A country’s military is one of its most important assets. The military works for the government. It is used to enforce domestic and foreign policies and protect its citizens. Some nations have mandatory military service.
There are several different things to consider when discussing the size of a nation’s military. One of the most important is whether a person is an active military, on reserves, or part of a paramilitary. An active member is someone that works for the military full time. These servicemen may be deployed at any time. They may also live on military bases. For example, this would be someone in the Air Force or the Army in the United States.
A reservist is not full-time. These servicemembers typically hold another full-time job. Reservists may be deployed at any time and may have to attend special training and work part-time throughout the year. Many people join the reserves – such as the Army Reserve or National Guard – to make extra money, get tuition bonuses to go back to school, or take advantage of other perks without devoting themselves full time to the military.
Finally, paramilitary members are part of an organization that is similar to the military. However, these are not formally part of the armed forces. Some examples of paramilitary organizations worldwide include Canada’s Canadian Rangers of the United States Civil Air Patrol.
Now knowing the differences between these, we can explore which nations have the largest militaries. By active military members, China comes out on top with over 2 million people in this nation’s military.
There are three other nations with active militaries exceeding 1 million people. Those are India (1.395 million), the United States (1.358 million), and the Russian Federation (1.01 million). The United States has the third-highest number of active military members and the fourth-highest overall military members. The U.S. also the highest military spending of any country.
Nations with militaries exceeding 500,000 active members include:
- Democratic People’s Republic of Korea: 950,000
- Pakistan: 653,000
- Republic of Korea: 599,000
- Iran: 523,000
On the other side of the coin, some nations have no active military members, or their militaries are minimal. These nations have no active members of the military:
In terms of reserve members, Vietnam comes out on top. This nation has about 5 million members of its reserves. The Republic of Korea also has several million members of its military reserves – 3.1 million to be more exact. Other nations with reserve militaries with at least 1 million members include:
- Republic of China: 2.8 million
- Russian Federation: 2.57 million
- India: 2.096 million
- Iran: 1.35 million
- Brazil: 1.34 million
- Cuba: 1.159 million
- Finland: 1.127 million
The nation with the largest paramilitary is the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, which has over 5.889 million members. In the United States, there are more than 2.9 million people that work for a paramilitary organization. Iran, the Russian Federation, the Republic of China, India, the People’s Republic of China, and Cuba all have paramilitary organizations that exceed 1 million members.
When looking at the total numbers, the nation with the largest military is the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, which has over 7 million members. The Russian Federation, Vietnam, the United States, and India also top the list with more than 5 million military members per country. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea also tops the list in terms of total military members per capita and active military members per capita.