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Top 10 Most Powerful Countries In 2015

To this day, my most popular blog post ever by number of blog comments is Top 10 Most Powerful Countries In 2011, in which I tried to tally the power rating (Comprehensive National Power, as the Chinese would call it) of the world’s Great Powers. It was rather unscientific, there being no particular method by which I assigned numbers.

My second most popular post ever is my recent megapost attempting to measure the Comprehensive Military Power of the world’s leading armed forces. This effort was much more rigorous and provoked a great deal of discussion both here and elsewhere.

This tell me something. Namely, that there is a big popular demand for quantifying all aspects of national power. No wonder the National Review is jampacked with list-based articles of the “5 Chinese Weapons the US should Fear” and the like.

This is convenient, because before compiling the CMP, I also attempted to create a more rigorous measure of the CNP, using a index derived from an averaged measure of economic, military, and soft power. I will not be doing a very big detailed post on the CNP 2015 because I decided I have enough material and ideas to write a small e-book on it instead.

In the meantime, before what is tentatively titled Future Superpowers comes out, for those who are interested in the general idea behind my version of the CNP and would like to see some preliminary rankings and estimates – which will be sure to change, though probably not by much – here goes.

The CNP was compiled, as above, based on an average measure of economic, military, and soft power. Economic power was an index tied to nominal and PPP-adjusted GDP; military power was derived in a way similar to the CMP, albeit the version used here was slightly less sophisticated; and soft power was the average of some measures of diplomatic, elite, and mass/popular soft power such as UN veto rights and percentage of the world’s Top 100 universities. All three major components were given equal weight because, as with Ian Morris’ attempt to quantify historical social development in The Measure of Civilization, there was no particularly good reason to favor one or another component. It’s somewhat like Varys’ riddle over whether a sellsword will obey the king (military power), the priest (soft power), or the rich man (economic power) when they all order him to kill the other two; it all depends on the particular situation and there is no correct answer.

Interestingly, the rank order was very similar to my first “intuitive” attempt at quantification in 2011. The US is head and shoulders above everyone else; China has half of its power; and Russia approximately a third. France, the UK, Germany, Japan, and India form a very tight cluster at around 20% of US national power. Then there is another big gap, and at decidedly less than 10%, there is Brazil, Korea, and the Saudis. The only major difference between the 2011 version and the current 2015 version is that whereas Turkey was 10th in the former, in today’s more rigorous version it shifts down by quite a bit and Italy displaces it (though it could just as easily have been Saudi Arabia, Canada, or South Korea). However, I had overestimated the power of pretty much every country relative to that of the US in the old primitive 2011 version. This matters if you want to make your index proportional and additive, as I have now explicitly set out to do now.

Here are the actual rankings. Note that I didn’t bother doing all countries, just the generally more important ones.

Comprehensive National Power in 2015

The third column is the CNP of each Power relative to US=100 this year. The fourth column gives national CNPs as a percentage of all the “power” in the world. The fifth column gives the CNP per capita as a percentage of that of the US.

Country CNP 2015 %World p/c
1 United States 100.0 22.60% 100%
2 China 51.6 11.67% 12%
3 Russia 28.4 6.43% 62%
4 United Kingdom 20.6 4.66% 102%
5 France 20.6 4.65% 100%
6 India 17.8 4.03% 5%
7 Japan 17.3 3.92% 44%
8 Germany 15.3 3.47% 60%
9 Brazil 9.2 2.08% 14%
10 Italy 8.4 1.91% 45%
11 Saudi Arabia 7.2 1.62% 73%
12 Canada 7.1 1.61% 64%
13 South Korea 6.6 1.50% 42%
14 Australia 6.1 1.38% 82%
15 Spain 5.4 1.22% 37%
16 Mexico 4.6 1.05% 12%
17 Indonesia 4.6 1.04% 6%
18 Turkey 4.4 1.00% 18%
19 Netherlands 4.3 0.97% 82%
20 Switzerland 3.8 0.86% 149%
21 Iran 3.8 0.85% 15%
22 Pakistan 3.3 0.74% 6%
23 Israel 2.8 0.63% 107%
24 Poland 2.7 0.62% 23%
25 Sweden 2.4 0.53% 78%
26 Thailand 2.3 0.52% 11%
27 Egypt 2.3 0.52% 8%
28 Argentina 2.2 0.50% 17%
29 Nigeria 2.1 0.47% 4%
30 UAE 2.0 0.46% 67%
31 South Africa 1.8 0.41% 11%
32 Ukraine 1.8 0.40% 13%
33 Greece 1.4 0.31% 40%
34 Vietnam 1.2 0.27% 4%
35 North Korea 0.5 0.12% 7%
 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Geopolitics, Great Powers, RealWorld 
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  1. Germany actually doesn’t look that bad in that list…unfortunately it still feels like a joke of a nation.
    I suppose Britain and France are higher because of their militaries (and nukes), UN veto power and cultural influence?

    Read More
    • Replies: @Anatoly Karlin

    I suppose Britain and France are higher because of their militaries (and nukes), UN veto power and cultural influence?
     
    Pretty much, yes.

    Here is the soft power component:

    3 United Kingdom 35.3
    4 France 33.5
    6 Germany 17.3

    But Germany is in front economically thanks to a 25% bigger population and broadly similar (actually slightly higher) GDP per capita levels.
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  2. @German_reader
    Germany actually doesn't look that bad in that list...unfortunately it still feels like a joke of a nation.
    I suppose Britain and France are higher because of their militaries (and nukes), UN veto power and cultural influence?

    I suppose Britain and France are higher because of their militaries (and nukes), UN veto power and cultural influence?

    Pretty much, yes.

    Here is the soft power component:

    3 United Kingdom 35.3
    4 France 33.5
    6 Germany 17.3

    But Germany is in front economically thanks to a 25% bigger population and broadly similar (actually slightly higher) GDP per capita levels.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Sean
    You have to take into consideration who is regionally balanced by a powerful potential opponent (South Africa isn't and it has resources). Also some countries like Russia have potential value as allies in a balancing coalition against the future Mega Power that China will be. Russia also has space like no other country which ought to count for something.

    Germany is vastly underrated in soft power considering its environmentalism, co opting of central Europe over immigration /menacing over debt relief. Germany has achieved domination of the EU and the new rules mean Britain can be outvoted. http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/f6928492-7e4a-11e5-98fb-5a6d4728f74e.html

    Cameron and his pal Osborne are focused on the City financial sector being free from leveraging regulation by stupid Germans in Dusseldorf, and for "running to" (Osborne) China. A mercantile trade-focused Britain is getting China bankroll and build Britain's nuclear power stations, all so Osborn can balance his budget. The fact that China will have a wedge over the UK in 2o years is no skin off Osborne's coke-ravaged nose. Suez brought about a fundamental reassessment and Britain has not dared independent action since, although they are beginning to sidle up to China commercially to the US's dismay. France and Britain are dubious as possessing independent soft power. Britain is in the long shadow of the US in almost everything, and is dominated by business leaders and Murdoch (who is unimaginably powerful in the UK). If business had been consulted over WW1 it would never have happened.

    McMeekin (The Russian Origins of the First World War) says in his new book that post ww1 it was not Britain and France but Russia who designed the outlines of the current Middle East
    , @German_reader
    Ok, thanks for the answer!
  3. This tell me something. Namely, that there is a big popular demand for quantifying all aspects of national power.

    Penis size contest is very popular with people. Just observe the mayhem over the various college rankings and the national rancor this brings.

    So I have no doubt this kind of indexing will be very popular and successful, not just in the U.S., but internationally, but, given the lack of real utility for such lists, I would think it is not a particularly worthy endeavor for someone of high intellect.

    As with the comment I made on the “comparative military power” thread I would think comparisons and scenarios of greater specificity would produce more useful real world results.

    For example, I would like to see your review of this wargame: http://www.csl.army.mil/lcdw/strategicwargamingdivision/publications/Russia%20War%20Games%20Report.pdf

    Read More
  4. @Anatoly Karlin

    I suppose Britain and France are higher because of their militaries (and nukes), UN veto power and cultural influence?
     
    Pretty much, yes.

    Here is the soft power component:

    3 United Kingdom 35.3
    4 France 33.5
    6 Germany 17.3

    But Germany is in front economically thanks to a 25% bigger population and broadly similar (actually slightly higher) GDP per capita levels.

    You have to take into consideration who is regionally balanced by a powerful potential opponent (South Africa isn’t and it has resources). Also some countries like Russia have potential value as allies in a balancing coalition against the future Mega Power that China will be. Russia also has space like no other country which ought to count for something.

    Germany is vastly underrated in soft power considering its environmentalism, co opting of central Europe over immigration /menacing over debt relief. Germany has achieved domination of the EU and the new rules mean Britain can be outvoted. http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/f6928492-7e4a-11e5-98fb-5a6d4728f74e.html

    Cameron and his pal Osborne are focused on the City financial sector being free from leveraging regulation by stupid Germans in Dusseldorf, and for “running to” (Osborne) China. A mercantile trade-focused Britain is getting China bankroll and build Britain’s nuclear power stations, all so Osborn can balance his budget. The fact that China will have a wedge over the UK in 2o years is no skin off Osborne’s coke-ravaged nose. Suez brought about a fundamental reassessment and Britain has not dared independent action since, although they are beginning to sidle up to China commercially to the US’s dismay. France and Britain are dubious as possessing independent soft power. Britain is in the long shadow of the US in almost everything, and is dominated by business leaders and Murdoch (who is unimaginably powerful in the UK). If business had been consulted over WW1 it would never have happened.

    McMeekin (The Russian Origins of the First World War) says in his new book that post ww1 it was not Britain and France but Russia who designed the outlines of the current Middle East

    Read More
    • Replies: @ion

    McMeekin (The Russian Origins of the First World War) says in his new book that post ww1 it was not Britain and France but Russia who designed the outlines of the current Middle East
     
    He's an idiot then.
  5. @Anatoly Karlin

    I suppose Britain and France are higher because of their militaries (and nukes), UN veto power and cultural influence?
     
    Pretty much, yes.

    Here is the soft power component:

    3 United Kingdom 35.3
    4 France 33.5
    6 Germany 17.3

    But Germany is in front economically thanks to a 25% bigger population and broadly similar (actually slightly higher) GDP per capita levels.

    Ok, thanks for the answer!

    Read More
  6. Many of these countries are to a great extent clients of the USA. And Israel, of course, has massive influence on the US and can usually make it act against its own rational self-interest.

    Who is more powerful, the jockey or the racehorse?

    Read More
  7. Israel looks undervalued here.

    Besides soft and slightly less soft power (Holocaustianity, Israel lobby in the US, Jewish communities worldwide, Mossad, high number of patents per capita, relatively high GDP per capita, etc. etc.), they have a strong military with a lot of nukes and delivery capabilities. What does Poland have in comparison?

    Read More
  8. @Sean
    You have to take into consideration who is regionally balanced by a powerful potential opponent (South Africa isn't and it has resources). Also some countries like Russia have potential value as allies in a balancing coalition against the future Mega Power that China will be. Russia also has space like no other country which ought to count for something.

    Germany is vastly underrated in soft power considering its environmentalism, co opting of central Europe over immigration /menacing over debt relief. Germany has achieved domination of the EU and the new rules mean Britain can be outvoted. http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/f6928492-7e4a-11e5-98fb-5a6d4728f74e.html

    Cameron and his pal Osborne are focused on the City financial sector being free from leveraging regulation by stupid Germans in Dusseldorf, and for "running to" (Osborne) China. A mercantile trade-focused Britain is getting China bankroll and build Britain's nuclear power stations, all so Osborn can balance his budget. The fact that China will have a wedge over the UK in 2o years is no skin off Osborne's coke-ravaged nose. Suez brought about a fundamental reassessment and Britain has not dared independent action since, although they are beginning to sidle up to China commercially to the US's dismay. France and Britain are dubious as possessing independent soft power. Britain is in the long shadow of the US in almost everything, and is dominated by business leaders and Murdoch (who is unimaginably powerful in the UK). If business had been consulted over WW1 it would never have happened.

    McMeekin (The Russian Origins of the First World War) says in his new book that post ww1 it was not Britain and France but Russia who designed the outlines of the current Middle East

    McMeekin (The Russian Origins of the First World War) says in his new book that post ww1 it was not Britain and France but Russia who designed the outlines of the current Middle East

    He’s an idiot then.

    Read More
    • Replies: @C. Y. Chen
    The thesis of McMeekin's book is moronic, here is a review roundly criticising its absurdity: http://www.newrepublic.com/book/review/the-road-slaughter

    However, maybe he was right to bring up the underrated issue of control over the Bosphorus--according to Docherty and Macgregor, one of the main reasons that the Russian Empire refrained from making a separate peace was because the British had promised to deliver (i.e. bribed with) control of the Bosphorus. (https://firstworldwarhiddenhistory.wordpress.com/)

    I haven't read the book, though, so I cannot really make a definitive judgment here.
  9. If you expand your list countries like Belgium, Austria, Norway, Columbia and Argentina are interesting. They are all five countries with a nominal GDP in the 380-560 billion US dollar range. The country with the largest nominal GDP omitted from your list will then be Denmark with a GDP of 340 billion US dollar.

    Further in Africa Ethiopia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Morocco and Algeria are interesting.

    For geopolitical reason you can think of adding Kazakstan and Uzbekistan in Central Asia.

    Populationwise in South Asia you have omitted Bangladesh with a population well over 150 million. Also Phillipines in East Asia has around 100 million people. After adding those two the largest country omitted from your list will be Myanmar with over 60 million people (that is if you include all of the countries mentioned above)

    Read More
  10. @reiner Tor
    Israel looks undervalued here.

    Besides soft and slightly less soft power (Holocaustianity, Israel lobby in the US, Jewish communities worldwide, Mossad, high number of patents per capita, relatively high GDP per capita, etc. etc.), they have a strong military with a lot of nukes and delivery capabilities. What does Poland have in comparison?

    Poland has one of the best armies of the EU.

    Read More
    • Replies: @reiner Tor
    I know, and also some of the hottest girls and a fine nation all in all.

    I still find them being on par with Israel just plain wrong.
  11. If the fifth column gives the CNP per capita as a percentage of that of the US, Switzerland is, according to this ranking, the most powerful country relative to their population, with 149%.

    However, I’d say Israel beats them all in CNP per capita. 107% is almost certainly an underestimate.

    Read More
  12. @ion

    McMeekin (The Russian Origins of the First World War) says in his new book that post ww1 it was not Britain and France but Russia who designed the outlines of the current Middle East
     
    He's an idiot then.

    The thesis of McMeekin’s book is moronic, here is a review roundly criticising its absurdity: http://www.newrepublic.com/book/review/the-road-slaughter

    However, maybe he was right to bring up the underrated issue of control over the Bosphorus–according to Docherty and Macgregor, one of the main reasons that the Russian Empire refrained from making a separate peace was because the British had promised to deliver (i.e. bribed with) control of the Bosphorus. (https://firstworldwarhiddenhistory.wordpress.com/)

    I haven’t read the book, though, so I cannot really make a definitive judgment here.

    Read More
    • Replies: @ion
    Thanks for the links. They make for very interesting reading.
  13. @C. Y. Chen
    The thesis of McMeekin's book is moronic, here is a review roundly criticising its absurdity: http://www.newrepublic.com/book/review/the-road-slaughter

    However, maybe he was right to bring up the underrated issue of control over the Bosphorus--according to Docherty and Macgregor, one of the main reasons that the Russian Empire refrained from making a separate peace was because the British had promised to deliver (i.e. bribed with) control of the Bosphorus. (https://firstworldwarhiddenhistory.wordpress.com/)

    I haven't read the book, though, so I cannot really make a definitive judgment here.

    Thanks for the links. They make for very interesting reading.

    Read More
  14. @Mitleser
    Poland has one of the best armies of the EU.

    I know, and also some of the hottest girls and a fine nation all in all.

    I still find them being on par with Israel just plain wrong.

    Read More
  15. I am surprised the U.S. is not even stronger as a percentage: Not only is the population over five times bigger than UK or France, but GDP, military, and cultural power are all significantly higher per capita.

    Top universities are probably a decent proxy for cultural power but, even with the Ivy Leagues (and Oxbridge) they probably understate (Anglo-)American influence. Perhaps a way of quantifying degree to which each nation’s films, TV, and music are consumed overseas? (Sales?) And the degree to which media like the NYT and Econ are cited?

    The overall ranking however feels basically right.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Anatoly Karlin
    Good critiques.

    France and the UK have a UN veto, which (almost unreasonably perhaps) bumps them up in the relative cultural power rankings per capita, and makes up for their slight economic gap and big military gap with the US (all adjusted for per capita).

    Films, TV, music, etc. sales would be a good metric but unfortunately it is rather difficult to find truly comprehensive and long-series international statistics for it plus aggregate them.
  16. @Craig Willy
    I am surprised the U.S. is not even stronger as a percentage: Not only is the population over five times bigger than UK or France, but GDP, military, and cultural power are all significantly higher per capita.

    Top universities are probably a decent proxy for cultural power but, even with the Ivy Leagues (and Oxbridge) they probably understate (Anglo-)American influence. Perhaps a way of quantifying degree to which each nation's films, TV, and music are consumed overseas? (Sales?) And the degree to which media like the NYT and Econ are cited?

    The overall ranking however feels basically right.

    Good critiques.

    France and the UK have a UN veto, which (almost unreasonably perhaps) bumps them up in the relative cultural power rankings per capita, and makes up for their slight economic gap and big military gap with the US (all adjusted for per capita).

    Films, TV, music, etc. sales would be a good metric but unfortunately it is rather difficult to find truly comprehensive and long-series international statistics for it plus aggregate them.

    Read More
    • Replies: @reiner Tor
    The UK music industry might actually be more influential (on a per capita basis) than the US one. Or am I mistaken? UK film industry also seems to be influential. Plus UK actors are also popular in Hollywood. Or what about things like The Lord of the Rings, which is based on the novels of a British (though long dead) author. Same thing about Harry Potter.
  17. @Anatoly Karlin
    Good critiques.

    France and the UK have a UN veto, which (almost unreasonably perhaps) bumps them up in the relative cultural power rankings per capita, and makes up for their slight economic gap and big military gap with the US (all adjusted for per capita).

    Films, TV, music, etc. sales would be a good metric but unfortunately it is rather difficult to find truly comprehensive and long-series international statistics for it plus aggregate them.

    The UK music industry might actually be more influential (on a per capita basis) than the US one. Or am I mistaken? UK film industry also seems to be influential. Plus UK actors are also popular in Hollywood. Or what about things like The Lord of the Rings, which is based on the novels of a British (though long dead) author. Same thing about Harry Potter.

    Read More

Comments are closed.