To get an idea of how the world’s top military powers compare with the rest of the world, consider this: There are 8.4 million military personnel serving in the armed forces of the U.S., Russia, India, and China, or 55% of the active service members among the top 20 largest military forces. (These are the countries with the largest militaries.)
These four superpowers often have diverging and adversarial geopolitical interests, a threat to peace and stability that at any time could erupt into direct or proxy military confrontations, from Chinese and American maritime brinkmanship in the Western Pacific Rim to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
These four superpowers control 22,872 active military aircraft and they spent almost $1.17 trillion on defense in 2020, well more than double the combined defense expenditures of 16 other top military powers. But which country has the strongest military might?
To determine the 20 countries with the strongest military might, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed Global Firepower’s 2022 Military Strength Ranking, which ranked 142 countries based on their PowerIndex, a composite of over 50 measures in categories such as military might, financials, logistical capability, and geography. The smaller the PowerIndex value the more powerful a nation’s theoretical fighting capability is — by conventional means as nuclear weapons were not taken into account. (These are the countries that control the world’s nuclear weapons.)
The U.S. vastly outspends all other military superpowers, devoting 3.7% of its gross domestic product to defense, 1 percentage point higher than the average for the 20 military powers on the list but less than the share of GDP devoted to defense by Pakistan, Russia, Israel, and Saudi Arabia, the latter of which commits 8.4% of GDP to defense. The U.S. also had the lowest PowerIndex score, indicating it has the strongest military might.
Russia has the second-largest military force and the second-largest number of warplanes, but its annual defense budget is glaringly small among the leading military superpowers — only $62 billion in 2020 compared to the $778 billion spent by the U.S. and $229 billion spent by the other NATO members on this list of the strongest militaries. Despite this, Russia has the second lowest PowerIndex score, indicating its military might is second only to the U.S.
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