Mapped: All the World’s Military Personnel
While much of the world is living in one of the most peaceful periods in history, the spark of new conflicts like Russia’s invasion of Ukraine reminds us of the importance of military personnel.
Between ongoing armed conflicts to building of defenses preemptively, many countries have amassed significant militaries to date.
This map, using data from World Population Review, displays all the world’s military personnel.
Who Has the Largest Military?
So who has the largest military? Well, the answer isn’t so simple.
There are three commonly measured categories of military personnel:
- Active military: Soldiers who work full-time for the army
Country with the largest active military: 🇨🇳 China (over 2 million)
- Military reserves: People who do not work for the army full-time, but have military training and can be called up and deployed at any moment
Country with the largest military reserves: 🇻🇳 Vietnam (5 million)
- Paramilitary: Groups that aren’t officially military but operate in a similar fashion, such as the CIA or SWAT teams in the U.S.
Country with the largest paramilitary: 🇰🇵 North Korea (an estimated 5 million)
NOTE: Of these categories of military personnel, paramilitary is the least well-defined across the world’s countries and thus not included in the infographic above.
Which country has the biggest military? It depends who’s doing the counting.
If we include paramilitary forces, here’s how the top countries stack up in terms of military personnel:
|Country||Active Military||Reserve Military||Paramilitary||Total Military|
|🇰🇵 North Korea||1,280,000||600,000||5,889,000||7,769,000|
|🇰🇷 South Korea||599,000||3,100,000||3,013,500||6,712,500|
|🇺🇸 United States||1,388,100||844,950||Not disclosed||2,233,050|
Source: World Population Review
When combining all three types of military, Vietnam comes out on top with over 10 million personnel.
And here are the world’s top 10 biggest militaries, excluding paramilitary forces:
|Country||Active Military||Reserve Military||Total Military|
|🇰🇷 South Korea||599,000||3,100,000||3,699,000|
|🇺🇸 United States||1,388,100||844,950||2,233,050|
|🇰🇵 North Korea||1,280,000||600,000||1,880,000|
Even in this case, North Korea remains near the top of the list with these much larger nations. Excluding estimates of paramilitary forces, the Hermit Kingdom has nearly 1.9 million active and reserve troops.
Building up Military Personnel
The reasons for these immense military sizes are obvious in some cases. For example, in Vietnam, North Korea, and Russia, citizens are required to serve a mandatory period of time for the military.
The Koreas, two countries still technically at war, both conscript citizens for their armies. In North Korea, boys are conscripted at age 14. They begin active service at age 17 and remain in the army for another 13 years. In select cases, women are conscripted as well.
In South Korea, a man must enlist at some point between the ages of 18 and 28. Most service terms are just over one year at minimum. There are however, certain exceptions: the K-Pop group BTS was recently granted legal rights to delay their military service, thanks to the country’s culture minister.
Here’s a look at just a few of the other countries that require their citizens to serve some form of military service:
- 🇦🇹 Austria
- 🇧🇷 Brazil
- 🇲🇲 Myanmar
- 🇪🇬 Egypt
- 🇮🇱 Israel
- 🇺🇦 Ukraine
In many of these countries, geopolitical and historical factors play into why they have mandatory service in place.
In the U.S., many different factors play into why the country has such a large military force. For one, the military industrial complex feeds into the U.S. army. A longstanding tradition of the American government and the defense and weapons industry working closely together creates economic incentives to build up arms and defenses, translating into a need for more personnel.
Additionally, the U.S. army offers job security and safety nets, and can be an attractive career choice. Culturally, the military is also held in high esteem in the country.
Nations with No Armies
For many countries, building up military personnel is a priority, however, there are other nations who have no armies at all (excluding the paramilitary branch).
Here’s a glance at some countries that have no armies:
- 🇨🇷 Costa Rica
- 🇮🇸 Iceland
- 🇱🇮 Liechtenstein
- 🇵🇦 Panama
Costa Rica has no army as it was dissolved after the country’s civil war in the 1940s. The funds for the military were redirected towards other public services, such as education.
This is not to say that these nations live in a state of constant peace—most have found alternative means to garner security forces. Under the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance, other countries like the U.S. are technically obligated to provide military services to Costa Rica, for example, should they be in need.
The Future of Warfare
International conflicts persist in the 21st century, but now go far beyond just the number of troops on the ground.
New and emerging forms of warfare pose unforeseen threats. For example, cyber warfare and utilization of data to attack populations could dismantle countries and cause conflict almost instantaneously. Cybersecurity failure has been ranked among the top 10 most likely risks to the world today.
If current trends continue, soldiers of the future will face off on very different fields of battle.
Which Populations Feel Their Country is on the Wrong Track?
New polling data shows that, in many parts of the world, people feel that their countries are on a downward trajectory.
Which Populations Feel Their Country is on the Wrong Track?
Plato once used the allegory of a Ship of Fools to push for his vision of a wise philosopher-king as the ideal pilot for a ship of state.
Looking at the most recent numbers from Morning Consult Political Intelligence’s Projections of Country Trajectories, you would be forgiven for thinking that a great many people believe that their ship of state is piloted by fools.
With the impact of the pandemic, rising inflation, and growing geopolitical instability, it’s probably not surprising that most respondents feel their countries are on the wrong track; India and Switzerland were notable exceptions.
Below are some of the stand-out stories that we found digging through the data.
Midterm elections have rarely been kind to the incumbent party in U.S. politics and the cost of living crisis, an unpopular president, and the aftermath of the global pandemic pointed towards an electoral bloodbath. This year’s election was also expected to set a new spending record, with over $9 billion raised.
Even so, despite 72% of respondents thinking that the country is on the wrong track, the governing Democrats have defied expectations and posted a historic performance during the November 8, 2022, midterm elections. To put this into context, in a president’s first term, there have been three previous instances (since 1922) of the incumbent’s party gaining (or not losing) Senate seats and losing fewer than 10 seats in the House.
Also worth noting is the large spike in negative sentiment in January 2021, following the U.S. Capitol attack, followed by the convergence of negative and positive sentiments as the peaceful transition of power became more assured.
Horace, in Odes 1.14, describes a ship of state that is flailing at sea that eventually rights itself, claiming towards the end of the poem that “it’s my longing and no light love you carry.”
Something like that may be happening in Brazil following the loss of the often turbulent, COVID-19-denying President Jair Bolsonaro to political rival Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in an Oct. 20, 2022, election runoff.
However, with respondents evenly split on where the country is going and the presidential election results being so close (50.9% vs. 49.1%), Lula will have his hands full governing a divided country.
While sentiment was overwhelmingly negative in almost every country tracked in this survey, India stood out as an outlier. India has consistently maintained a positive sentiment of between 60% and 80%, which is something only Switzerland comes close to.
The only blip was a brief period during the spring of 2021. This coincided with a deadly second wave of COVID-19 infections in the country, on top of country-wide protests against the Narendra Modi government’s deeply unpopular farm bill.
The data here covers the three most recent UK Prime Ministers: Boris Johnson, Liz Truss, and now Rishi Sunak, the first South Asian to hold the post.
In January 2020, Johnson had just won a Tory majority and succeeded in “Getting Brexit Done.” Political scandals and the government’s pandemic response pushed the trendline down. It only recovered briefly in the spring of 2021, following Russia’s invasion of the Donbas region of Ukraine, which Johnson was widely seen as handling well. A personal visit to Kyiv on April 9, 2022, helped cement this.
Then followed Prime Minister Liz Truss’ disastrous mini-budget of Sept. 23, 2022, which saw the pound fall to the lowest-ever level against the dollar and the Bank of England intervene in the bond markets. The ascension of Rishi Sunak to No. 10 Downing Street has only just begun to turn around the low of 89% negative sentiment reported on Oct 23-25, 2022.
To quote the BBC comedy series, Yes, Minister, in another context, “the ship of state is the only ship that leaks from the top.”
Visualized: The Biggest Donors of the 2022 U.S. Midterm Elections
A record-smashing $9 billion has been raised for the 2022 midterm elections. See who the top 10 donors are in this graphic.
Visualized: The Biggest Donors of the 2022 U.S. Midterm Elections
This year’s midterm election is expected to set a new spending record, with over $9 billion being raised. This is significantly higher than the previous record of $7 billion, which was set in 2018.
According to a recent analysis by the Washington Post, $1 billion of these funds can be attributed to the top 50 donors. In typical Visual Capitalist style, we’ve illustrated this data to provide you with better insight.
Overview of the Data
The following table lists the top 10 individual donors of the 2022 midterm elections.
|Rank||Name||Affiliation||Total Donation (USD millions)|
|#2||Elizabeth & Richard Uihlein||Republican||$70|
|#10||Patrick & Shirley Ryan||Republican||$27|
Sorting this top 10 donor list by party, we can see that $168 million was raised for the Democrats, and $338 million for the Republicans.
Continue reading below for some interesting background info on all 10 of these individuals. Net worth values were gathered from Forbes on November 1, 2022.
George Soros (Net worth: $7B)
George Soros is a Hungarian-born American billionaire, widely known for his philanthropical efforts and for “breaking” the Bank of England. He has had an illustrious career as a hedge fund manager, founding Soros Fund Management in 1970. Visit this page to see the top 100 holdings of Soros Fund Management’s portfolio.
Soros has donated over $30 billion of his fortune to various causes and charities. He is the founder and chairman of two Super PACs (political action committees) named Democracy PAC and Democracy PAC II.
Unlike regular PACs, Super PACs face no limits in terms of fundraising or political spending.
Elizabeth & Richard Uihlein (Combined net worth: $7B)
Elizabeth & Richard Uihlein are the founders of Uline, one of North America’s largest distributors of logistics supplies (boxes, tape, gloves, etc.). The company makes several billion in sales per year.
The couple have gained media attention for making substantial donations to the Republican party. According to Forbes, the Uihleins have donated a total of $194 million since the 1990s.
Kenneth Griffin (Net worth: $31B)
Kenneth Griffin is the founder and CEO of Citadel, a hedge fund based in the U.S. He also owns Citadel Securities, which is the largest market maker on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE).
Market makers act as a middleman in financial markets by facilitating buy and sell orders for investors. Using equities (stocks) as an example, when a market maker receives an order from a buyer, it sells shares from its own inventory. This enables the stock market to run smoothly.
Griffin found himself in the spotlight during the GameStop short squeeze when his firm provided emergency funding to Melvin Capital Management.
Jeffrey Yass (Net worth: $30B)
Once a pro gambler, Jeffrey Yass is a cofounder of Susquehanna International Group (SIG), a successful trading firm based in Philadelphia. SIG specializes in quantitative research and trading, which involves the use of computer algorithms to identify opportunities.
Yass is frequently cited as the richest person in the state of Pennsylvania and has gained media attention for his large political contributions.
Sam Bankman-Fried (Net worth: $17B)
Sam Bankman-Fried is the founder and CEO of FTX, which is currently the world’s third largest cryptocurrency exchange behind Binance and Coinbase. The company is based in the Bahamas and offers trading in more than 300 cryptocurrencies.
In May 2022, Bankman-Fried declared that he was willing to donate “north of $100 million” in the upcoming 2024 presidential election. He has since backtracked this comment.
At some point, when you’ve given your message to voters, there’s just not a whole lot more you can do.
– Sam Bankman-Fried
Stephen Schwarzman (Net worth: $35B)
Stephen Schwarzman is the chairman and CEO of The Blackstone Group, a globally recognized private equity firm. Blackstone’s portfolio of companies includes Ancestry.com, a well-known family history service, and Bumble, a popular online dating platform.
Shown below, Schwarzman’s wealth has increased substantially since 2020.
The bulk of Schwarzman’s political contributions have gone towards the Senate Leadership Fund, an independent Super PAC which aims to build a Republican Senate majority.
Timothy Mellon (Family net worth: $11B)
Timothy Mellon was the chairman and majority owner of Pan Am Systems, a privately held company with operations in transportation, manufacturing, and energy. In November 2020, CSX Corporation announced it had signed an agreement to purchase Pan Am. The sale was approved in April 2022.
Mellon made headlines in 2021 when it was revealed that he made a whopping $53 million donation to the Texas border wall fund. At the time of reporting, this represented 98% of total funding.
Larry Ellison (Net worth: $102B)
Larry Ellison is the chairman and cofounder of Oracle, one of the world’s largest software companies. Oracle is listed on the NYSE and has a market cap of over $200 billion. Ellison was also a Tesla board member from December 2018 to August 2022.
The vast majority of his political contributions have gone towards the Opportunity Matters Fund, which supports candidates who promote the Opportunity Agenda. It calls for enhanced financial literacy, apprenticeships, and education options.
Peter Thiel (Net worth: $4B)
Peter Thiel is a successful entrepreneur and venture capitalist, perhaps best known for cofounding PayPal. He also cofounded Palantir Technologies, a data analytics company, and is a general partner of Founders Fund, a venture capital firm with investments in major names such as SpaceX.
Thiel is one of the Republican Party’s largest donors, a position that sets him apart from many other Silicon Valley figures. In February 2022, it was reported that he would be stepping down as a Meta board member.
Patrick and Shirley Ryan (Patrick’s net worth: $9B)
Patrick Ryan is the founder and retired CEO of AON Corporation, one of the world’s largest insurance companies. In 2010, he founded another company known as Ryan Specialty Group, which provides services to insurance brokers.
Together with his wife Shirley, the Ryans have made large donations towards the Senate Leadership Fund and other Republican groups.
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