War is never fun, exciting or a source of glory for anyone (well, at least it shouldn’t be). Only someone who hasn’t experienced it firsthand would believe such a thing. As many have put it over the years: “War is hell,” pure and simple. And because this statement is a fact, most countries around the world have prepared themselves accordingly, unwilling to be taken unawares by a military invasion. Though actual wars for conquest are a rare thing nowadays, this doesn’t mean that armed conflicts don’t happen.
Here are 10 such nations who are definitely prepared for one such attack. These rankings will not be made solely on each country’s firepower or active personnel, but also on other criteria which will be considered as an advantage in their overall defense.
Active Personnel: 60,000, Reserve: 44,000
Tanks: 59, Artillery: 75
Air Fighters: 78, Helicopters: 188
Naval Strength: 47 (Submarines: 6, Aircraft Carriers: 2)
Though it boasts a relatively small population of roughly 23 million, Australia is nevertheless huge; a continent in and of itself. With the exception of the coastal areas, where 98 percent of its people live, the island nation is an almost 3 million square mile scorching desert. A perfect place for any army to hide in, and from where to launch surprise attacks on any would be invader. Given its geographical position however, this would be highly unlikely. The scorching outback, as well as the Coral Barrier Reef, protects large parts of Queensland. During WWII, the Japanese seriously considered an invasion of Australia, but given the situation at hand, they decided against it.
While most of the Australian forces were already deployed either in Europe or Northern Africa, the Japanese estimated around 200,000 soldiers would be needed to take hold of the island nation. They instead opted to isolate Australia as much as possible, trying to cut it off from the US. Even if the Japanese had invaded and succeeded in taking over all the coastal cities, Australians would have been able to keep a long and extensive guerrilla war going from various hideouts scattered across the outback. According to the Global Peace Index, Australia ranks third in the Asia-Pacific region and 9th in the world.
Active Personnel: 100,000, Reserve: 77,000
Tanks: 224, Artillery: 224
Air Fighters: 63, Helicopters: 43
Pretty much everyone is aware by now of Switzerland’s famous neutrality. As Europe was plunged in two World Wars, the Alpine country was spared from the terrific onslaught. Given its mountainous location, the country devised a defensive plan, known as the Swiss National Redoubt, which was deployed as early the 1880s. The plan involved building a series of fortresses and strongholds in key locations around the many mountain passes. These defenses proved useful in thwarting the different warring factions from invading Switzerland throughout the 20th century.
After WWII, and fearing a potential Soviet invasion, the plan was expanded to include Switzerland’s entire infrastructure. The Swiss military wired all roads and railways with dynamite, which would be detonated in case of an attack. This way any invader would have to waste time and energy in getting into the country. Moreover, the many bunkers, tunnels, and fortresses built within the mountains themselves offer access and protection for entire military divisions to strike anywhere at a moment’s notice.
Over the years Switzerland has decreased the number of its active personnel from 400,000 in 1995, to 220,000 in 2004, and again to 100,000 men in 2016. Having a direct democracy, instead of a representative one, its citizens are active participants in all major decisions happening in the country, including when it comes to its military or going to war. While they agreed to reduce the number of active personnel, they also agreed to raise the military budget by 2.4 billion Swiss francs, and to even keep conscription in place.
In fact, all citizens have military training, and get to keep their weapon after its completion. At present there are an estimated of 45.7 weapons per 100 people within Switzerland. So, if it ever gets invaded, almost 4,000,000 citizens are immediately available for military service with another 3,000,000 fit for joining as well. Moreover, while so many decision makers around the world keep their wealth in Swiss bank accounts, it would be counterintuitive for them to risk losing it in the chaos of an invasion. Plus, those Swiss Army Knives can do everything.
8. Tuvalu, New Zealand, Iceland and Bhutan
All four of these nations fall within this category, not because they are heavily defended, or because of their armed forces, but because of their isolation and lack of any strategic or economic importance for a potential invader. Out of all these nations, only New Zealand and Bhutan have any armies, of roughly 9,000 and 6,000 active personnel, respectively. New Zealand, even though it’s a developed nation, is not involved in any conflicts around the world, earning it the number four spot on the Global Peace Index in 2015. And in the unlikely event of it ever being invaded, the mountainous terrain can offer ample opportunity for waging guerrilla warfare. Moreover, located at almost 1,000 miles from the nearest major landmass of Australia, mounting an effective offensive would be quite problematic. Plus, it can always call all of those elves and hobbits into service, if need be.
Tuvalu on the other hand has no armed forces whatsoever. It has only a small police force, and a Maritime Surveillance Unit for internal security. Given its isolation in the Pacific Ocean, it’s highly unlikely for anyone to target the tiny island nation for invasion. In a somewhat similar situation is Iceland, which has not had a standing army since 1869, but is however an active member of NATO. Its national defense and security is guaranteed by the United States, which up until 2006 had a military base on the island. Nevertheless, Iceland still has a military expeditionary peacekeeping force, an air defense system, an extensive militarized coast guard and a tactical police force. According to the same Global Peace Index we mentioned before, Iceland is at the number one spot.
Bhutan is the only continental and landlocked country among these four, located high up in the Himalayas. Though sandwiched between India and China, Bhutan is one of the most secluded nations in the world, and the happiest. It has also kept itself out of any foreign entanglements since it joined the UN in 1971. The country has no diplomatic relations with the US, and only Bangladesh and India have embassies in Bhutan. It’s undeniably true that if any other nation decided to invade any of these countries, they would most likely be able to without any great opposition. But because of their isolation and peaceful demeanor, what would be the point?
Active Personnel: 250,000, Reserve: 42,000
Tanks: 777, Artillery: 839
Air Fighters: 289, Helicopters: 741
Naval Strength: 131 (Submarines: 17, Carriers: 3)
Besides being an island nation, which are always more difficult to invade (just ask the Mongols), Japan also boasts a sizable army and a particularly powerful economy (the 4th largest in the world). Their national defense budget alone is somewhere around $49 billion, the sixth highest in the world. The Japanese are notorious when it comes to the defense of their country, as was seen throughout history. During WWII, the Americans were more or less forced to drop nuclear bombs over two Japanese cities, in order to hasten the end of the war, since the Allies realized the word “surrender” doesn’t really exist in the minds of Japanese soldiers. Even though the country is aging, Japan has a total population of over 126 million, and some 1.2 million reach military age annually.
Due to the increasingly restless situation in the South China Sea, Japan began its first military expansion in over 40 years. Though sizably smaller than its counterpart in the region (China) the Japanese army is far better equipped and is especially designed to be a defensive force, rather than an offensive one. This was part of the peace clause after WWII. In any case, their air force is the fifth largest in the world and the most sophisticated. Moreover, any incursion into Japanese territory by a foreign power would be challenged both by the Japanese themselves, as well as the US Military as stipulated in the “Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the United States and Japan.”
Active Personnel: 545,000, Reserve: 1,800,000
Tanks: 1,658, Artillery: 2,400
Air Fighters: 137, Helicopters: 140
Naval Strength: 398 (Submarines: 33)
In recent decades the Middle East has become a hotbed for conflict, extremism, and social and economic instability, no doubt fueled by the vast amounts of oil found beneath the region (pun…sort of intended?). But while several of its neighbors have succumbed to the ravages of war, Iran is still a strong influence and stability factor in the region. Regardless, many other governments like that of Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the United States would like to see that change. Moreover, Iran has begun its own nuclear program, trying to consolidate its power even further. This new turn of events has made many believe it to be a good idea to invade Iran. However, a peaceful resolution would be a far better and less costly solution for everyone.
For starters, Iran has a tremendously large army; the largest in the Middle East. Moreover, the country is literally covered by mountains, perfect for concealed defensive facilities and underground bunkers. This type of terrain, as well as Iran’s battle-hardened army, can withstand a prolonged war of attrition against any superior attacking force. In the meantime, the Iranian government is perfectly capable of using a mix of mines, submarines, anti-ship missiles, drones, and all sorts of other tactical forces to disrupt the flow of oil exports in the Gulf region, disrupting the world economy as a whole. One such invasion of Iran would not be supported by countries like Russia, China, or even the EU, who only stand to lose from such attacks. And even if the attack was a success and all nuclear facilities were destroyed, this would only delay Iran’s nuclear program by a mere four years.
Active Personnel: 95,000, Reserve: 51,000
Tanks: 181, Artillery: 161
Air Fighters: 64, Helicopters: 175
Naval Strength: 63 (Submarines: 4)
Canada is the second largest country in terms of surface area after Russia, and equally as cold (and we all know what happened when Napoleon tried to invade Russia…but we’ll get to that later). Located at the northern fringes of the world, Canada would be quite difficult to invade, even though most of its 35 million people live close to the border with the United States. But given its size and vast expanses of wilderness, taking over all of Canada by force could be problematic for anyone. Moreover, it’s mostly surrounded by oceans, and it only shares a border with just one other nation, which is its ally and just happens to be the world’s largest superpower. Bringing in troops and holding a steady supply line would be quite difficult. From an economic standpoint, the country is also well prepared to withstand a prolonged war of attrition if need be. Its defense budget is at $14.7 billion and the country is currently producing more oil than it consumes.
Canada’s best means of defense, however, is their peaceful and friendly attitude towards other nation states around the world, giving little reason for others to invade them. Not to mention that Canada is also part of NATO. Nevertheless, if anyone got any bright ideas, they would have a really tough time in invading since Canada’s military is very well equipped, trained, and supplied with cutting edge technologies.
According to the Global Firepower Index, Canada is ranked as no. 22 in terms of overall military strength, but given its geographical location and geopolitical situation, the nation ranks better when it comes to an actual invasion by a foreign power. In 1974, the US declassified “War Plan Red,” a comprehensive offensive strategy against Canada devised in 1927, in case the British ever wanted to attack the US from the north.
4. North Korea
Active Personnel: 700,000, Reserve: 4,500,000
Tanks: 4,200, Artillery: 6,550
Air Fighters: 458, Helicopters: 222
Naval Strength: 967 (Submarines: 70)
Nuclear Warheads: 8
As seen during the Korean War in the early 1950s, both South Korea and the United States tried to take down the North, but to no avail. And while there is a huge discrepancy between the technological advancements between the two Koreas nowadays, many of the reasons for why the initial invasion failed are still there. Since North Korea developed its own nuclear weapons, as well as the many crimes against humanity happening over there under the rule of the Kim family, these would certainly warrant an invasion, and regime overthrow by the UN. However this invasion is not foreseen any time in the near future. The reasons have more to do with geopolitics than anything else, and pretty much everyone involved is unwilling to mount such an undertaking.
For starters, there’s China, which is North Korea’s biggest “ally” and who also supported it in the ’50s. They are content to keeping the country the way it is, as a sort of buffer zone between them and the South. Moreover, if something were to happen to North Korea, it is quite possible that millions of people would flood into Manchuria, trying to leave the country and destabilizing the northern Chinese region. And lastly, there’s the status quo between China and the US, where China has its sights on Taiwan and the US on DPRK. This way, neither is willing to make a move, not wanting to antagonize the other.
And even if the Chinese weren’t the problem, there’s the South Koreans who, according to the polls, are afraid of the cost of unification with the North and even started to consider the North Koreans as being “different people” from themselves. It’s like the case with Germany today, where even after nearly 30 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall, East Germany is struggling to catch up with the West. Given the huge economical discrepancy between the two, the same thing would apply to Korea if it ever reunited, but on a much, much larger scale. The most likely “invasion” of North Korea would happen from within, in the form of a coup.
3. United Kingdom
Active Personnel: 150,000, Reserves: 182,000
Tanks: 407, Artillery: 227
Air Fighters: 91, Helicopters: 397
Naval Strength: 76 (Submarines: 10, Aircraft Carriers: 1)
Nuclear Warheads: 215
Island nations are among the most common in this list, and the United Kingdom is a prime example of a hard-to-invade country. In fact, the last time Britain was totally and successfully invaded was in 1066 during the Norman conquest of England. During WWII, try as they might, Hitler and the Nazis were unable to mount an effective attack on the island, proving just how much 20 miles of open water means in organizing an effective landing. Surrounded by two oceans and the ever turbulent North Sea, the British Isle can only be effectively invaded from the South, across the English Chanel. But even this crossing is treacherous and difficult. The Southeastern English coast consists of steep cliffs, known as the White Cliffs of Dover. This way, any would-be invading fleet would be forced to drop anchor farther away, and be exposed to British artillery and its air force.
Its military is no joke either, with cutting edge technology and surveillance equipment. Its defense budget of $55 billion is the 5th largest in the world, as is its economy. It also has two aircraft carriers under construction, which are due to enter service in 2020 and 2022, respectively. Being a member of NATO, the UK has the advantage of strong allies (including the US, obviously) who will come to their aid in case of any threat. In and of itself the United Kingdom has a more or less stable relationship with all nations around the globe.
Active Personnel: 766,000, Reserves: 2,485,000
Tanks: 15,400, Artillery: 10,600
Air Fighters: 751, Helicopters: 1,750
Naval Strength: 352 (Submarines: 60, Aircraft Carriers: 1)
Nuclear Warheads: 7,300
Without a doubt, Russia is an almost impossible country to conquer. As history has proven time and time again with the Swedish in the early 18th century, the French under Napoleon in 1812, and then the Nazis during WWII, the incredibly harsh Russian winter can bring even the mightiest of armies to its knees. In fact, Russia has some of the biggest temperature differences on the planet, with a record low of -90 F and a record high of 113.7 F.
Another major impediment in conquering Russia is its sheer size. Being the largest country in the world, with 6.6 million square miles, much of the country is made out of mountains and wilderness, perfect for hidden military bases and surprise attacks. Scouring these lands in the hopes of discovering all of these bases would be like looking for a needle in a haystack. Even if, by some miracle, someone were able to successfully invade Russia, almost no one would be able to hold on to it.
Since the fall of the Soviet Union, the Russian military stagnated, but recently it has begun to grow. Since 2008, the country’s annual military spending has increased by almost a third and is now at $66 billion. At present the country has the largest fleet of tanks in the world. However their equipment, like that tank force, is aging. Nevertheless, in recent years the country has become more and more interested in robotics development.
Though generations behind the US in terms of unmanned vehicles, Russia is perfectly capable of catching up in just a few years, says Mark Gubrud, a member of the International Committee for Robot Arms Control. This technology has the potential to become the basis for a new arms race. And if someone were to actually invade Russia, we personally wouldn’t put it past their government to use its nuclear arsenal, even on their own soil.
Active Personnel: 1,400,000, Reserves: 1,100,000
Tanks: 8,850, Artillery: 3,300
Air Fighters: 2,300, Helicopters: 7,100
Naval Strength: 415 (Submarines: 75, Aircraft Carriers: 19)
Nuclear Warheads: 7,100
Not surprisingly, the United States is first on this list. For starters, its geographical position, as Otto von Bismarck is believed to have said, is advantageous: “The Americans are truly a lucky people; they are bordered to the north and south by weak neighbors and to the east and west by fish.” Then there are the truly vast expanses of the country and all the different types of terrain, from densely forested mountains to scorching deserts. Any invading force would have difficulty holding on to these places, regardless of who or what was defending them.
And then there’s the US Military. With a defense budget of $581 billion, it alone makes up almost a third of all money spent on the military in the world. Only 20 countries have a larger GDP than the US defense budget. And contrary to Iceland, New Zealand, or Bhutan, the US follows “the best defense is offense” strategy. Whenever there’s a conflict in the world, 9 times out of 10, the US is sure to be involved in one way or another. The country also holds hundreds of military bases around the world, and has been at war almost constantly over the past 25 years. The US is also notorious for destabilizing other nation states, engineering coups, overthrowing democratic governments, and backing military dictatorships in their stead. This interventionist policy keeps conflicts away from its borders by generating them somewhere else.
And lastly, there’s the matter of guns per capita. As Isoroku Yamamoto, Commander-in-Chief of the Imperial Japanese Navy during WWII is commonly believed to have once said, “You cannot invade the mainland United States. There would be a rifle behind every blade of grass.” An invader of mainland USA would be faced with an already armed populace. While Switzerland has an estimated 45.7 guns per 100 residents, the US has a whopping 112. That means that there are more guns than people.