Weakest Armies In the World
There are lots of weak armies in the world, but some are even weaker than others.Society
While plenty of nations around the world like to boast about their superior military strength, not every country has a high-power defensive force. Some countries either can’t afford - or simply don’t want - a strong military presence on their home soil, and the results are guaranteed to raise a few eyebrows. So which countries have the weakest armies in the world? Let’s find out.
Officially called the Republic of North Macedonia, this small, landlocked country is found on the Balkan Peninsula. It has a population of just over 2 million people across a space that could fit into the USA over 380 times!
With that in mind, it’s not too surprising that the USA has a bigger defense budget; nearly 7,000 times Macedonia’s budget, more precisely. The $108 million North Macedonia spends on military efforts makes up just 0.85% of its annual GDP. That’s pretty low compared to the European average of 1.3%, and the USA’s whopping 3.4%, especially considering North Macedonia has a history of conflict with neighboring Albania.
Nevertheless, this relatively small amount allows the Army of The Republic of North Macedonia to maintain at least some semblance of a land army and air force. Seeing as it isn’t near the sea, it doesn’t have any naval capabilities, but it does have 14 transport helicopters and 4 attack helicopters.
Powered by just 13,000 military personnel, 5,000 of which are reserves, it seems North Macedonia won’t be taking the world by force any time soon. After all, when it comes to war, there’s power in numbers.
But while the Macedonians keep their military spending humble, they spend it well: by flying Santa Claus into the Skopje International Airport via military helicopter every year. Now all Santa needs is to fire a rocket launcher to announce his arrival, and Macedonia will gain 1,000 military strength points on intimidation alone!
Bosnia And Herzegovina
They say diamonds are forged under pressure, but that doesn’t really hold true for the armed forces of Bosnia and Herzegovina. This southeastern European country created an army right in the midst of the 1992 Bosnian War.
The quick turnaround and limited access to supplies meant this country’s army was made up of anyone they could get their hands on, including criminal gangs! Despite its reformation in the early 2000s, things haven’t improved much. Though Bosnia-Herzegovina does have a small section of coastline, totaling a mere 12 miles, the country has no naval forces or equipment in place.
Their air force is believed to contain just 19 helicopters, but reports suggest none of them are actually designed for defense. What little strength they do have can be found in their land forces, which consist of 10,500 active military personnel.
While the structure of the country’s armed forces allows the capacity for 6,000 soldiers in reserve, those reserves are allegedly non-existent. But despite all that lack of manpower, the country has a relatively sizable military defense budget of 165 million dollars. This monetary figure has drawn attention in recent years, as the public began to question what their money was being used for.
Indeed, in 2012, Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Presidency Chairman, Milorak Dodik, called for the military to be abolished in response to suspiciously high spending with poor resulting performance. The armed forces ultimately stuck around, but when your own government begins arguing that your military is pointless, it’s hardly the sign of a global powerhouse.
In the last 40 years, Suriname has experienced not just one, but 2 coup-de-tats as well as a civil war that have consequently brought the military to its knees. South America’s only Dutch-speaking country has a severe lack of military boats, aircraft, and even cars, with the little that it does have being largely decrepit and obsolete.
Suriname’s armed forces, made up of 1,850 active personnel selected from the less-than 600,000 total population, might be effective on a small scale if it weren’t for the lack of equipment. Currently, the Suriname Air Force has just three service helicopters in its charge.
Similarly, for a long while the Navy and Coast Guard had 3 patrol boats that were purchased in the 70s. But by the early 2010s, they were so outdated that none of them were in service at all, until 3 new ones were purchased in 2012. Since then, Suriname has been reliant on the military donations of other nations, seeing as all those coups and internal conflicts also did a number on its economy.
With all those problems plaguing their military, it’s not surprising the Suriname defense budget only reaches $63 million. That’s not even enough to buy one F-35 fighter jet! And how are you supposed to intimidate your enemies without a jet? Maybe a few cardboard cut-outs would suffice for now.
Since the overthrow of its government in 1991, the African nation of Somalia has been gripped by civil war. As you might expect, this has made organizing a military a little tricky, to say the least. While Somalia has an active official military of 20,000 personnel, that’s nothing in contrast to the size of its population, which exceeds 15 million people.
The scale of the internal conflicts means a notable part of the population belongs to fighting forces outside the official national military. It also means the military’s 100 armored vehicles and 10 tanks are usually busy fighting civilian problems rather than defending the borders. As you can imagine, this would put Somalia at a huge disadvantage if another nation were to attack.
And even though it has the longest coastline on the African mainland, until 2012 its navy was almost non-existent thanks to the civil war’s destructive effect on most national institutions. That year, however, the United Arab Emirates stepped in to help fund the Somalian naval force.
But even with outside funding, Somalia’s defense budget is a meager $62.2 million. For perspective, the USA’s budget is over 12,000 times that amount, at $750 billion. Even though they say everything’s bigger in the USA, that’s just ridiculous!
Officially known as the Kingdom of Bhutan, this tiny country in Southeast Asia is more famous for its monks and monasteries than it is for its military. Although, traditionally, both of them look equally intriguing. Being totally landlocked, this 15,000 square-mile nation (which is just a little larger than the US state of Maryland) has just 7,000 military personnel.
Without a coastline, it doesn’t keep any kind of navy and has never needed its tanks. They do, however, have 2 helicopters and 27 armored vehicles to help keep the peace. These came in handy when Bhutan went to war for the first time in its history back in 2010.
Fighting against a small group of neighboring Indian separatists, the army, which was then just 6,000 soldiers, only just managed to fight them off. But being a country with few natural resources and mountainous terrain, Bhutan has the defensive perk of not really being worth invading.
As surprising as it might sound, the Republic of Costa Rica has actually survived without a real military for over 70 years! Following the end of a terrible civil war in 1948, the military was disbanded to ensure governmental forces would never brutally turn on Costa Rica’s own citizens again.
The military was replaced by something known as the Public Force of Costa Rica, which includes units such as the Civil Guard and Air Vigilance Service. The Public Force consists of approximately 12,000 officers, who are responsible for general enforcement, counter-narcotics, and border patrol.
However, they’re not exactly well-equipped for maintaining order and protection. Until 2018, they only had 70 very basic, limited-range vessels capable of patrolling the country’s 800 miles of coastline. Fortunately, that year, the United States donated 3 patrol boats, 2 interceptors, and four helicopters, though none of them are actually armed.
But despite having to rely on the hand-me-downs of other nations, there is an upside to having no military. By not funding or maintaining expensive military equipment, training, or personnel, Costa Rica is able to push more than 7% of its GDP into education. That’s considerably higher than the USA’s 5% and leagues above the United Arab Emirates’ 1.3%.
This focus on education rather than militarisation is designed to establish and uphold a well-informed public, promoting stability within the country to prevent another civil war. In a military sense, Costa Rica may be on the weaker side, but that doesn’t mean it ain’t smart!
Following Costa Rica’s example, the country of Panama, famous for its vitally important waterway, abolished its military back in 1990. Having been ruled by a military dictatorship for decades, the successive government disbanded its army and replaced it with the Panamanian Public Forces.
These consist of national police, aviation, naval, and border protection units, some of which do technically have warfare capabilities, but they’re kept on an incredibly tight leash. For a population of 3.8 million people, there are only an estimated 10,000 active personnel. And despite being situated on one of the most important waterways in the world, the Naval Group only has 33 vessels, 16 of which are dedicated patrol boats!
Their Air Group isn’t exactly flush with supplies either, relying on just 23 helicopters, a handful of which are dedicated to ambulance services. And, finally, but not altogether surprisingly, Panama has a grand total of zero fighter jets. Even the armies of North Korea have access to fighter jets! Although, in fairness, North Korea is in many ways the polar opposite of Panama: it’s ultra-militaristic, devoting around a quarter of its GDP to defense.
The Indian Ocean island nation of Mauritius is better known for its beautiful beaches and reefs than it is for its military or lack thereof. Despite having one of the strongest economies in the geographical region of Sub-Saharan Africa, this island nation of 1.2 million people has no bordering neighbors to threaten it with invasion.
And with no need to expand its borders, since gaining independence from Great Britain in 1968, Mauritius has felt no need to develop a regular or even reserve military. However, it did develop the Mauritius Police Force, made up of just 12,500 officers, who are tasked with everything from coast guard patrols to riot control!
But seeing as the island is more likely to be invaded by tourists than neighboring countries, Mauritius’ defense budget comes in at just $22 million. That makes up a tiny 0.15% of its overall GDP. So even with their police force containing a small paramilitary unit of around 1,400 soldiers, they’re only reported to have invested in 6 police transport helicopters and 3 maritime patrol aircraft!
Their coast guard, and the closest thing they have to a navy, consists of just 15 patrol and strike boats, some of which were donated by the USA. So, it looks like we don’t have to worry about Mauritius taking over the world any time soon. Although they do report possessing 4 rocket launchers and 2 mortars, so don’t get any ideas of staging a one-man coup.
Despite being a member of the military alliance of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Iceland hasn’t had an active or reserve army since the late 1800s. This prosperous, pacifist country provides financial backing and civilian personnel for NATO, but you won’t see any military marches on Icelandic soil.
In return for their contributions, NATO nations provide Iceland with military personnel on a rotational basis, so any troops found on Icelandic territory are more like temporary guests with guns. This means Iceland can afford to scrimp on its defense budget, spending just 0.07% of its $25.88 billion GDP. That small sum mainly goes towards funding its Coast Guards, which are a tiny division made up of about 120 individuals!
Nevertheless, they still play an important role in protecting Iceland’s interests at sea, with fishing making up a large portion of its economy. So much so, that these peaceful islanders almost started a series of Cod Wars with the British throughout the 50s, 60s, and 70s over disputed fishing territory.
However, Iceland only emerged victorious against Britain through diplomatic means, because if it had come to blows, Iceland’s tiny seafaring force would have been blown out of the water!
The tiny landlocked nation of Luxembourg holds cornerstone borders between France, Germany, and Belgium. Even though it’s famous for being a tax-dodging haven, taxes aren’t the only conflicts it manages to avoid.
Being so small, and with over 40% of its 600,000-strong population being foreigners, Luxembourg’s armed forces are modest, to say the least. Being landlocked means the country has no navy whatsoever, but it does have a small air force that currently has access to at least two multi-purpose helicopters.
But the real tightness of Luxembourg’s military wallet can be measured by the size of its all-volunteer army, which comes to a total of just 939 people. But when you break it down even further, you learn this number isn’t just made up of soldiers, because that also includes 137 civil staff, 81 officers, and 54 musicians!
In fact, the Luxembourg army has more musicians making up its ceremonial bands than it does corporals directing the 428 voluntary soldiers! So, if France or Germany ever set their sights on little Luxembourg, let’s hope a rendition of "When the Saints Come Marching In" keeps them at bay!
Despite boasting big budgets for its monarchy, casinos, and yearly Formula 1 races, Monaco certainly isn’t spending much on its defense. Despite 32% of the population being made up of millionaires, the second smallest country in the world has no regular military force. Any major matters of Monaco’s defense fall into the lap of neighboring France.
But Monaco isn’t completely defenseless without its big French brother. The sovereign state has two small military units. One is known as the Compagnie des Carabiniers du Prince, which protects the Prince and judiciary. The other, the Corps des Sapeurs-Pompiers, is responsible for civil defense and firefighting.
Although it’s reported that Monaco has a combined military force of around 260 personnel, about 140 of those make up its aforementioned firefighting service! That leaves the entire country with around 124 soldiers, and they’re mostly employed for ceremonial purposes! You could probably overcome that with one man, a gun, and a donkey!
Despite the lack of firepower, somehow the worst part about Monaco’s military is their rather peculiar-looking array of uniforms. Although it could always be worse; they could be part of the Vatican City’s Swiss Guard, or Iran’s army hedge camo parade. With uniforms like those, it seems sometimes the best military a country can have is none at all!
I hope you were amazed at these weakest armies in the world. Let's hope nobody invades them any time soon. Thanks for reading!