Military Size by Country 2021

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A country’s military is one of its most important assets. The military works for the government and is tasked with enforcing domestic and foreign policies and protecting that country's citizens. Some nations have mandatory military service in which every citizen must serve for at least a certain number of years.

Factors to consider when evaluating a country's military strength

There are several crucial factors to consider when analyzing the strength of a nation’s military. The capability and availability of equipment (vehicles, weaponry, communications gear, etc.) is essential. The quality of training each soldier receives is vital. Their commanders' ability to consistently devise effective tactical strategies can be pivotal. But perhaps the most fundamental measure of a country's military strength is the number of soldiers it can deploy.

When comparing the military capabilities of different countries, servicepeople are usually divided into three categories: soldiers on active duty, reserves, or paramilitary members. Soldiers on active duty are those who work for the military full time, often live on base, and may be deployed at any time. Reservists typically serve part time and join the reserves—such as the Army Reserve or National Guard—to make extra money, get tuition bonuses at college/university, or take advantage of other perks without devoting themselves full time to the military. Paramilitary members are those who belong to organizations such as Canada’s Canadian Rangers or France's National Gendarmerie, which are military-like, but not formally part of the armed forces. The list of countries that boast the highest total (active duty, reserves, and paramilitary) number of members in the military may be surprising to some readers.

Top 10 Countries with the Highest Total Number of Military Personnel (in members):

  1. Vietnam: 10,522,000
  2. North Korea: 7,769,000
  3. South Korea: 6,712,500
  4. India: 5,137,500
  5. China: 4,015,000
  6. Russia: 3,568,000
  7. United States: 2,233,050
  8. Brazil: 2,101,500
  9. Taiwan: 1,831,800
  10. Pakistan: 1,495,000

North Korea dominates the list in terms of military members per capita, with 306.1 total members and 50.4 active members per capita. For comparison, the next closest countries in those categories are South Korea with 130.5 total per capita and Eritrea with 33.8 total active members per capita. However, these numbers can be deceiving, as the overwhelming majority of soldiers in Vietnam, North Korea, and South Korea are reserves or paramilitary, not active duty. In terms of the total number of active military members, there are eight nations with active militaries exceeding 500,000 soldiers:

Top 10 Countries with the Highest Number of Active-Duty Military Personnel (in members):

  1. China: 2,185,000
  2. India: 1,455,550
  3. United States: 1,388,100
  4. North Korea: 1,280,000
  5. Russia: 1,014,000
  6. Pakistan: 654,000
  7. Iran: 610,000
  8. South Korea: 599,000
  9. Vietnam: 482,000
  10. Egypt: 438,500

It is noteworthy that the world's three most populous countries also have the three largest standing armies, and in the same order. China's massive force is the largest, followed by India and the United States. While the United States has the third-highest population in total, the third-highest number of active military members, and the fourth-highest number of military members overall, it has the highest military spending of any country in the world. Once reserve members are added in, Vietnam's military becomes the largest, with roughly 5 million people in its reserves. The Republic of Korea also has 3.1 million members in its military reserves.

Top 10 Countries with the Highest Number of Active-Duty and Reserve Military Personnel (in members):

  1. Vietnam: 5,482,000
  2. South Korea: 3,699,000
  3. China: 3,355,000
  4. Russian Federation: 3,014,000
  5. India: 2,610,550
  6. United States: 2,233,050
  7. North Korea: 1,880,000
  8. Taiwan: 1,820,000
  9. Brazil: 1,706,500
  10. Pakistan: 1,204,000

Looking strictly at each nation's paramilitary capabilities, the ranking again changes. The nation with the largest paramilitary is the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea), which has over 5.889 million members. Conversely, the United States does not count paramilitary organizations as part of its available military (though some, such as the Civil Air Patrol, are considered auxiliaries), so its paramilitary officially has zero members.

Top 10 Countries with the Highest Number of Paramilitary Personnel (in members):

  1. North Korea: 5,889,000
  2. Vietnam: 5,000,000
  3. South Korea: 3,013,500
  4. India: 2,526,950
  5. Cuba: 1,146,500
  6. China: 660,000
  7. Russia: 554,000
  8. Egypt: 397,000
  9. Brazil: 395,000
  10. Pakistan: 291,000

On the other side of the coin, some nations have no active military members, or their militaries are minimal. The following six nations have no active members of the military: Costa Rica, Iceland, Libya, Marutius, Palestine, and Panama. For a full table of countries and their military headcounts, see below.

Military Size by Country 2021

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Military Size by Country 2021

Country Total Personnel Active Duty Reserves Paramilitary 2021 Population
Vietnam10,522,000482,0005,000,0005,040,00098,168,833
North Korea7,769,0001,280,000600,0005,889,00025,887,041
South Korea6,712,500599,0003,100,0003,013,50051,305,186
India5,137,5001,455,5501,155,0002,526,9501,393,409,038
China4,015,0002,185,0001,170,000660,0001,444,216,107
Russia3,568,0001,014,0002,000,000554,000145,912,025
United States2,233,0501,388,100844,950332,915,073
Brazil2,101,500366,5001,340,000395,000213,993,437
Taiwan1,831,800163,0001,657,00011,80023,855,010
Pakistan1,495,000654,000550,000291,000225,199,937
Egypt1,314,500438,500479,000397,000104,258,327
Cuba1,234,50049,00039,0001,146,50011,317,505
Ukraine1,211,000209,000900,000102,00043,466,819
Indonesia1,075,500395,500400,000280,000276,361,783
Iran1,000,000610,000350,00040,00085,028,759
Turkey890,700355,200378,700156,80085,042,738
Thailand699,550360,850200,000138,70069,950,850
Israel642,500169,500465,0008,0008,789,774
Colombia516,050293,20034,950187,90051,265,844
Myanmar513,000406,000107,00054,806,012
Azerbaijan471,950126,950330,00015,00010,223,342
Algeria467,200130,000150,000187,20044,616,624
Belarus444,85045,350289,500110,0009,442,862
Malaysia431,800113,00051,600267,20032,776,194
Mexico409,400216,00081,500111,900130,262,216
Morocco395,800195,800150,00050,00037,344,795
France375,100203,25041,050130,80065,426,179
Greece368,050142,700221,3504,00010,370,744
Italy359,550165,50018,300175,75060,367,477
Sri Lanka353,100255,0005,50092,60021,497,310
Venezuela351,000123,0008,000220,00028,704,954
Peru346,00081,000188,00077,00033,359,418
Iraq341,000193,000148,00041,179,350
Philippines336,400143,100131,00062,300111,046,913
Eritrea321,750201,750120,0003,601,467
Japan317,500247,15056,00014,350126,050,804
Singapore310,90051,000252,5007,4005,896,686
Afghanistan277,800178,80099,00039,835,428
Syria269,000169,000100,00018,275,702
Portugal263,65027,250211,70024,70010,167,925
Armenia259,10044,800210,0004,3002,968,127
Finland254,00023,800216,00014,2005,548,360
Saudi Arabia251,500227,00024,50035,340,683
United Kingdom227,100148,50078,60068,207,116
Bangladesh226,950163,05063,900166,303,498
Nigeria223,000143,00080,000211,400,708
Switzerland216,00019,550196,4508,715,494
Germany213,550183,50030,05083,900,473
Spain211,300120,35015,15075,80046,745,216
Sudan209,300104,300105,00044,909,353
Paraguay193,25013,950164,50014,8007,219,638
Cambodia191,300124,30067,00016,946,438
Poland189,450114,05075,40037,797,005
South Sudan185,000185,00011,381,378
Jordan180,500100,50065,00015,00010,269,021
Romania176,30069,30050,00057,00019,127,774
Chile161,90077,20040,00044,70019,212,361
Ecuador158,75040,250118,00050017,888,475
Mongolia154,2009,700137,0007,5003,329,289
Austria147,65022,050125,6009,043,070
Ethiopia138,000138,000117,876,227
DR Congo134,250134,25092,377,993
Laos129,10029,100100,0007,379,358
Angola117,000107,00010,00033,933,610
Nepal111,60096,60015,00029,674,920
Tanzania108,40027,00080,0001,40061,498,437
Canada107,50067,40035,6004,50038,067,903
Guatemala106,90018,05063,85025,00018,249,860
Argentina103,35072,10031,25045,605,826
Australia88,70058,60030,10025,788,215
Honduras82,95014,95060,0008,00010,062,991
Serbia82,00028,15050,1503,7008,697,550
South Africa80,40065,35015,05060,041,994
Lebanon80,00060,00020,0006,769,146
Bolivia71,20034,10037,10011,832,940
Dominican Republic71,05056,05015,00010,953,703
Kazakhstan70,50039,00031,50018,994,962
Uzbekistan68,00048,00020,00033,935,763
Cyprus65,75015,00050,0007501,215,584
Moldova64,0505,15058,0009004,024,019
Norway63,25023,25040,0005,465,630
United Arab Emirates63,00063,0009,991,089
Hungary59,80027,80020,00012,0009,634,164
Denmark58,50014,50044,0005,813,298
Uganda56,40045,00010,0001,40047,123,531
El Salvador51,40024,5009,90017,0006,518,499
Burundi51,05030,05021,00012,255,433
Sweden50,95029,75021,20010,160,169
Zimbabwe50,80029,00021,80015,092,171
Kuwait48,30017,50023,7007,1004,328,550
Tunisia47,80035,80012,00011,935,766
Oman47,00042,6004,4005,223,375
Netherlands45,80035,4004,5005,90017,173,099
Chad45,15033,25011,90016,914,985
Turkmenistan41,50036,5005,0006,117,924
Lithuania40,95019,8506,70014,4002,689,862
Yemen40,00040,00030,490,640
Bulgaria39,95036,9503,0006,896,663
Croatia36,55015,20018,3503,0004,081,651
Rwanda35,00033,0002,00013,276,513
Cameroon34,40025,4009,00027,224,265
Belgium31,40026,3005,10011,632,326
Kenya29,10024,1005,00054,985,698
Ivory Coast27,40027,40027,053,629
Georgia26,05020,6505,4003,979,765
Panama26,00026,0004,381,579
Estonia24,6007,10017,5001,325,185
Uruguay22,40021,0001,4003,485,151
Latvia22,1106,21015,9001,866,942
Czech Republic21,75021,75010,724,555
Madagascar21,60013,5008,10028,427,328
Qatar21,50016,5005,0002,930,528
Mauritania20,85015,8505,0004,775,119
Mali20,80013,0007,80020,855,735
North Macedonia20,4508,0004,8507,6002,082,658
Kyrgyzstan20,40010,9009,5006,628,356
Somalia19,80019,80016,359,504
Zambia19,50015,1003,0001,40018,920,651
Bahrain19,4608,20011,2601,748,296
Senegal18,60013,6005,00017,196,301
Tajikistan16,3008,8007,5009,749,627
Namibia15,9009,9006,0002,587,344
Slovakia15,85015,8505,460,721
Ghana15,50015,50031,732,129
Malawi14,90010,7004,20019,647,684
Slovenia14,7007,2501,5005,9502,078,724
Ireland13,5509,5004,0504,982,907
Djibouti13,10010,4502,6501,002,187
Montenegro12,4502,35010,100628,053
Guinea12,3009,7002,60013,497,244
Benin12,0507,2504,80012,451,040
Republic of the Congo12,00010,0002,0005,657,013
Nicaragua12,00012,0006,702,385
Burkina Faso11,45011,20025021,497,096
New Zealand11,3009,0002,3004,860,643
Mozambique11,20011,20032,163,047
Niger10,7005,3005,40025,130,817
Bosnia And Herzegovina10,50010,5003,263,466
Central African Republic10,1509,1501,0004,919,981
Costa Rica9,8009,8005,139,052
Fiji9,5003,5006,000902,906
Togo9,3008,5507508,478,250
Botswana9,0009,0002,397,241
Sierra Leone8,5008,5008,141,343
Brunei8,3507,200700450441,532
Albania8,0008,0002,872,933
Gabon6,7004,7002,0002,278,825
Jamaica4,9303,9509802,973,463
Guinea Bissau4,4504,4502,015,494
Guyana4,0703,400670790,326
Trinidad And Tobago4,0504,0501,403,375
Papua New Guinea3,6003,6009,119,010
Mauritius2,5502,5501,273,433
Belize2,3501,500700150404,914
Malta2,1301,950180442,784
Liberia2,0102,0105,180,203
Lesotho2,0002,0002,159,079
Suriname1,8401,840591,800
Luxembourg1,500900600634,814
Equatorial Guinea1,4501,4501,449,896
Bahamas1,3001,300396,913
Cape Verde1,2001,200561,898
Barbados1,040610430287,711
Gambia8008002,486,945
Seychelles42042098,908
Antigua And Barbuda2601808098,731
Iceland250250343,353
Haiti2001505011,541,685
Palestine5,222,748
Libya6,958,532

Military Size by Country 2021