Special Report

The Countries Without a Military, and Who Defends Them

Natural bodies of water are a great deterrent to invasion. Because of this fact as well as geopolitical and historical factors, 30 of the 38 countries without a military are islands.

To identify the countries without a military, 24/7 Wall St. referenced the CIA World Factbook’s military and security forces fact sheet, The 38 nations and territories listed here are all those the CIA notes as having “no regular military forces.” Population estimates for 2023, region, and additional notes on each nation’s police or other security forces are also from the CIA. The countries are listed by population, in ascending order. 

According to World Population Review, countries without militaries have either been demilitarized, never established a military when the nation was created, or are former colonies/dependencies of nations with militaries and are still under their protection. Some of these countries have a national police force that is a de facto military entity. (Conversely, see the countries with the most military firepower.)

Two areas of the world have the most nations without a military: Central America and the Caribbean and Australia and Oceania. The military responsibilities for the mostly island nations of the former region are taken up by a regional organization of a group of islands or by former colonial powers such as the Netherlands, France, and the United Kingdom. 

Australia and New Zealand have military oversight for many of the islands in the South Pacific such as Vanuatu and Kiribati. The U.S. is responsible for the defense of the Federated States of Micronesia and the Marshall Islands, both also in the South Pacific. (These islands are protected by some of the countries with the largest naval fleets.)

Seven autonomous places in Europe do not have a military. Four of them are among the smallest nations in the world and are not islands: Andorra, Liechtenstein, San Marino, and Monaco. If you are wondering why tiny Holy See (Vatican City) is not on the list, the CIA World Factbook considers the Pontifical Swiss Guard Corps a de facto military force.

Of the eight countries on the list that are not islands, two of them, Costa Rica and Panama, share a border. The other places that are not islands are Hong Kong and Macau, which are special administrative regions of China.

Click here to see the nations without a military.

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