribal and political militias, plus an increasing number of bandits,
continue to roam the countryside. Peacekeepers and army action have reduced the
size of these violent groups, but not eliminated them. However, there are fewer places that the bad
guys can roam freely. Attempts to merge rebels into the army has not worked
well. The last major problem is a Tutsi militia in the east, which will not
disarm until the government destroys Hutu militias built around Hutu mass
murderers who fled neighboring Rwanda
in the 1990s. UN peacekeepers criticized for not fighting more, but thatís not
their job. Congolese army not up to it yet either, so there it simmers.
Costa Rica- No armed forces, only paramilitary troops. No
internal or external disputes.
Fought its way free from Yugoslav domination in 1993 and defeated its Serb
minority in 1995. Well organized, equipped and led armed forces, usually allied
with the Bosnians.
Large armed forces (that are rapidly deteriorating), declining economy (except
for tourist attractions), no external threats (except the imagined US one) and
growing internal opposition.
(Greek)- Heavily armed Greek portion of Cyprus, faces Turkish forces in
other part of island. The UN keeps the peace between Turkish and Greek locals
as well as a Turk army in the northern part of the island.
(Turkish)- See above.
Czech Republic- No external threats. Declining armed forces (due
to end of the Cold War), revived since joining NATO..
Denmark- No external or internal threats. Declining armed
forces due to end of the Cold War.
Djbouti. Border Disputes with Somalia
Strong ties with France
and basically under French protection. Internally, the Somali-speaking Issa tribe struggles
against Afar nomads.
Dominican Republic- No external disputes, low level internal
dissent. Weak armed forces.
Ecuador- Border dispute with Peru
and Ecuador have long argued
over their border in the Amazon river area),
internal disorder. Lackluster armed forces.
Egypt- Long standing disputes with Sudan and Libya, minor internal disorder.
Military professional and good at getting the most out of a low budget.
Salvador- Ongoing civil disorder because of growth of gang activity.
Equatorial Guinea- Minor dispute with Gabon, weak
economy and low level internal disputes. Lackluster armed forces.
Eritrea- Well trained and battle experienced armed forces,
but poorly equipped. Disputes with neighbors. Potential internal problems
because population is half Christian and half Muslim. The country is run by a
Estonia- Ethnic. commercial and diplomatic ties to
provide some additional protection from another Russian takeover. That, plus
recently joining NATO.
Ethiopia- Border dispute with Eritrea
festers, and invasion of Somalia
bogs down in local clan feuds. Internally, rebellious Muslim groups are a
constant threat, especially with more active support from Eritrea. Ogaden
province, right on the Somali border, and full of ethnic Somalis, has rebelled
again. Not a big deal, but one more hot spot that burns up troops and scarce
cash. These two border wars have been around for centuries, and not likely to
go away now.
Finland- Neutral and well prepared to defend it.
France- Well diversified armed forces, from strategic
nuclear missiles to intervention forces. But post-Cold War budget cuts have
Gabon- Minor dispute with Equatorial Guinea and some internal
Two small, but feisty, minorities have established autonomous enclaves with the
help of Russian ďpeacekeepers.Ē This has united the country, but not done
anything to help the cash starved military.
The military has been shrinking since the end of the Cold War, and declining in
quality. Was once one of the most professional and effective armed forces in Europe. Some troops still are, but most are not.
Ongoing internal disputes, above average (for Africa)
Britain- The end of the Cold War brought budget cuts, but combat effectiveness
was maintained. But there has also been a major decline in force levels.
Greece- Major military objective is still preparation for a
war with Turkey, which Greece has
little chance of winning. The Aegean sea supplies a potential conflict between Turkey and Greece. The two nations have been
slowly developing a warmer relationship, but the dispute goes back nearly a
Guatemala- Claims Belize, but lacks the military force to
take it. Much internal dissent, ongoing war with insurgent groups.
Very poor nation with equally poor armed forces.
Very poor nation with equally poor armed forces.
Disputes with Venezuela and Suriname.
Nominal armed forces and unstable internal situation.
Haiti- Peacekeepers keep a lid on two century old violence
between the rich and the poor, and the criminal and political gangs.
Peacekeepers have busted up many of the gangs, and sharply lowered the crime
rate. But the government is still corrupt and prone to breed lawbreakers and
Some border disputes, and a bit of internal dissent. Armed forces oriented
towards suppressing insurgency.
Downsized military after the Cold War
armed forces because of joining NATO. Some potential for war with Rumania over
Nominal armed forces, depends on NATO for security.
India- Regional superpower, with lots of good infantry, some
tanks and a few nukes. The struggle between nationalists, the government and
sundry ethnic and religious groups causes some internal instability, along with
lingering communist (Maoist) rebels. The long standing (since 1948) antagonism
between India and Pakistan
continues to make another major war possible. A conflict between India, the Kashmiris and Pakistan over who should control Kashmir serves as the focus of the India-Pakistan
dispute. Several territorial disputes remain between China
has been fighting Nagaland insurgents since the late 1940s. Recent peace talks
with China and Pakistan have
Indonesia- Basically at peace, but separatism, pirates,
Islamic terrorists and government corruption create a volatile situation that
could get hot real fast. Islamic terrorists have been greatly diminished, as
Islamic moderates flex their traditional popularity. Aceh still has a few
diehard separatist rebels. Newly independent East Timor
has been unable to govern itself.
The basic problem is that an Islamic conservative minority has veto power over the reformist majority.
The supply of peaceful solutions is drying up. After that comes another
revolution. Half the population consists of ethnic minorities (mainly Turks and
Arabs), and these groups are getting more restive and violent. Meanwhile, the
Islamic conservatives are determined to support terrorism overseas and build
nuclear weapons at home, rather than improving the economy and living
standards. Unrest and terrorist violence becoming more common, and government
seeks foreign adventures to distract an unhappy population.
The ďsurge offensiveĒ of 2007 capitalized on years of work, and crushed the
Islamic terrorists. Violence plunged by over 80 percent. More areas of the
country are now at peace (as most have been since 2003.) The Sunni Arab
minority has worked out peace deals with the majority Kurds and Shia Arabs.
Some Sunni Arab Islamic radicals are still active, but are in decline. Some
Sunni Arabs, who had fled the country, are returning, but nearly half the Sunni
Arabs are already gone. The Shia militias have been defeated as well, mainly by
Iraqi police and troops. Corruption and inept government continues to be a
Ireland- Nominal armed forces, no real foreign or internal
Israel- Palestinians are trying to make some kind of peace,
in order to reverse the economic disaster they brought on themselves because of
their seven year terror campaign against Israel. Palestinians are tired of terrorism, even
though they still support it. The Palestinian economy has collapsed, as foreign
charity dried up because the people elected the Hamas (Islamic terrorists)
party to power. Civil war between radical Hamas and corrupt Palestinian old
guard (Fatah) has split Palestinians. Iran
backed Islamic radicals (Hizbollah) in Lebanon have revived fears of civil
war up there. Hizbollah threatens to drag
Lebanon into another
civil war, or another war with Israel.
Meanwhile, Israeli economy booms as Israel continues its effective
Italy- Conscript based forces, with many professional
segments. Continuing to shrink because of the of the Cold War. Major
reorganization under way, with an eye towards having only professionals in the
Coast- An uneasy truce continues. The north
and the south finally make a deal over money, religion and power. All this is
watched over by peacekeepers set up
between the factions.
Very small, but professional armed forces. No external, but a few internal,
Japan- Well trained and lavishly equipped forces. Without
nuclear weapons, not likely to cause neighboring China
any trouble. Could become a nuclear power very quickly.
Jordan- Small, but professional, armed forces. Not as good
as they used to be, but still a cut above all the neighbors (except Israel).
Kosovo- West Europeans got their way, and Kosovo became
disagrees with that, and Big Brother Russia offers all manner of
support, and threats. The Greater Albania Movement is driven by part time
Albanian nationalists, full time gangsters, political opportunists, Kosovo
separatists and some Islamic radicals.
Kazakhstan- Small, well equipped (because of Soviet Union weapons in place at independence) army and
air force. No external threats, but growing internal unrest because of
corruption and dictatorship.
Increasing internal disputes put the military's traditional professionalism to
North- unrest, corruption and privation threaten the iron control that has long
kept the north peaceful. North Korea
continues to destroy its economy, in order to maintain armed forces capable of
invading South Korea
and keep its own population in bondage. Continued famine in the north has
prompted China to send more
and more troops to the border to keep hungry North Koreas out. North Korean
military declines in power, as lack of money for maintenance or training cause
continuing rot. Government split into reform and conservative factions, making
change difficult to achieve.
South- Less numerous, but much higher quality forces compared to North Korea.
Much more modern equipment. More politically reliable, if only because the
south is a functioning democracy. The
1950-53 war has paused, via an armistice, not ended. South
Korea, North Korea
and the U.S.
are still there. South Koreans are growing tired of the madness that still
reigns in the north.
Kurds- Not a nation, but some 30 million people living in Turkey, Iraq,
Iran and Syria. Armed
separatist group, the PKK, has been fighting for several decades now. Turkish
aircraft and troops now operating on the Iraqi side of the border, seeking to
either destroy Kurdish separatists, or push their bases further into Iraq. Kurds
continue the 5,000 year struggle to form their own country. Iran is cracking down on its Kurds, while Turkey threatens even more action if the Iraqi
Kurdish government doesnít get serious about the Kurdish separatists who
operate inside Turkey, from
bases in Iraq.
Iraqi Kurds believe they will get control of some Iraqi oil fields, providing
cash for all manner of opportunities. But that is opposed by Iraqi Arabs and
Kuwait- Forces crushed by Iraq in mid-1990, but since rebuilt.
Iran replaces Iraq as main
threat. Most Kuwaitis very pro-U.S. American troops stationed here since 1991.
Kyrgyztan. Small armed forces, nearly half the population
consists of ethnic minorities. Tadjikistan and Kyrgyztan have border and ethnic
disputes that could lead to war. Growing internal unrest because of corruption
Landlocked backwater with lackluster armed forces and not much to fight over. Vietnam and Laos
have some disagreements over real estate and Vietnams support of Laotian
Tiny armed forces, about 40 percent of the population is ethnic (mainly
Russian) minorities. Joined NATO to help avoid Russians taking over again.
Syrian occupation force gone, but pro-Iranian Hizbollah still controls most of
the south. Civil war could return because of Hizbollah aggression and Syrian
Minimal armed forces, depends on South Africa for defense and its
Civil war ended because of mutual exhaustion among the contending groups.
Underlying causes (corruption, tribal rivalries) still there.
Libya- Lavishly equipped but ineptly trained and led armed
forces. Has sworn off interfering with neighbors, as well as chemical, nuclear
and biological weapons, and support of terrorists. Growing internal unrest
because of corruption and dictatorship.
Tiny armed forces, about 17 percent of the population is ethnic (mainly
Russian) minorities. Joined NATO to avoid risk of the Russians taking over
Minimal armed forces, depends on neighbors.
Madagascar- Island nation that disputes ownership of some nearby
islands with France.
Minimal armed forces.
Landlocked, poor, not much military power.
Islamic fundamentalist insurgents are a constant problem. Some disputes with
neighbors over several island groups.
Island microstate without
much to worry about. Minor dispute over some nearby islands.
Landlocked, poverty stricken, not much for the military to do.
Malta- Small island state. Strategic position, theoretical
threat from Libya.
Mauritania- Long standing hostility with Senegal over
border dispute. Peace talks have replaced threat of war that neither side could
Mauritius- Small island state without much need for armed
Mexico- The U.S. border is like a war zone. The passing of
one-party rule, the growth of drug gangs, and increasing corruption in the
security forces, has triggered growing violence and unrest. The government has
gone to war with the drug gangs, and the outcome is still in doubt.
Moldova- Moldova, who's population is largely Romanian, last
belonged to Russia.
It is now split by a civil war between Moldovans wanting to be independent,
those that want merger with Romania
and ethnic Russians that want anything but that. These have split off and
formed the Trans-Dniester republic.
Caught between China and Russia, thus
only minimal armed forces. China
has a voiced a desire to get Mongolia
Morocco- One of the better armed forces in the area. Growing
problem with Islamic radicals. Ongoing conflict with separatists in the Western Sahara. Morocco and POLISARIO insurgents have
been on the verge of making peace for years.
Civil war tensions linger. The nation, including its armed forces, are in slowly
Nepal- Radical communist rebels succeed in eliminating the
monarchy, via an alliance with political parties. This has decreased Maoist
violence, and caused a struggle for
control of the government. All this has triggered uprising by other unhappy
groups (more radical Maoists, hill tribes, ethnic Indians).
Netherlands- Small but professional military. Continues to
maintain an amphibious capability, despite its relatively small population.
New Zealand- Steadily shrinking armed forces since end of
the Cold War . No one in the area to use them on. Forces do a lot of
Nicaragua- Military remains relatively large but not
terribly efficient. Primary objective is internal politics. Insurgents of
various flavors still out there, but most now use votes, rather than guns.
Landlocked, poor, border dispute with Libya. Chad
have some border and ethnic disputes of long duration.
Nigeria- Military superpower in the region. Lots of
quantity, some quality. Too many tribes, not enough oil money and too much
corruption creates growing violence. The
tribes and gangs (both criminal and political) in the oil producing region (the
Niger Delta) are getting organized, and a lot more violent. The northern Muslims
want more control over the federal government (and the oil money). Local rebels
threaten loss of most oil revenue, which is getting the governments attention.
Norway- Small but efficient forces, backed by large body of
Oman- Has been building up armed forces, fearing aggression
Islamic radicals in the north, and rebellious Pushtun and Baluchi tribes along
the Afghan border, continue to cause problems.
The Taliban has become stronger in Pakistan,
where it originated, than in Afghanistan. Newly elected Pakistani government wants to
make peace with the Taliban and the Taliban is willing to pretend it is
cooperating. India and Pakistan both
have nukes, making escalation a potential catastrophe. As a result, recent
peace talks have lowered the possibility of war, but both sides continue an
arms race. Pakistani Islamic radical groups continue to support terrorism in India and Afghanistan, and are still threatening
the Pakistani government with attacks. Pakistan has always been a mess,
and does not appear to be getting better.
Palestine- Split into Fatah
(controls West Bank) and Hamas (controls Gaza)
factions. Peace deal with Israel
must want for these factions to settle their differences. Hamas wants Israel
destroyed, Fatah willing to make a deal.
Only armed forces are primarily para-military. No external threats.
Papua-New Guinea- Much of population stone age, nominal
military. Armed forces involved tiny and not heavily armed. Relies on Australia to
help out if tribal disputes get out of hand.
Landlocked and caught between much larger nations. Low quantity and quality of
Beset by internal problems, armed forces organized to deal with it. The Shining
Path movement making a comeback. Border disputes with Ecuador are
Philippines- No external enemies, plenty of internal ones. Islamic
minority in the south wants its own country, and the expulsion of non-Muslims.
Communist rebels in the north fight for social justice and a dictatorship. Both
of these movements are losing and the Muslims are negotiating a peace deal that
inches closer to a done deal. The communists are taking a beating, and not
willing to talk seriously yet.
Poland- End of the Cold War
led to shrinking of army. Morale was low through the 1980's because of
internal political strife. Joining NATO revived the military and reduced fear
of Germans and Russians. Has done lots of peacekeeping, gaining valuable
operating experience in the process.
Big shrinkage of military after de-colonialization of 1970's, and end of Cold
War . Some rebuilding since as economy boomed.
Qatar- Another Persian Gulf mini-state that tries to
purchase the best defense that money can buy. Fears growing power of Iran.
Romania- Never very efficient in the best of times, got much
worse since fall of communist government in 1989. Still faces possible conflict
with Hungary over Transylvania.
Joining European Union and NATO put these disputes on back burner.
Rebuilding and reforming the decrepit Soviet era armed forces continues. The
war against gangsters and Islamic radicals in Chechnya
has been won, but the Islamic radicals continue to operate in other parts of
returns to police state ways, and traditional threatening attitude towards
Similar to Burundi,
with constant violence between Hutu and Tutsi, except here the Hutu are in
charge until the 1994 civil war. Ethnic rivalry between Hutus and Tutsis led to
nearly a million (mostly Tutsi) dead in 1994. Millions of Hutu fled as the
Tutsi fought back. Hutu guerrillas operated out of Zaire for over a decade, but are
now being disarmed by UN peacekeepers..
Sao Tome & Principe. Island mini-state, of no military
Saudi Arabia- Ancient warrior tradition, but still trying to
master the skills of modern soldiering. U.S. Iraq invasion led to showdown with
Islamic radicals, which the radicals lost. Building up military to deal with
Senegal- Mauritania and Senegal have settled their long
standing border dispute. Senegalese troops had good reputation in French
service during colonial period. Armed forces a cut above neighboring forces.
all thatís left of Yugoslavia.
Relatively large armed forces, good fighters. There is great potential for
additional conflicts between Serbs and Albanians, Kosovo and Macedonians.
Kosovo is still claimed as Serbian territory stolen by NATO.
Is. Island mini-state not much interested in military affairs.
Sierra Leone- Poor, no important internal or external
threats. No military power.
Singapore- Small city-state, disproportionately large and
efficient armed forces. Robust economy worth defending.
Inherited numerous arms plants building weapons of Russian design. All for export. Local armed
forces in bad shape.
Managed to break away from Yugoslavia
with minimal damage and stood apart from
the ensuing fighting. Small, but eager, armed forces.
Somalia- A failed state that defies every attempt at nation
building. It was never a country, but a collection of clans and tribes that
fight each other constantly over
economic issues (land and water). The
new "transitional" government, was nearly wiped out by † an "Islamic Courts" movement (which
attempted to put the entire country
under the rule of Islamic clergy and Islamic law). When Islamic Courts
threatened to expand into Ethiopia,
invaded and smashed the Islamic Courts. The Islamic radicals have turned to
terrorism, and Eritrea
continues to provide support. The country remains an economic and political
mess, a black hole on the map. Not much hope in sight.
South Africa- Regional superpower. Modern and efficient
army, navy, air force and paramilitary. Only nation to voluntarily give up
nukes. Much internal strife but no neighbors that are a threat. Radical elements of the Xhosa, Zulu and Boers ethnic groups threaten armed
Spain- Relatively small but modernizing forces. No external
threats, although some internal strife.
Sri Lanka- Tamil minority (19th century economic migrants
from southern India)
battles to partition the island. A long
ceasefire ends and fighting has resumed. Tamil separatists (the LTTE) are
losing this time. LTTE will not go quietly, even though they lose a little more
Sudan- Muslims in the north try to suppress separatist
tendencies among Christians in the south and Muslim rebels in the east and
west. All this is complicated by development of oil fields in the south, and Muslim
government attempts to drive Christians from the oil region. Battles over land
in the west pit Arab herders against black Sudanese farmers. Both sides are Muslim,
but the government is backing the Arabs. The government uses Arab nationalism
and economic ties with Russia
and China to defy the world
and get away with driving non-Arab tribes from Darfur.
The government believes time is on its side, and that the West will never
trying anything bold and effective to halt the violence. So far, the government
has been proven right.
Suriname- A shaky government gives rise to various insurgent
groups. Ongoing civil strife.
Sweden- Small country, large economy, powerful reserve based
armed forces. A long time neutral and successful at it. Sharp reduction in
armed forces over the last few years.
Same drill as Sweden,
but reductions not as severe.
Syria- Long a police state, has a small number of religious,
political and ethnic insurgents. Not much action of late, but the potential is
there. At odds with all its neighbors and full of internal strife. Military of
questionable efficiency against competent opponent (as in Israel). Syria is discussing peace and the U.S. has managed to broker a peace that Jordan can live
Tajikistan- Small, well equipped (because of Soviet Union weapons in place at independence) army and
air force. Tight ties with Russia,
who provided forces to fight rebels. Some 30 percent of the population are
ethnic minorities. Being adjacent to Afghanistan, is beset by Islamic
fundamentalists insurgents, as well as Tadjiks unhappy with the local dictator.
Losers in 1940's Chinese Civil war. Man for man, one of the best armed forces
in the region. Some internal strife, no longer claims rule of mainland China. Making
peace with China.
Tanzania- Minor border disputes, otherwise undistinguished
Thailand- Malay Muslims in the south are three percent of
the population, and different. Most
Thais, are ethnic Thais and Buddhist. In the south, however, Islamic radicalism
has arrived, along with an armed effort to create a separate Islamic state in
the three southern provinces. Islamic terrorists grew more powerful month by
month for several years, and refuse to negotiate. Security forces persisted and
are making progress in rounding up the terrorists. Meanwhile, civil war brews
between urban and rural segments of the population, under the leadership of
political parties that differ on how the nation should be run.
Togo- No significant internal or external threats. Not much
in the way of armed forces either.
Island mini-state with
nominal armed forces.
Tunisia- No internal or external threats and reasonably
efficient, but small, armed forces.
Some internal strife, some disputes with neighbors, but has sufficiently
efficient armed forces to handle just about any situation. Probably still the
strongest (potential) Muslim military power.
Turkmenistan- Small, well equipped (because of Soviet Union weapons in place at independence) army and
air force. No external threats, but possibility of internal disorder. About 20
percent of the population is ethnic minorities. Growing internal unrest because
of corruption and dictatorship.
Uganda- Religion and tribalism combine to create a
persistent rebellion in the north, which was aided by Sudan. But now
the northern rebels have been worn down, and the unrest is just about done
with. Final peace deal with LRA rebels being negotiated. Itís taking longer
than expected, and the LRA may just fade away before a final deal is made.
Ukraine- Crimea, originally conquered by Russia in the 19th century, but given to the Soviet Republic
of the Ukraine in the 1950s,
is now the center of a dispute between Russia
over who should now own it. Ukraine
leans West, which bothers Russia
a great deal.
United Arab Emirates- A collection of mini-states in the Persian Gulf that buys the best defense it can and fears
With the decline of Russiaís
military effectiveness, now the premier world military power.
Surrounded by larger nations, basically a token armed forces whose main task is
keeping the population in line.
Uzbekistan- Small, well equipped (because of Soviet Union weapons in place at independence) army and
air force. No external threats, and small possibility of internal disorder
because only ten percent of population are ethnic minorities. Growing internal
unrest because of corruption and dictatorship.
serious internal or external threats. Competent armed forces for the region.
Vietnam- There are several minor insurgent groups, but the
biggest potential problems comes from the populations, unhappy over a shaky
economy. No combat since 1979. Combat experienced troops have retired, leaving
an ill equipped (but large) armed forces. Bad blood between China and Vietnam remain.
Yemen- Hostile to large neighbor (but less populous) Saudi Arabia.
Lots of warriors, not a lot of well trained soldiers. Poor. Tribal insurgents
are still out there (supported by Saudi Arabia
depending on the tribe.)
Zambia- Poor, not many internal or external enemies. Nominal
Was once one of the better run nations in Africa.
Small armed forces now used mainly to keep population terrified. Dictator has
ruined economy and forced a third of the population to flee the country.
Little Wars, Big Headlines and Tiny Conflicts
As the charts demonstrate, some nations have small armed
forces and even smaller combat power. Thus a civil war in many African nations
amounts to little more than a few thousand lightly armed troops firing a few
shots and one faction deciding to flee across the border or into the bush. The
winners move into the capital and take over. In many nations, be they in Africa or elsewhere, an ongoing "rebellion"
would, in the days before CNN and satellite news, be considered little more
than "a bandit problem." Put an eloquent bandit in front of a camera
and you have a revolutionary. Yet if war is a matter of degree, than there are
few nations on our planet capable of getting a proper war going. For the
remainder, any action is basically large scale police work.
This section is designed to present a brief introduction to
current international and internal wars, with notes on each. The next time you
hear about some obscure conflict, a quick check with this chapter will bring
you up to date on the background of the situation.
While the mass media continues to feature wars and
terrorism, the overall trend continues away from such unpleasantness. Such
stories are anathema to the mass media, because they do not attract eyeballs,
and revenue. Thatís the way people are, and the result is a distorted view of
trends in global violence.
Worldwide, violence continues to decline, as it has for the
last few years. Violence has also greatly diminished, or disappeared completely, in places
like Iraq, Nepal, Chechnya, Congo,
Indonesia and Burundi. Even Afghanistan,
touted as the new war zone, is seeing less violence this year than last.
All this continues a trend that began when the Cold War
ended, and the Soviet Union no longer
subsidized terrorist and rebel groups everywhere. The current wars are
basically uprisings against police states or feudal societies, which are seen
as out-of-step with the modern world. Many are led by radicals preaching failed
dogmas (Islamic conservatism, Maoism), that still resonate among people who
don't know about the dismal track records of these movements.
The War on Terror has
morphed into the War Against Islamic Radicalism. This religious radicalism has
always been around, for Islam was born as an aggressive movement, that used
violence and terror to expand. Past periods of conquest are regarded fondly by
Muslims. The current enthusiasm for violence in the name of God has been building for over half a century. Historically,
periods of Islamic radicalism have flared up periodically in response to
corrupt governments, as a vain attempt to impose a religious solution on some
social or political problem. The current violence is international because of
the availability of planet wide mass media (which needs a constant supply of
headlines), and the fact that the Islamic world is awash in tyranny and
economic backwardness. Islamic radicalism itself is incapable of mustering much
military power, and the movement largely relies on terrorism to gain attention.
Most of the victims are fellow Muslims, which is why the radicals eventually
become so unpopular among their own people that they run out of new recruits
and fade away. This is what is happening now. The American invasion of Iraq was a clever exploitation of this, forcing
the Islamic radicals to fight in Iraq, where they killed many
Muslims, especially women and children, thus causing the Islamic radicals to
lose their popularity among Muslims.
Normally, the West does not get involved in these Islamic
religious wars, unless attacked in a major way. Moreover, modern sensibilities
have made that more difficult. For example, fighting back is considered, by
Muslims, as culturally insensitive ("war on Islam"), and some of the
Western media have picked up on this bizarre interpretation of reality. However, some historians like to point out,
for example, that the medieval Crusades were a series of wars fought in
response to Islamic violence against Christians, not the opening act of
aggression against Islam that continue to the present. Thus, the current war on
terror is, indeed, in the tradition of the Crusades. And there are many other
"Crusades" brewing around the world, in the many places where
aggressive Islamic militants are making
unprovoked war on their Christian neighbors. Political Correctness among
academics and journalists causes pundits to try and turn this reality inside
out. But a close look at the violence in Africa, Asia and the Middle
East shows a definite pattern of Islamic radicals persecuting
those who do not agree with them, not the other way around.
While Islamic terrorism grabs most of the headlines, it is
not the cause of many casualties, at least not compared to more traditional
wars. The vast majority of the military related violence and deaths in the
world comes from many little wars that get little media attention outside their
region. Actually some of them are not so little. While causalities from
terrorism are relatively few (usually 5,000-10,000 dead a year worldwide), the
dead and wounded from all the other wars actually comprise about 95 percent of
all the casualties. The Islamic terrorism looms larger because the terrorists
threaten attacks everywhere, putting a much larger population potentially in
harms way, and unhappy with that prospect. But in the West, and most Muslim
nations, Islamic terrorism remains more of a threat than reality.
European Nations | Middle East Nations | American Nations
East Asian Nations | African Nations | South Asian Nations