Are all countries created equal? Not necessarily. Some countries are bigger, more powerful, and have higher GDPs than other countries. They are not necessarily better, but they command more of the world’s attention and have a significant role in the world’s economy.
The easiest way to determine the world’s “major countries” is to look at a body called the UN Security Council. The Security Council consists of five permanent members – the United States, the United Kingdom, Russia, China, and France – and ten other countries that serve two-year terms. The five permanent members have the authority to veto any substantive resolution within the United Nations, and that veto will be absolute. As such, the United States, the United Kingdom, Russia, China, and France are arguably the five most powerful countries in the world.
Another major country is Germany, the largest country in Europe by population, as well as the wealthiest in terms of per capita GDP. Germany has also taken a leading role in addressing international crises, such as the migration crisis of 2015.
Japan is also a powerful country, with one of the highest per capita GDPs in Asia. It is also one of the most literate countries in the world, as well as the world’s most technologically developed. South Korea is also a powerful country, though it commands less of the global economy and international news footage as China.
Saudi Arabia, the country that dominates the Middle East, is a major country in the world because of how it epitomizes the global oil industry. Much of the oil used by other countries, including the United States, comes from Saudi Arabia, so maintaining good relations with and appeasing this country is often a high priority. Appeasement often comes despite its poor record of human rights.
Israel is a major country in the world, not because of its contribution to the global economy but because of how central it is to many crises present in the Middle East today. The plight of Palestinians, who live under apartheid rule and military occupation, is often seen as a matter of debate because granting rights to Palestinians requires undercutting Israel. Because Israel is considered a strategic American ally in the Middle East, the American government is unwilling to negotiate on matters of Palestinian rights. Other Middle East conflicts related to Israel include Hezbollah in Lebanon, the disputed Golan Heights in war-torn Syria, Israel’s intervention in the Syrian civil war, and Iran’s role in the Yemen civil war.