Special Report

25 Nations Most Anxious about WMDs

Stefan Krasowski / Wikimedia Commons

The current state of the world may at times seem uncertain. Between economic and social inequality, mass protests, and the political climate, many people aren’t very confident that things will end well. Add to that the existing ongoing conflicts between Ukraine and Russia, and Israel and Hamas, and it can seem like an unstable climate.

Growing tensions between world powers seem to be at an all-time high. According to the 2023 Global Peace Index report, there is a concerning increase in global conflicts. With the deployment of Russian nuclear weapons near Ukraine and an elevated defiant stance against North Korea by the United States on the Korean Peninsula using a nuclear-armed submarine, people across the world seem more concerned than usual about the possibility that a nuclear, chemical, or biological weapon would soon be used somewhere in the world, according to the latest annual survey conducted in 2022 by global market research firm Ipsos.

24/7 Wall St. reviewed a 2022 survey conducted by Ipsos on behalf of the Halifax International Security Forum to find the countries where people are most afraid of a nuclear, biological, or chemical attack. Ipsos surveyed over 32,000 adults in 33 countries. One of the questions was: “How real do you feel the threat is of a nuclear, biological, or chemical attack taking place somewhere in the world in the next twelve months?” 75% of more than 32,000 adult respondents spread across 33 countries considered the threat to be “very/somewhat” real. This is a nine-point increase from 2021, and higher than 2017 when North Korea conducted its first nuclear bomb test. We listed the 25 countries where 69% or greater believed it to be a threat.

The increase in the number of respondents in nine of these countries who believed this WMD threat was very or somewhat real was more than the global average increase of 9 percentage points, led by respondents in France and Germany with a 19-point increase to 63% and 73% of respondents, respectively. Japan is the only non-European country where this increase was greater than the global average. In the United States,77% of respondents expressed the same view, a 6-point rise compared to 2021. Only about four in ten respondents said they were “very/somewhat” confident in their government’s response to a WMD attack. Italy, Argentina, and Belgium had the smallest share of respondents who had high confidence in the government’s response to such an attack.

In June, President Vladimir Putin said he sent short-range tactical nuclear weapons to neighboring Belarus, putting them well within range of battlefields in Ukraine. Weeks after Putin’s announcement, senior Russian official Dmitry Medvedev said Moscow might be forced to use a nuclear weapon if Ukraine’s counteroffensive succeeds. It echoed similar ominous statements from the former Russian president, who last year warned of Russian nuclear expansion should Sweden and Finland join NATO. Helsinki joined NATO in April 2022 and Stockholm is poised to join the military alliance after Turkey dropped its objections in July. In September, Medvedev said strategic nuclear weapons could be used to defend Russian-claimed parts of Ukraine.

Meanwhile, this past summer, the United States docked the nuclear-armed submarine USS Kentucky at the southern port of Busan, South Korea. It was the first such deployment in more than 40 years, part of a new U.S. strategy of periodically parking nuclear-armed subs on the Korean Peninsula to counter aggressive stances by North Korea. Pyongyang responded to the move by launching its 15th suspected intercontinental ballistic missile this year, which landed in waters near Japan.

Here are the nations with heightened concerns about WMDs.

See below to read our detailed methodology.

25. Malaysia

Source: f11photo / iStock via Getty Images
  • Pct who believe a nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons threat is real: 69% (+4 ppt from last year)
  • Pct confident in gov’t response to such threat: 53% (+3 ppt from last year)
  • Military expenditure, 2022: $3.7 billion (#49 highest of 152 countries)
  • Military expenditure as pct of GDP, 2022: 0.96% (#112 highest of 150 countries)
  • Population, 2022: 33,573,874

24. Brazil

Source: Ranimiro Lotufo Neto / iStock via Getty Images
  • Pct who believe a nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons threat is real: 69% (+6 ppt from last year)
  • Pct confident in gov’t response to such threat: 40% (+4 ppt from last year)
  • Military expenditure, 2022: $20.2 billion (#17 highest of 152 countries)
  • Military expenditure as pct of GDP, 2022: 1.05% (#108 highest of 150 countries)
  • Population, 2022: 214,326,223

23. Belgium

Source: KavalenkavaVolha / iStock via Getty Images
  • Pct who believe a nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons threat is real: 71% (+16 ppt from last year)
  • Pct confident in gov’t response to such threat: 29% (+0 ppt from last year)
  • Military expenditure, 2022: $6.9 billion (#33 highest of 152 countries)
  • Military expenditure as pct of GDP, 2022: 1.18% (#96 highest of 150 countries)
  • Population, 2022: 11,592,952

22. Netherlands

Source: funky-data / iStock via Getty Images
  • Pct who believe a nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons threat is real: 72% (+16 ppt from last year)
  • Pct confident in gov’t response to such threat: 42% (-5 ppt from last year)
  • Military expenditure, 2022: $15.6 billion (#19 highest of 152 countries)
  • Military expenditure as pct of GDP, 2022: 1.58% (#66 highest of 150 countries)
  • Population, 2022: 17,533,044

21. Poland

Source: spooh / E+ via Getty Images
  • Pct who believe a nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons threat is real: 72% (+15 ppt from last year)
  • Pct confident in gov’t response to such threat: 44% (+12 ppt from last year)
  • Military expenditure, 2022: $16.6 billion (#18 highest of 152 countries)
  • Military expenditure as pct of GDP, 2022: 2.39% (#33 highest of 150 countries)
  • Population, 2022: 37,747,124

20. India

Source: hadynyah / E+ via Getty Images
  • Pct who believe a nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons threat is real: 72% (-3 ppt from last year)
  • Pct confident in gov’t response to such threat: 69% (+1 ppt from last year)
  • Military expenditure, 2022: $81.4 billion (#4 highest of 152 countries)
  • Military expenditure as pct of GDP, 2022: 2.43% (#32 highest of 150 countries)
  • Population, 2022: 1,407,563,842

19. Hungary

Source: AndreyKrav / iStock via Getty Images
  • Pct who believe a nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons threat is real: 73% (+8 ppt from last year)
  • Pct confident in gov’t response to such threat: 44% (+1 ppt from last year)
  • Military expenditure, 2022: $2.6 billion (#58 highest of 152 countries)
  • Military expenditure as pct of GDP, 2022: 1.53% (#69 highest of 150 countries)
  • Population, 2022: 9,709,891

18. Canada

Source: Aolin Chen / iStock via Getty Images
  • Pct who believe a nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons threat is real: 73% (+9 ppt from last year)
  • Pct confident in gov’t response to such threat: 42% (-2 ppt from last year)
  • Military expenditure, 2022: $26.9 billion (#14 highest of 152 countries)
  • Military expenditure as pct of GDP, 2022: 1.24% (#91 highest of 150 countries)
  • Population, 2022: 38,226,498

17. Argentina

Source: AdonisVillanueva / iStock via Getty Images
  • Pct who believe a nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons threat is real: 73% (-1 ppt from last year)
  • Pct confident in gov’t response to such threat: 33% (-4 ppt from last year)
  • Military expenditure, 2022: $2.6 billion (#57 highest of 152 countries)
  • Military expenditure as pct of GDP, 2022: 0.41% (#143 highest of 150 countries)
  • Population, 2022: 45,808,747

16. Germany

Source: querbeet / iStock via Getty Images
  • Pct who believe a nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons threat is real: 73% (+19 ppt from last year)
  • Pct confident in gov’t response to such threat: 42% (+2 ppt from last year)
  • Military expenditure, 2022: $55.8 billion (#7 highest of 152 countries)
  • Military expenditure as pct of GDP, 2022: 1.39% (#81 highest of 150 countries)
  • Population, 2022: 83,196,078

15. Sweden

Source: nantonov / iStock via Getty Images
  • Pct who believe a nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons threat is real: 75% (+10 ppt from last year)
  • Pct confident in gov’t response to such threat: 57% (+7 ppt from last year)
  • Military expenditure, 2022: $7.7 billion (#32 highest of 152 countries)
  • Military expenditure as pct of GDP, 2022: 1.31% (#88 highest of 150 countries)
  • Population, 2022: 10,415,811

14. Spain

Source: stocklapse / iStock via Getty Images
  • Pct who believe a nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons threat is real: 76% (+6 ppt from last year)
  • Pct confident in gov’t response to such threat: 41% (-7 ppt from last year)
  • Military expenditure, 2022: $20.3 billion (#16 highest of 152 countries)
  • Military expenditure as pct of GDP, 2022: 1.47% (#75 highest of 150 countries)
  • Population, 2022: 47,415,750

13. Romania

Source: Instants / iStock via Getty Images
  • Pct who believe a nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons threat is real: 77% (+n/a ppt from last year)
  • Pct confident in gov’t response to such threat: 42% (+n/a ppt from last year)
  • Military expenditure, 2022: $5.2 billion (#40 highest of 152 countries)
  • Military expenditure as pct of GDP, 2022: 1.73% (#52 highest of 150 countries)
  • Population, 2022: 19,119,880

12. Chile

Source: filipe_lopes / iStock Editorial via Getty Images
  • Pct who believe a nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons threat is real: 77% (+2 ppt from last year)
  • Pct confident in gov’t response to such threat: 40% (-7 ppt from last year)
  • Military expenditure, 2022: $5.6 billion (#38 highest of 152 countries)
  • Military expenditure as pct of GDP, 2022: 1.83% (#49 highest of 150 countries)
  • Population, 2022: 19,493,184

11. United Kingdom

Source: xavierarnau / E+ via Getty Images
  • Pct who believe a nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons threat is real: 77% (+15 ppt from last year)
  • Pct confident in gov’t response to such threat: 49% (+7 ppt from last year)
  • Military expenditure, 2022: $68.5 billion (#6 highest of 152 countries)
  • Military expenditure as pct of GDP, 2022: 2.23% (#37 highest of 150 countries)
  • Population, 2022: 67,026,300

10. United States

Source: Klod / iStock via Getty Images
  • Pct who believe a nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons threat is real: 77% (+6 ppt from last year)
  • Pct confident in gov’t response to such threat: 50% (+4 ppt from last year)
  • Military expenditure, 2022: $876.9 billion (#1 highest of 152 countries)
  • Military expenditure as pct of GDP, 2022: 3.45% (#15 highest of 150 countries)
  • Population, 2022: 332,031,554

9. Ireland

Source: MediaProduction / E+ via Getty Images
  • Pct who believe a nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons threat is real: 78% (+n/a ppt from last year)
  • Pct confident in gov’t response to such threat: 39% (+n/a ppt from last year)
  • Military expenditure, 2022: $1.2 billion (#71 highest of 152 countries)
  • Military expenditure as pct of GDP, 2022: 0.23% (#147 highest of 150 countries)
  • Population, 2022: 5,033,165

8. Australia

Source: GordonBellPhotography / iStock via Getty Images
  • Pct who believe a nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons threat is real: 78% (+6 ppt from last year)
  • Pct confident in gov’t response to such threat: 47% (-1 ppt from last year)
  • Military expenditure, 2022: $32.3 billion (#13 highest of 152 countries)
  • Military expenditure as pct of GDP, 2022: 1.90% (#47 highest of 150 countries)
  • Population, 2022: 25,688,079

7. Mexico

Source: R.M. Nunes / iStock via Getty Images
  • Pct who believe a nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons threat is real: 78% (+2 ppt from last year)
  • Pct confident in gov’t response to such threat: 42% (-1 ppt from last year)
  • Military expenditure, 2022: $8.5 billion (#28 highest of 152 countries)
  • Military expenditure as pct of GDP, 2022: 0.61% (#131 highest of 150 countries)
  • Population, 2022: 126,705,138

6. Colombia

  • Pct who believe a nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons threat is real: 79% (-1 ppt from last year)
  • Pct confident in gov’t response to such threat: 41% (-1 ppt from last year)
  • Military expenditure, 2022: $9.9 billion (#25 highest of 152 countries)
  • Military expenditure as pct of GDP, 2022: 3.08% (#18 highest of 150 countries)
  • Population, 2022: 51,516,562

5. Peru

Source: simonmayer / iStock Editorial via Getty Images
  • Pct who believe a nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons threat is real: 80% (+5 ppt from last year)
  • Pct confident in gov’t response to such threat: 35% (-7 ppt from last year)
  • Military expenditure, 2022: $2.8 billion (#55 highest of 152 countries)
  • Military expenditure as pct of GDP, 2022: 1.15% (#99 highest of 150 countries)
  • Population, 2022: 33,715,471

4. South Africa

  • Pct who believe a nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons threat is real: 81% (+7 ppt from last year)
  • Pct confident in gov’t response to such threat: 35% (-3 ppt from last year)
  • Military expenditure, 2022: $3.0 billion (#53 highest of 152 countries)
  • Military expenditure as pct of GDP, 2022: 0.74% (#121 highest of 150 countries)
  • Population, 2022: 59,392,255

3. Japan

Source: n-s-d / iStock via Getty Images
  • Pct who believe a nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons threat is real: 81% (+17 ppt from last year)
  • Pct confident in gov’t response to such threat: 56% (+12 ppt from last year)
  • Military expenditure, 2022: $46.0 billion (#10 highest of 152 countries)
  • Military expenditure as pct of GDP, 2022: 1.08% (#106 highest of 150 countries)
  • Population, 2022: 125,681,593

2. Türkiye

Source: Thankful Photography / iStock via Getty Images
  • Pct who believe a nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons threat is real: 82% (-3 ppt from last year)
  • Pct confident in gov’t response to such threat: 53% (+3 ppt from last year)
  • Military expenditure, 2022: $10.6 billion (#23 highest of 152 countries)
  • Military expenditure as pct of GDP, 2022: 1.23% (#92 highest of 150 countries)
  • Population, 2022: 84,775,404

1. Thailand

Source: tawanlubfah / iStock via Getty Images
  • Pct who believe a nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons threat is real: 84% (+n/a ppt from last year)
  • Pct confident in gov’t response to such threat: 45% (+n/a ppt from last year)
  • Military expenditure, 2022: $5.7 billion (#37 highest of 152 countries)
  • Military expenditure as pct of GDP, 2022: 1.16% (#98 highest of 150 countries)
  • Population, 2022: 71,601,103

 

Methodology

To find the countries where people are most afraid of a nuclear, biological, or chemical attack, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed a 2022 survey, conducted by global market research firm Ipsos on behalf of the Halifax International Security Forum. Ipsos surveyed over 32,000 adults in 33 countries. One of the questions was: “How real do you feel the threat is of a nuclear, biological, or chemical attack taking place somewhere in the world in the next twelve months?” Countries are ordered by the percentage of respondents who said it is a very/somewhat real threat. In the case of ties, countries with larger populations are ranked higher. We listed the 25 countries where 69% or greater believed it to be a threat.

Another question was aimed at gauging the confidence in the government response to such a threat: “If a nuclear, biological or chemical attack took place somewhere in the world in the next twelve months, how confident are you that the appropriate levels of security and protection could be provided by your government or its agencies could respond effectively?”

24/7 Wall St. added military spending as a percentage of a country’s gross domestic product and military expenditures in current U.S. dollars, both for 2022, from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute Military Expenditure Database. 2022 population figures are from the World Bank.

Want to Retire Early? Start Here (Sponsor)

Want retirement to come a few years earlier than you’d planned? Or are you ready to retire now, but want an extra set of eyes on your finances?

Now you can speak with up to 3 financial experts in your area for FREE. By simply clicking here you can begin to match with financial professionals who can help you build your plan to retire early. And the best part? The first conversation with them is free.

Click here to match with up to 3 financial pros who would be excited to help you make financial decisions.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us?
Contact the 24/7 Wall St. editorial team.