In World War I, the tide changed in favor of the Allies when the Americans entered the war. Of course, the invention of the tank also has probably something to do with the final victory of the Allies, but the sheer number of additional forces certainly helped out. In World War II, Hitler made the fatal mistake of invading a former ally in Stalin’s Soviet Union. The Russians had the manpower, not to mention the weather, to stem the Nazi onslaught.
Technology and type of weapons will surely help a side win a war, but having the numbers will also do a lot for your confidence and morale. After all, there is strength in numbers.
Here now is a list of the top ten countries with the biggest armies in the world.
1. People’s Republic of China – 2,285,000
The People’s Liberation Army is the military arm of the People’s Republic of China. It is the largest army in the world. Military service is compulsory for Chinese men upon reaching the age of 18 years old, but drafting has never been enforced because of the huge number of volunteers. China has more than a billion people to protect, so having such a large army maybe a necessity. Its constant skirmishes with its neighbors due to conflicting territorial claims have given the country additional reason to maintain such a strong force.
2. United States of America – 1,458,219
The United States draws its military power from a pool of paid volunteers. It used to have a conscription system in the past, with the drafting during the Vietnam War being so controversial because of the unpopularity of the war. The draft system has not been used since 1972. Still, the U.S. spends more than half a trillion every year for its military, and an additional $160 billion for its overseas contingency operations. Those are equivalent to 43 percent of the total military spending in the world.
3. India – 1,325,000
India is the largest importer of military arms, with its spending equivalent to 9 percent of the world’s imports. Their main sources of weapons are Russia, Israel and France. It maintains a close relationship with Russia, especially with regards the development of military aircrafts. It is in a constant level of alert because of the country’s rivalry with Pakistan and its border tensions with China.
4. North Korea – 1,106,000
It stands face to face against South Korea and the United States everyday along the demilitarized zone. The army traces its roots to the late 1930s, during the time when Japan still occupied Korea. By the time Korea was divided along the line of the 38th parallel, the northern part of the country had an armed force of around 2,500 men. These grew during the Cold War, as North Korea fought a war against the neighboring South. Around a quarter of the country’s meager budget is reserved for the military, with expenses reaching up to almost $10 billion.
5. Russian Federation – 1,027,000
It traces its roots back to Kievan Rus, but the actual Russian Federation armed forces were only established in 7 May 1992 after the breakup of the old Soviet Union. Then President Boris Yeltsin had signed a decree placing all troops of the Soviet Union inside Russian Federation territory as part of the Russian army. The country spends nearly $72 billion for the upkeep of its armed forces.
6. Turkey – 666,576
The Turkish army traces its roots to the Ottoman Empire, though it disintegrated in the aftermath of its defeat in World War I. The country remained neutral until the closing months of World War II, when it finally joined the Allies that were on the cusp of victory. The country then initiated a massive modernization program of its military after joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or NATO, in 1952. It sent troops to the Korean War. The Turkish army has also sent operational staff to the multinational army corps initiative of the European Union and NATO.
7. South Korea – 639,000
The South Korean army was created in 1948 after the division of the country into two states. The country has long relied on the United States for security, especially given the tense situation with its communist neighbor up north. By 2015, however, it will start to assume wartime operational control. It has been rapidly modernizing as a result, with several modern weapon and military systems being introduced.
8. Pakistan – 617,000
The Pakistani armed forces were created in 1947 after gaining independence from the British Empire. They have fought two wars with their rival India, one in 1947 and the other in 1965. They also had border skirmishes with Afghanistan during that time. Probably because India’s military has close ties with Russia, Pakistan has turned to Russia’s rivals, China and the United States, for its military requirements. Most of its weapons are imported from these two countries. It also has an agreement with China to research, develop and enhance the country’s military system.
9. Iran – 523,000
The Iranian army was established after the Pahlavi dynasty took over the country in 1925. Its officers were trained in American and European military academies. Most of its weapons came from the Americans, which were then their allies. After the Islamic Revolution of 1979, relations with the U.S. quickly became strained. An arms embargo forced Iran to learn to maintain and operate the weapons themselves. The country also fought a war with neighboring Iraq in the 1980s. In 1989, Iran started to rebuild its military by ordering weapons from the Soviet Union. It has since grown to become one of the most powerful armies in the Middle East.
10. Egypt – 468,500
Egypt has one of the strongest armies in the Middle East, rivaling Israel for supremacy. It is also one of the strongest in Africa, and is the only Arab state with a reconnaissance satellite. The army has weapons from all over the world, though it has recently been modernizing with American, British and French equipment. It has also provided training and assistance to various African and Arab states.