Defining the world’s most powerful countries is a more complex process than one might imagine. Power comes in many forms, from military might to economic strength, political influence, and cultural impact. The most powerful nations in the world shape global economic patterns, maintain a strong military, and establish foreign policies whose effects reverberate all around the world. U.S. News and World Report, in partnership with BAV Group and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, ranks the world’s most powerful countries in its annual Best Countries rankings. The 2021 report surveyed over 20,000 people across the globe and asked them to associate 80 countries with five attributes: military alliances, international alliances, political influence, economic influence, and leadership.
The Top 10 Most Powerful Countries in the World (2021 Best Countries report):
- United States
- United Kingdom
- South Korea
- Saudi Arabia
- United Arab Emirates
According to the 2020 survey (released in 2021), the United States is the world’s most powerful country. The United States has the world’s largest economy, with a GDP of $20.93 trillion in 2020 and the most massive military budget of $778 billion in 2020. The U.S. defense spending is higher than the next ten largest defense spenders (China, India, Russia, the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, Germany, France, Japan, South Korea, and Italy) combined.
China and Russia are the second and third most powerful countries, known for their military spending and vast physical expanse. China also has a large economy with a GDP of $14.3 trillion. Next on the list are Germany, the United Kingdom, Japan, and France, all of which have large economies and distribute high amounts of international aid.
Although a few have switched places, nine of the top ten countries are returners from the previous year's list. The lone new entry is the United Arab Emirates, which arrives at #10 and nudges Israel down to #11. Honorable mentions for the world's most powerful countries are Canada, India, and Turkey.