Neutral Countries 2020

Neutrality is an important term in international warfare. A neutral country is one that does not take sides with belligerents in a specific war and has permanent neutrality in all future conflicts.

In the Hague Convention of 1907, a neutral country means that the country has declared nonparticipation during a war and cannot be counted on to help fight a belligerent country. “Non-belligerent” countries are ones that offer non-combative support in times of war.

Countries interpret neutrality differently. Switzerland, a notoriously neutral country during World War II, held Nazi funds in their banks. Today, Switzerland has a sizable military to deter aggression, holding to “armed neutrality,” but forbidding foreign deployment. Other countries, such as Costa Rica, have demilitarized. While some countries see neutrality as avoiding both political and military alliances, Austria, Ireland, Finland, and Sweden have United Nations (UN) peacekeeping forces and a political alliance with the European Union.

The countries today that are considered to be truly neutral are Finland, Malta, Ireland, Japan, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Sweden, Turkmenistan, and the Vatican City. Many other countries are also considered to be neutral.

Finland gained its independence from Russia in 1917 and signed a friendship treaty with the Soviet Union in 1948, which started its history of being a neutral nation. This friendship treaty is “null and void” following the collapse of the Soviet Union; however, Finland still maintains friendly relations with Russia despite being a part of the European Union.

Because of Malta’s location between Africa, Europe, and the Middle East in the Mediterranean Sea, governments have wanted to build a military base on the island. Malta became a neutral country in the 1980s, preventing any military power from gaining a strategic position on its island.

Ireland’s neutrality is tricky because Northern Ireland is a part of the United Kingdom, which is not a neutral country. Although Ireland is not obligated to aid England in a time of war, it would protect Ireland in conflict if they were to side with England.

Japan’s constitution states its neutrality, reading “the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes.” Japan has a Self Defense Force that helps the country rebuild from disasters such as the 2010 tsunami.

Liechtenstein is located between Austria and Switzerland, two other neutral countries, which may explain why it decided to be neutral. The small country remained neutral in World War II and continues to do so today.

Sweden declared itself a neutral state in 1834. During World War II, their neutral status was controversial as the country both let Nazi troops cross its borders to Finland and sheltered people who fled from Nazi persecution. In 2016, Sweden allowed NATO to use its land for military operations.

Turkmenistan has been neutral since December 12, 1995; a date celebrated every year with fireworks and concerts. Its neutrality came as a result of a UN resolution, which guarantees its status.

Vatican City was recognized as an independent and sovereign state in the Lateran Treaty in 1929. In exchange for Italian President Benito Mussolini signing the treaty granting independence, the Vatican City had to remain neutral in all international matters.

Throughout history, there have been various nations around the world that have been neutral. Currently, nations that are neutral against future conflicts are:

In the past, there have been neutral countries that are no longer neutral. These nations include:

Neutral Countries 2020

Country Neutral Since Neutrality Status & Key Facts Population 2020
Austria1955Austria declared neutrality on 26 October 1955 which is now part of the part of the Constitution of Austria. Austria has its own military like Switzerland.9,006,398
Cambodia1993Cambodia’s neutrality is disputed. Cambodia has vowed not to join any military alliance “not in conformity with the principles of the Charter of the United Nations” or to allow the basing of foreign military forces on its territory “as long as its security is not threatened.” In 2017 Prak Sokhon the Cambodian Foreign Affairs minister said “We will stay neutral and unaligned… Non-alliance does not bring harm to us… We have good relations with the United States and we have good relations with China, but are not allied to China or pro-China.”16,718,965
Costa Rica1949Costa Rica hasn’t had a standing army since 1949 but does maintain a limited “Public Force” to maintain internal security. Costa Rica’s neutrality was ratified by law in 2014.5,094,118
Finland1995Finland’s military doctrine is to maintain a credible independent defense along with a desire to remain outside international conflicts. There are no international pledges for its neutrality.5,540,720
Ghana2012Ghana has been a member of the Non-Aligned Movement since 1961. In 2012, following the death of President John Atta Mills, the government implemented a closed-neutral policy.31,072,940
Ireland1937Ireland pursued a policy of neutrality during WWII but covertly supported the allies. Ireland declined an invitation to join NATO in 1949. Ireland joined the EU in 1973 but was granted special status so it can remain non-aligned.4,937,786
Japan1947Following its defeat in WWII the USA imposed Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution in 1947 which renounced Japan’s sovereign right of belligerency. Japan maintains its own defensive military forces and has a bi-lateral alliance with the USA.126,476,461
Liechtenstein1868Liechtenstein disbanded its army in 1868 because it was too costly. Liechtenstein remained neutral during WWII. Defense is informally provided by Austria and Switzerland.38,128
Malta1980In 1987 Malta added a neutrality clause to its Constitution. Malta was a member of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) between 1973 and 2004 when Malta joined the EU and Malta’s neutrality has been a topic of debate ever since.441,543
Mexico1939Mexico supported the allies during WWII and has ignored it’s historical policy on neutrality on occasions since then.128,932,753
Moldova1994Declared independence in 1991 after fall of the Soviet Union. Permanent neutrality is written into article 11 of their 1994 constitution.4,033,963
Mongolia2015Neutral during WWI 1914-1918. Declared neutrality in speech at the 70th UN General Assembly.3,278,290
Panama1989A treaty guarantees the neutrality of the Panama Canal.4,314,767
Rwanda2009Announced permanent neutrality in 2009 after joining the Commonwealth of Nations.12,952,218
San Marino1862San Marino is a 24 square mile (61 km2) enclave within Italy which remained neutral during WWI and WWII.33,931
Serbia2007Serbia was a former member and founder of Yugoslavia. The Serbian National Assembly declared armed neutrality in 2007 and Serbia has observer status of the Non-Aligned Movement. Serbia opened EU accession negotiations in January 2014.8,737,371
Singapore1965Singapore has been a member of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) since 1970 and continues to pursue a policy of neutrality.5,850,342
Sweden1834In 1834 King Gustav XIV formally proclaimed Sweden’s neutrality. Traditionally Sweden maintained its neutral status during military conflicts. In 1941 Sweden allowed German forces to transit through Swedish territory to the Finnish front but at the same time protected refugees from the Nazis. There’s no international treaty.10,099,265
Switzerland1815Switzerland is the oldest neutral country in the world. Switzerland was guaranteed permanent neutrality at the Congress of Vienna on 20th December 1815 by Austria, France, England, Prussia and Russia.8,654,622
Taiwan2014Actively seeking peaceful engagement with mainland China, wants to act as a buffer between the USA, mainland China and Japan.23,816,775
Turkmenistan1995Turkmenistan was a member of the Soviet Union (Turkmen Soviet Socialist Republic) until it declared its independence in 1991. In 1995 Turkmenistan declared permanent neutrality, which was formally recognized by the United Nations, and is included in the Turkmenistan constitution.6,031,200
Ukraine2010Following independence in 1991 Ukraine declared itself a neutral state. In 2008 Ukraine declared it would eventually join NATO which is opposed by Russia. The Ukraine has taken the first steps towards EU membership.43,733,762