The Strategypage is a comprehensive summary of military news and affairs.
November 28, 2014

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).

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. It’s 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. That’s 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 Afghanistan. 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.

Albania- 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.

Algeria- 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.

Angola- 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.

Argentina- 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 operations.

Armenia- Nagorno-Karabakh is a province in Azerbaijan populated by  Armenians. This has led to a war between Azerbaijan and Armenia, and the Armenians won. But Armenia's economy was wrecked, and Azerbaijan wants a rematch.

Australia- 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.

Bahrain- Threatened by Iran, friendly to U.S. forces and increasing its own.

Bangladesh- Poverty stricken and without any armed threats except from within.

Belarus- 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 threat.

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.

Brazil- The major military power in South America. Minor border disputes with Paraguay and Uruguay.

Brunei- Incredibly rich oil state surrounded by Malaysia. No disputes with larger neighbor, but protected by British Gurkha mercenaries and diplomatic alliances.

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.

Burkina 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.

Canada- Maintains nominal armed forces, used mainly for peacekeeping. Relies on U.S. for protection from any potential threats.

Cape 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 civil war.

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.

China- The 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.

Congo (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 that’s 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.

Croatia- 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.

Cuba- 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.

Cyprus (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.

Cyprus (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 and Eritrea. 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 (Maranon;  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.

El 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 paranoid dictator.

Estonia- Ethnic. commercial and diplomatic ties to neighboring Finland 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 reduced readiness.

Gabon- Minor dispute with Equatorial Guinea and some internal disputes.

Georgia. Two small, but feisty, minorities have established autonomous enclaves with the help of Russian “peacekeepers.” This has united the country, but not done anything to help the cash starved military.

Germany- 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.

Ghana- Ongoing internal disputes, above average (for Africa) armed forces.

Great 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 thousand years.

Guatemala- Claims Belize, but lacks the military force to take it. Much internal dissent, ongoing war with insurgent groups.

Guinea- Very poor nation with equally poor armed forces.

Guinea-Bisseau- Very poor nation with equally poor armed forces.

Guyana- 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 disorder.

Honduras- Some border disputes, and a bit of internal dissent. Armed forces oriented towards suppressing insurgency.

Hungary- Downsized military after the Cold War  ended. Now  restructuring its armed forces because of joining NATO. Some potential for war with Rumania over territorial dispute.

Iceland- 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 and India. India has been fighting Nagaland insurgents since the late 1940s. Recent peace talks with China and Pakistan have lessened tensions.

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.

Iran- 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.

Iraq- The “surge offensive” 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 major problem. 

Ireland- Nominal armed forces, no real foreign or internal threats.

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 counter-terrorism campaign.

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 armed forces.

Ivory 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.

Jamaica- Very small, but professional armed forces. No external, but a few internal, disputes.

Japan- Well trained and lavishly equipped forces. Without nuclear weapons, not likely to cause neighboring China or Russia 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 independent. Serbia 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.

Kenya- Increasing internal disputes put the military's traditional professionalism to the test.

Korea, 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.

Korea, 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 doesn’t 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 other minorities.

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 and dictatorship.

Laos- 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 insurgents.

Latvia- Tiny armed forces, about 40 percent of the population is ethnic (mainly Russian) minorities. Joined NATO to help avoid Russians taking over again.

Lebanon- Syrian occupation force gone, but pro-Iranian Hizbollah still controls most of the south. Civil war could return because of Hizbollah aggression and Syrian interference.

Lesotho- Minimal armed forces, depends on South Africa for defense and its very existence.

Liberia- 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.

Lithuania- Tiny armed forces, about 17 percent of the population is ethnic (mainly Russian) minorities. Joined NATO to avoid risk of the Russians taking over again.

Luxembourg- Minimal armed forces, depends on neighbors.

Madagascar- Island nation that disputes ownership of some nearby islands with France. Minimal armed forces.

Malawi- Landlocked, poor, not much military power.

Malaysia- Islamic fundamentalist insurgents are a constant problem. Some disputes with neighbors over several island groups.

Maldives- Island microstate without much to worry about. Minor dispute over some nearby islands.

Mali- 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 really afford.

Mauritius- Small island state without much need for armed forces.

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.

Mongolia- Caught between China and Russia, thus only minimal armed forces. China has a voiced a desire to get Mongolia "back."

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.

Mozambique- Civil war tensions linger. The nation, including its armed forces, are in slowly rebuilding.

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 peacekeeping.

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.

Niger- Landlocked, poor, border dispute with Libya. Chad and Niger 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 trained reserves.

Oman- Has been building up armed forces, fearing aggression from Iran.

Pakistan- 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.

Panama- 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.

Paraguay- Landlocked and caught between much larger nations. Low quantity and quality of forces results.

Peru- Beset by internal problems, armed forces organized to deal with it. The Shining Path movement making a comeback. Border disputes with Ecuador are settled.

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.

Portugal- 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.

Russia- 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 the Caucasus.  Russia returns to police state ways, and traditional threatening attitude towards neighbors.

Rwanda- 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 significance.

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 Iranian threat.

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.

Serbia us all that’s 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.

Seychelles 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.

Slovakia- Inherited numerous arms plants building weapons of  Russian design. All for export. Local armed forces in bad shape.

Slovenia- 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, 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 violence.

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 each month.

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.

Switzerland- 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 with.

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.

Taiwan- 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 military power.

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.

Trinidad- Island mini-state with nominal armed forces.

Tunisia- No internal or external threats and reasonably efficient, but small, armed forces.

Turkey- 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. It’s 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 and Ukraine 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 Iranian aggression.

United States- With the decline of Russia’s military effectiveness, now the premier world military power.

Uruguay- 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.

Venezuela-No 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 or Iran, depending on the tribe.)

Zambia- Poor, not many internal or external enemies. Nominal armed forces.

Zimbabwe- 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. That’s 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

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