If you’re a fan of our show and you’ve seen the episode entitled, “Top 10 Most Powerful Militaries in the World,” then you already know which countries are regarded as packing superior military might. At the other end of the spectrum, however, are countries with very modest militaries, that are not necessarily equipped with state of the art weaponry that consumes a good chunk of their GDP. We thought it would be fun to take a closer look at countries that refrain from spending, or are unable to spend, large amounts of money on arming themselves, in this episode of The Infographics Show, “Top 10 Weakest Militaries in the World.”
Number 10: The Bahamas
This small Caribbean country is made up of 700 islands and has a population of approximately 400,000 (392,718) people, most of whom are the descendants of African slaves. The country doesn’t have a standing army or an air force to speak of, with its navy, the Royal Bahamas Defence Force, being tasked with protecting its people. The RBDF has around 1,600 men and women enlisted, belonging to three squadrons: The Commando Squadron, The Patrol Squadron, and the Air Wing. The country has 11 sea vessels patrolling its waters while its Air Wing currently consists of just 3 aircraft. In 2014, the Bahamas’ 49 million dollar military budget was bolstered by a $232 million investment for what was known as the ‘Sandy Bottom Project.’ The extra money was spent on deploying ships and aircraft to protect marine resources and to reduce the amount of smuggling, drug-trafficking, and human-trafficking in the area.
Number 9: Central African Republic
This war-torn country has seen its fair share of internal strife, so one would think it should be endowed with a strong military. That’s not the case, and its 4,500 person-strong Central African Armed Forces has been criticized not only for its lack of military prowess but also for corruption, human rights violations, and general incompetency. Protecting its 4.7 million people are 4 T-55 main battle tanks, 4 aircraft, 2 helicopters and 51 armored fighting vehicles. Where the FACA has failed, the United Nations has stepped-in, in an attempt to bring about democratic freedoms and consolidate peace in the country.
Number 8: The Gambia
This West African country officially known as The Republic of The Gambia is also no stranger to internal conflicts. It’s reported that almost a third of its 1.8 million population live below the poverty line of 1 dollar 25 cents a day, which doesn’t bode well for a strong military. Only 2,500 personnel make up the two arms of the Gambia military: The National Army and the Gambian Navy. Since the country’s independence from the United Kingdom in 1965, there have been plenty of iterations of a military, only for coups and discord to unravel them. Currently, The Gambia National Army consists of 900 soldiers, with a total of 12 armored cars. Many of its soldiers are deployed in other African nations as peacekeepers. In 2002, a Gambian Air Force was mulled over when the country bought a Sukhoi Su-25 attack jet, but similar to its unreliable army, it never really got off the ground. Gambia also has a small navy consisting of around 250 personnel. Without much of a budget, the navy has relied mostly on donations to update its fleet. In 2013, Taiwan donated 3 eight ton armed vessels to replace the Gambian navy’s somewhat aged ships.
Number 7: Barbados
Barbados is a small island-nation with a population of just about 278,000 (277,821) people. Set up in 1979, its Barbados Defence Force is comprised of 3 components: The Barbados Regiment, Barbados Coast Guard and the Barbados Cadet Corps. It’s thought only around 1,000 people make up the BDF’s entire personnel, patrolling the waters for signs of criminal activity and stationed on the island in case of internal conflicts. The country’s Air Wing is said to have one Cessna 402C aircraft. While the Barbados has had to address few problems, in 2016 The People’s Republic of China donated 3 million dollars to the BDF, on top of its 49 million dollar defense budget. The money, however, was not to buy weapons, said the Chinese ambassador to Barbados, but rather for disaster mitigation.
Number 6: Somalia
Somalia has a population of over 12 million and the longest coastline on the African mainland. While its military is far stronger than our number 7 choice, Barbados, in terms of population and constant internal conflicts, Somalia has a very weak military. The Somali National Armed Forces is made-up of around 12,000 active soldiers, with 24,000 acting as reserves. On land, it has 140 tanks and 430 armored fighting vehicles. It’s air force was all but non-existent, until in 2012, Italy said it would help Somalia rebuild it. Somalia’s navy also suffered massive disintegration at the end of the 20th century, but in 2012 the United Arab Emirates donated 1 million dollars to help strengthen it. Somalia’s defense budget is a meager 58 million dollars.
Number 5: Luxembourg
You’d be right in thinking that a landlocked country not even a thousand square miles in size in a relatively peaceful area of western Europe wouldn’t need a very powerful military. The Luxembourg army might be one of the most restful places to work. With about 400 soldiers, 100 of whom are civilians, the army still has a budget of 369 million dollars. This figure might emphasize the small sum the Somalian government spends on its much larger military. Still, this modest army fought in 2 world wars and The Korean War. Its air-force consists of 17 Boeing E-3 Sentry aircraft and one Airbus A400M Atlas.
Number 4: Tonga
Situated in the South Pacific Ocean about 700 miles from Fiji, Tonga’s 169 islands are populated by around 103,000 people. Its defense budget is almost 5 million dollars, about 0.9 percent of its GDP. The country’s military, His Majesty’s Armed Forces, has about 700 active personnel. Nonetheless, this small army fought with New Zealand’s Expeditionary Force in the first world war, and has also recently been deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq. It’s Maritime Force of three patrol boats and a tanker is mostly concerned with fishing zone violations and enforcing border regulations. The air wing has two small aircraft.
Number 3: Antigua and Barbuda
Antigua and Barbuda is a twin-island in the Caribbean with a population of 91,000. Its Antigua and Barbuda Defence Force receives a budget of 10 million dollars, and has a 245-strong personnel. Similar to other island nations featured in this show, the military is tasked mainly with reducing criminality on the high seas. In total, it has 7 active boats working as part of the Coast Guard. The ABDF might be one of the smallest militaries in the world, but it was still deployed in Haiti, Grenada and Trinidad in the recent past to deal with conflicts there.
Number 2: Saint Kitts and Nevis
This two-island country in the West Indies is home to around 55,000 people, and 300 of them work in the country’s military. The Saint Kitts and Nevis Defence Force infantry and maritime units have the job of dealing with internal strife and policing the local waters. The Coast Guard has one boat, donated by the United States. The army is so small that in 2016, The Saint Kitts and Nevis Observer reported the enlistment of just 28 new recruits. The national security minister was quoted as saying, “In the context of our small country, we have to make a very conscious effort to ensure that we are doing our part.”
Number 1: The countries with no military
22 countries have no military at all, nor do they even have defense budgets. We’re adding them to the list, however, as they do have a defense of some sort. Iceland, for example, has no military, but it has a long pact with the strongest military in the world, the USA, in which the latter offers protection. It also has a militarized police force and a peacekeeping force. Monaco also has no military, but relies on the world’s fifth strongest military, France, for protection. The list of countries without a military also includes Costa Rica, Liechtenstein, Samoa and Panama.
We hope you enjoyed this episode, and we would love to hear your thoughts about this list in the comments section. There are countries we didn’t include that certainly could have been here; countries with meager military budgets and few personnel, but also countries with what might be considered a weak military in view of current crises and the risk of internal and external conflict. Feel free to tell us which countries you think we should have added!
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