Armed Forces

World armed forces fell from 24.6 million members in 1993 to 23.5 million in 1994, a drop of slightly over 4% (Main Table I). This continues a downward trend following the decade high of 28.7 million set in 1988. The worldwide trend over the decade was relatively flat with only a 2% annual decline, which almost doubled in the latter half of the decade, to 3.7% (Figure 5 and Table 2).

Figure 5. World and Regional Armed Forces, 1984-1994

World and Regional Armed Forces, 1984-
1994 (24k)

Developed and Developing Trends

Developed country armed forces fell much faster than the developing group, with annual declines of roughly 8% between 1990-1994 and 4% over the decade. Developing countries fell 1.3% and .4% annually during the same periods, respectively. The 7.9 million soldiers of developed countries account for 34% of the total in 1994, nine percentage points less than in 1984.

Table 2
Armed Forces: Shares and Growth

(In percent)
World Share
Real Growth Rate*
84- 94
2nd Half

East Asia30.632.9-.9-1.8
Western Europe13.614.0-1.9-3.4
Eastern Europe20.213.3-5.8-8.1
Middle East9.010.2-.5-7.1
South Asia6.
North America8.78.3-2.1-5.6
Subsaharan Africa3.64.4-.2-3.1
South America4.13.5-3.4-1.8
North Africa1.61.9-.60
Cent. America & Car.2.01.2-5.5-13.4
Central Asia & Cauc.---.7------
Europe, all33.8 27.3-4.1 -5.9
Africa, all5.5 6.7-.4 -2.0
Organization / Reference Group
OECD23.0 23.6-1.9 -4.1
OPEC7.4 7.9-1.2 -7.8
NATO, all21.2 20.7-2.2 -4.6
Warsaw Pact (fmr)19.0 12.4-5.7 -8.1
NATO Europe13.0 13.1-2.0 -3.8
Latin America6.4 5.5-3.3 -4.8
CIS--- 9.2--- ---

* Average annual rate, calculated as a compound rate curve fitted to all points (see Statistical Notes for details).

Developing countries' forces, which peaked at 17 million in 1989, totaled 15.6 million in 1994, slightly less than double the developed countries' forces. Developing countries accounted for roughly 57-60% of total armed forces between 1984-1991 and rose to 64% in 1992-1993 and to 66% in 1994. Thirteen of the world's twenty largest forces in 1994 belonged to developing countries (Figure 4). China, India and North Korea all had forces of over 1 million soldiers in 1994 and ranked first, fourth, and fifth in the world, respectively. The next five largest armies of developing countries--Vietnam, Turkey, Pakistan, Iran, and the Ukraine--all had armed forces totaling between a half million and 1 million soldiers. Two former developing countries--South Korea (with 750,000 soldiers in 1994) and Taiwan (with 435,000)--with historically large forces were redefined in this edition as developed.

Along with the top three developing countries, there were two developed country armies of more than 1 million soldiers in 1994--the United States, ranked second in the world, and Russia, ranked third. Together, the five largest armies accounted for 37% of the world's total military strength.

All regions of the world showed declines in total armed forces in both the 10-year and 5-year periods, except for South Asia, which recorded increases during both periods. The largest declines were recorded by Eastern Europe (at a 6% rate since 1984 and 8% since 1990) and Central America (at 5.5% since 1984 and 13% since 1990).

East Asia is the largest region in terms of shares of world armed forces, with 33% of the total, followed by Western and Eastern Europe, with 14% and 13%, respectively, the Middle East, with 10%, and South Asia and North America, with 8-9% each. The most dramatic change in shares occurred with Eastern Europe, which reduced its share of world armed forces by 7 percentage points over the decade.

European Armed Forces

Military strength among European countries fell by an average rate of 4% during the decade and by 6% during the half-decade. In 1994 the region totaled 6.4 million soldiers, a 9% drop from the previous year and 33% less than the decade high 9.5 million set in 1987.

In 1994 Eastern and Western Europe together accounted for 27% of the world's total soldiers, compared to 34% in 1984. Eastern European armies fell at an annual rate of 8% during 1990-1994 and 6% during the decade. Western Europe, on the other hand, maintained a slower rate of decline of its military strength, with an annual average reduction of 3.4% during the latter five-year period and 2% during the decade.

Turkey has claim to the largest army within Western Europe, with 811,000 soldiers in 1994. This is an 18% increase from 1993 and accounts for 14% of Europe's total armed forces and 25% of Western Europe's. Turkey ranked seventh in the world in terms of total armed forces in 1994, followed by France at 11th, Italy at 13th, and Germany at 18th.

In addition to Turkey's relatively large increase in 1994, Portugal's armed forces rose by 54,000 soldiers and Sweden by 26,000. Germany's armed forces fell by 36,000 soldiers from 1993 to 1994, while the Italian and British armies fell by 14,000 each.

Western European members of NATO made up 63% of NATO's total strength in 1994, with the four largest armies of the alliance--Turkey, France, Italy, and Germany--providing 45%.

The region that showed the largest decline in armed forces was Eastern Europe, which reduced its total by .7 million from 1993 to 1994. This drop can be credited mainly to the large drop in Russia.

Russia possessed Eastern Europe's largest army in 1994, with 1.4 million soldiers. This total accounted for 22% of Europe's total military strength and 45% of Eastern Europe's. As stated above, Russia's army was the third largest in the world in 1994, despite a 38% reduction from 1993.

The Ukraine, with forces of about a half million in 1994, ranked second in Eastern Europe, fourth in Europe, and 12th in the World. No other Eastern European country ranked in the top twenty in terms of forces. Only three others--Poland, Romania and Serbia-Montenegro--possessed relatively large armed forces, with 255,000, 200,000, and 130,000 soldiers, respectively.

United States

The United States ranked as the world's second largest army in 1994, with a strength of over 1.7 million. This total accounts for 7% of the world's total military strength and 23% of all developed countries. Total U.S. forces have dropped steadily since peaking at 2.3 million in 1987. Over the decade armed forces fell at an annual rate of 2.5%, but the pace quickened over the latter half of the decade, at 6%. The United States accounts for over one-third of the total NATO forces, with the level of support from the United States to NATO consistently ranging from 36-38%.

Developing Country Trends

Developing country armed forces fell by some 560,000 soldiers from 1993 to 1994, with all but two developing regions--Subsaharan Africa and South Asia--experiencing drops in total forces in 1994. Of the other developing regions, Central Asian, Central American, and South American armed forces each fell by roughly 80,000 soldiers, East Asian by 58,000, and Middle Eastern by 43,000.

East Asia's 33% share of world armed forces is up three points from that recorded in 1984. The region's three largest armies--Mainland China, North Korea, and Vietnam--accounted for 64% of the region's military manpower in 1994, China alone accounting for 38%. Chinese armed forces, which total more than the region's next three largest armies combined--the two mentioned above and South Korea--declined by 1.2 million soldiers over the decade, at an annual rate of 3.5%. In 1994 alone its armed forces fell by 100,000.

In contrast to China's large declines in armed forces, Vietnamese, North Korean, and South Korean armed forces saw relatively no change in army size in 1994. Both North and South Korean armed forces appear to be stable in terms of size, with 1.2 million and 750,000 soldiers, respectively. Vietnamese forces have remained stable at 857,000 since 1992, following a five-year period of consecutive drops. Several East Asian countries experienced increases in 1994--Burma, Indonesia, Laos, Mongolia, and the Philippines--ranging from 2,000 to 14,000 soldiers.

Of the other armies of East Asia, China-Taiwan ranked 13th in the world in 1994, Burma, 15th, Thailand, 19th, and Indonesia, 20th.

The armies of the Middle East accounted for 10% of the world's total forces in 1994. The region's 2.4 million soldiers in 1994 were 1 million less than in 1990 when regional total armed forces peaked. (This sharp drop can be credited mostly to Iraqi reductions.) The Middle East reduced its total armed forces by roughly 43,000 soldiers from 1993 to 1994, this drop credited mostly to large Syrian reductions.

Egypt, Iran, and Iraq possess the region's largest armies, accounting for 57% of the regional total. The three also account for roughly 6% of the world total and 9% of the developing country total. Iran maintains the tenth largest army in the world, with 528,000 soldiers in 1994, followed by Egypt and Iraq, ranked 13th and 15th in the world, respectively.

Of all Middle Eastern countries, only three--Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Oman--reduced the size of their armies in 1994. Syrian armed forces fell by 88,000 soldiers, while Saudi Arabian forces went down by 8,000, and Omani forces went down by 4,000. Modest increases were recorded by Iraq, which went up by 18,000 soldiers to 425,000 and Lebanon, up 13,000 to 50,000. The increase in army size by the remaining countries ranged from 2,000 to 6,000 soldiers.

Table 3 Force Ratio Trends

Growth Rate*
19841990 1994 Decade
2nd Half

Armed Forces: (In millions)
World28.1 27.723.5-1.8-3.7
Population:(In billions)
World4. 1.6
Developed1.21.31.1-.6 -2.9
Developing3. 2.9
Force Ratio: (In soldiers per 1000 pop.)
World5.9 5.34.2-3.5-5.2
Developed9.98.76.9-3.5 -5.0
Developing4.54.23.5-2.7 -4.1
Middle East16.317.911.3-3.5 -9.7
Eastern Europe13.710.89.0-3.8 -2.3
Western Europe9.58.87.4-3.0 -4.8
North Africa8.26.96.2-3.1 -2.3
North America7.26.85.2-3.3 -6.8
Cent. Amer. & Car. -15.1
East Asia5.2 4.64.1 -2.3-3.0
Oceania3.9 3.52.9 -2.3-4.0
South America4.4 3.12.6 -5.1-3.3
Central Asia & Cauc. ------2.3 ------
Subsaharan Africa2.6 2.62.0 -3.2-6.1
South Asia1.8 1.81.7 -1.0-1.7
Europe, all11.6 9.88.1 -3.7-3.8
Africa3.3 3.02.5 -3.3-4.9
OECD7.5 7.05.7 -2.9-5.3
OPEC5.6 6.54.0 -3.6-9.8
NATO, All9.4 8.76.9 -3.2-5.9
Warsaw Pact (fmr)13.7 10.97.4 -5.7-7.7
NATO Europe9.8 9.17.5 -3.1-5.2
Latin America4.6 3.62.8 -5.1-6.5
CIS--- ---7.5 ------

* Average annual rate, calculated as a compound rate curve fitted to all points (see Statistical Notes for details).

South Asian armed forces totaled over two million soldiers in 1994, accounting for 9% of the world total and 14% of developing countries. As stated above, South Asia was the only region to experience growth during both the decade and half-decade period. The region's armed forces rose by 7,000 from 1993 to 1994. The armies of India and Pakistan make up 89% of the region's total military strength, with India alone accounting for 63%. India possesses the fourth largest army in the world, with 1.3 million soldiers. Pakistan now claims the ninth largest, with 540,000. In 1994 Indian armed forces rose by 40,000, while Pakistani armed forces fell by an almost equal amount.

Bangladesh continues to grow in terms of military strength. The size of the Bangladeshi army increased steadily throughout the decade at an annual rate of 3%. Armed forces totaled 113,000 soldiers in 1994, up slightly from 1993.

The remaining five developing regions of the world--North and Subsaharan Africa, South and Central America, and Central Asia--made up just over 12% of the world's total armed forces in 1994. Of all countries within these regions, no armies ranked in the top twenty.

Force Ratios

The ratio of a country's armed forces to its population provides a useful indicator of national military burden and effort. A comparison of trends in armed forces, population, and the resulting "force ratio" shows some significant differences between developed and developing countries and sharp differences among regions (Table 3 above; see also Figure 18, column 1).

The force ratio for the world declined at a moderate 3.5% rate during the decade and more rapidly at 5% during 1990-1994, falling to four soldiers per thousand people in 1994 from six soldiers in 1984. Developing countries had a ratio of 3.5 in 1994, compared to seven for developed countries. Force ratios of both groups fell over the decade, with the annual rate of decline slightly higher for developed countries during both the decade and half-decade period.

In 1994, the Middle East had the highest force ratio of any region with 11.3, followed by Eastern and Western Europe with 9.0 and 7.4, respectively, North Africa with 6.2, and North America with 5.2. The remaining regions had force ratios of less than five.

North Korea had the world's largest army relative to its population in 1994, with 52 soldiers per thousand population (see Country Rankings). Four other East Asian countries--Taiwan and Singapore (20), South Korea (17), and Brunei (14)--were also leading countries in terms of this ratio.

Five of the top ten countries in terms of the force ratio measure were of the Middle East region. Israel ranked second in the world with 37, Jordan followed with 25, and the United Arab Emirates, Syria, and Iraq each had a ratio of 21. Four other Middle Eastern countries--Qatar (19), Libya (16), Oman (15), and Bahrain (14)--ranked in the top twenty.

Both India and Pakistan have relatively small armies in comparison to population. In 1994 Pakistan ranked 85th in the world with a ratio of 4 soldiers per 1000 people, while India followed at 136th with a ratio of 1.4.

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