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Syria Defense and Foreign Policy

Syria Defense and Foreign Policy

Foreign policy and defense

Based on geographical map from Digopaul, Syria is a nation in Western Asia. Its capital city Damascus. Syria has long had conflicting relations with the outside world, but the Assad regime has also skillfully exploited Syria’s influence in neighboring countries, in order to gain support and financial assistance. Relations with Lebanon and the conflict with Israel have long characterized the government’s foreign policy. Since 2011, however, the focus has been entirely on finding allies in the ongoing civil war.

syria military spending and defense budget

Syria has fought three wars against Israel, 1948-1949, 1967 and 1973, and also fought against Israel inside Lebanon during the 1980s. Formally, wars still exist between them. Many Palestinian refugees from today’s Israel live in Syria. President Hafiz al-Assad strongly opposed Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel in 1979, and Syria has continued to support Palestinian organizations that do not recognize Israel’s existence and refuse to participate in peace talks.

  • Countryaah: Overview of business holidays and various national observances in Syria for years of 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023, 2024 and 2025.

The major dispute between Syria and Israel concerns the Golan Heights that Israel conquered in 1967. A total Israeli retreat from occupied territories is Syria’s basic requirement. There is also conflict between Lebanon, Syria and Israel about the so-called Sheba farms, which are at the intersection of southeastern Lebanon, southwestern Syria and northern Israel. The 25-square-kilometer area was occupied by Israel during the six-day war in 1967. Israel claims that the area belongs to the Golan Heights while the UN believes its maps show that Shebaa is Syrian territory, which Lebanon in turn questions.

During the 2011 civil war in Syria, Israel first pursued a cautiously neutral policy. Later, targets began to be bombed inside Syria, suspected of being Syrian and Iranian weapons deliveries to Lebanese Shiite Hezbollah, which occasionally conflicts with Israel and has also been actively involved in the civil war in Syria (see Calendar). Israel has also repeatedly opened fire on Syrian army forces following fires in the Golan area.

Long presence in Lebanon

Syria had long been unwilling to accept that Lebanon became a separate area of ​​mandate in 1920 (see Older History) and refused to diplomatically recognize the independent state of Lebanon in 1943. Not all parts of the common border are formally regulated either. In 1976, Syria intervened in Lebanon’s civil war and gradually strengthened the Syrian influence. In practice, no political decisions were made in Beirut that had not been approved by Syria. The Syrian security service persecuted and silenced oppositionists.

According to the 1989 Taif Agreement in Saudi Arabia, which ended the civil war, the Syrian army would withdraw within two years to the Bekaa Valley in the east, but Syria did not follow the agreement. The government justified this with Israel occupying the disputed area of ​​the Sheba farms.

Following the assassination of Lebanese politician Rafiq al-Hariri in 2005, the demands of the UN and many states were tightened on a Syrian retreat from Lebanon (see Lebanon: Modern History). From several directions, Syria and pro-Syrian forces in Lebanon were accused of being behind the murder. Following Arab pressure, Syria accepted UN demands and in late April, the last soldiers left Lebanon after 29 years of presence. However, the UN continued to criticize Syria, which was accused of sending arms to Hezbollah.

Only after a multi-year political crisis in Lebanon had been resolved and a new unifying government formed could relations between Syria and Lebanon be improved, in principle by Syria’s opponents giving up and accepting continued influence for Bashar al-Assad in Lebanon. In October 2008, for the first time, full diplomatic relations were established between the countries. Syria has liaised with various groups in Lebanon for different periods, but since the beginning of the 21st century, it has relied primarily on Hezbollah and other Shiite groups, as well as on certain Christian groups. About half of Lebanon’s population supports Assad-friendly parties, while the other half supports Assad-hostile parties, including most Sunni Muslims. Hezbollah is actively involved in the Syrian civil war.

Relations with the great powers

Syria worked closely with Eastern Europe, not least militarily, until the collapse of the Soviet Union. Contacts with Russia have been maintained since 1991 and during the civil war of 2011, Russia has served as an important ally to the Syrian regime. In early autumn 2015, at the request of the Syrian government, Russia launched anti-rebel forces. For Russia, it was about guarding Syria as Moscow’s oldest ally in the Middle East (Russia’s only foreign war base is located in the Syrian port city of Tartus), but also about building up its own superpower role in the region. The Russian efforts have intensified during the war and helped the government side recover land from rebels.

Damascus has also sought better relations with the western countries, not least the former colonial power of France and the United States, but Syria is on the US list of states that support terrorism and was thus excluded from US aid even before the civil war. In 2004, the United States resumed sanctions on Syria for the Assad regime hosting Palestinian terror groups, but above all for Syrian “volunteers” crossing the border into Iraq and helping to fight the US occupation forces there after the fall of Saddam Hussein. Syria’s close friendship with Iran was also a red blanket for the United States.

However, Washington has not been able to completely ignore Syria. For the United States, cooperation with Syria was a key to initiating the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians in the 1990s and to stabilize the situation in Lebanon. After taking office as US President in early 2009, Barack Obama attempted to initiate a dialogue with Syria. In 2010, he decided to send a new ambassador to Damascus, the first in almost six years. When the Syrian civil war broke out in 2011, the United States first tried to call for a compromise solution, but Obama demanded in August 2011 Assad’s departure. Subsequently, the United States was drawn step by step into the conflict, but Obama resisted all demands for military intervention against Assad and tried to get the parties to conclude a unity government agreement. Since 2013, the United States has been openly supporting certain rebel groups to pressure Assad and try to increase its own influence over the rebels. In the fall of 2014, a US-led alliance began to bomb the Islamic State in both Iraq and Syria. IS has since been driven away from most of its holdings, prompting Obama’s successor Donald Trump to make a decision to take home the US squad (despite opposition from both the US Defense Headquarters and Trump’s own party). In both spring 2017 and spring 2018, the United States initiated the bombing of places where the Assad regime was supposed to store nuclear weapons or substances that could be used for combat gas. which prompted Obama’s successor Donald Trump to make a decision to take home the US troops (despite opposition both from the US Defense Headquarters and from Trump’s own party). In both spring 2017 and spring 2018, the United States initiated the bombing of places where the Assad regime was supposed to store nuclear weapons or substances that could be used for combat gas. which prompted Obama’s successor Donald Trump to make a decision to take home the US troops (despite opposition both from the US Defense Headquarters and from Trump’s own party). In both spring 2017 and spring 2018, the United States initiated the bombing of places where the Assad regime was supposed to store nuclear weapons or substances that could be used for combat gas.

The EU was previously Syria’s most important trading partner and an association agreement had been negotiated but not signed by Syria when the war broke out. In 2011, the EU imposed sanctions on Syria and from August that year demanded Assad’s departure. Britain and France have been pushing for support for Syria’s rebels, while the majority of EU states, including Sweden, have been pushing a more cautious line. Germany, which has received a large number of refugees from Syria, has become the arena for some of the judicial trials that are taking place. This applies to both crimes committed by the Assad regime and atrocities staged by the Islamic State (IS), see Calendar.

Disputes with neighboring states

Since the 1979 revolution, Iran has been Syria’s closest ally in the region, mainly because they have shared interests in the view of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, Israel and Lebanon, among others. Both countries have also been subject to US sanctions. In the civil war, Iran supports the government side with money, weapons and soldiers. For the Iranian government, it is also important that Syria acts as a willing transit country for deliveries to Iran’s key allied Hezbollah militia in Lebanon.

Relations with Iraq have swung back and forth. Until 2003, Syria and Iraq were ruled by competing branches of the Baath Party and there was fierce rivalry between the countries. During the Iraq-Iran war in the 1980s, Damascus stood on Iran’s side. Syria also participated in the UN-backed alliance that drove Iraq’s occupation forces out of Kuwait in 1991.

For financial reasons, however, some trade with Iraq was resumed in 1998, including those that violated UN sanctions on Iraq. After the fall of Saddam Hussein, Syria received more than one million Iraqi refugees, including Saddam followers and Iraqi Christians. At the end of 2006, the states resumed diplomatic relations, which had been interrupted since 1982. Since 2011, Iraq’s Shiite-led and Iran-friendly government has kept a low profile on the Syrian issue, although over time its support for the Assad government has escalated. The two governments have been allied in the fight against the Sunni Muslim extremist group Islamic State (IS), which, having subjugated large areas in both Iraq and Syria, has now been displaced and lost most of its influence, although the group is still seen as a potentially threatening.

Relations with Turkey have long been strained for several reasons: Turkish irrigation projects that jeopardize the flow of water to Syria, the Kurdish issue and the role of Israel. Turkey’s military cooperation with Israel has been considered a threat in Syria. Turkey’s accusations against Syria for supporting the Kurdish guerrilla PKK, which operates in Turkey, threatened in 1998 to lead to armed conflict. Following pressure from the United States, Syria decided to stop PKK’s operations in the country and expel leader Abdullah Öcalan. Thereafter, relations between the countries improved significantly and Turkey sought to mediate between Syria and Israel. In 2011, however, Turkey swung and began to support the Syrian opposition. The divide between Turkey and the Syrian government increased when the Assad regime in 2012 allowed the Kurds to establish a zone in northern Syria where PKK-loyal Kurdish groups could operate (see Political system). The Turkish government has also aired claims on Assad’s case and the countries have been involved in several military incidents. Since Turkey began to engage militarily in the conflict on Syrian soil in 2014, including through air strikes, the country has focused primarily on fighting the PKK-loyal groups in Syria and the regions, called Rojava, where a form of Kurdish state building has been underway.. In 2019, Turkey’s defense force launched its third military offensive in northern Syria since 2016. However, the peace initiative with Russia and Iran that Turkey is involved in is in practice a support for the Assad government. Turkey’s efforts against Kurdish forces also benefit Assad, which has clearly stated its intention to reclaim the entire territory of Syria, including Rojava.

Jordan and Syria have historically often had tense relationships, as they have had different allies and belonged to different power blocks. Jordan has stood close to the United States, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and the Sunni states of the Persian Gulf, and has pursued a cautious policy against Israel. During the 2011 civil war, Jordan has taken on a less prominent role than most of Syria’s neighboring countries, worrying about the large influx of refugees. However, the Jordanian leadership has accepted that the United States, Saudi Arabia and other countries finance and train rebels from Jordanian soil.


Before 2011, Syria’s defense force was one of the largest in the Arab world. Its leadership is closely linked to the political elite. From 1956 the defense was equipped almost entirely with weapons from the Soviet bloc and after the defeat of Israel in the October 1973 war, thousands of Soviet military advisers were stationed in Syria. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Syria no longer has access to the most modern equipment but still buys weapons from Russia and to a certain extent also from Belarus, China and North Korea.

Tens of thousands of soldiers have been killed, wounded or deserted by the Syrian army since 2011. Conscription soldiers are still used, but Assad is increasingly forced to rely on loyal special forces and militia, not least those recruited among Alawites, the religious group he himself belongs to. Russia has continued to support the Syrian army following the outbreak of the war in 2011, not least through aerial bombings against both IS and the rebel strongholds. Iran has contributed weapons, military training and financing of Syrian weapons purchases, and by mobilizing Shiite Muslim militia forces from Iraq and Lebanon in support of Assad.

For decades, Syria had built up a large stockpile of weapons of mass destruction in the form of nerve gases. Following reports that nerve gas was used against the rebels in 2013, the United States threatened to intervene, which led Syria to abandon chemical weapons in the fall of 2013 and spring of 2014. However, the government has been accused of using both sarin and improvised chlorine gas bombs even after this. Syria has also been accused of wanting to develop nuclear weapons. In 2007, Israel bombed what was claimed to be a nuclear reactor under construction in eastern Syria.

During the Civil War, a large number of militia forces have also emerged on the government side, many but far from all recruited from the religious minorities. The largest umbrella group that gathers such forces is called the National Defense Forces and consists of a variety of regional groups, which in many cases appear to have been funded and trained with the help of Iran. Other groups include, for example, the Baath Battalions, which fall under the ruling Baath Party. Foreign Shiite Muslim militias from Iraq and Iraq, such as Hezbollah, are also fighting the Syrian government, as well as some small Christians and other groups. Together, these militia forces now constitute a very significant part of the troops that Assad relies on.

Mandatory military service applies to all men from 18 years. The length of military service has been gradually reduced since the 1990s and in 2011 it was reduced to one and a half years.

For the rebel forces, see Political system.


Army: 105,000 men (2017)

The air Force: 15,000 men (2017)

The fleet: 2,500 men (2017)

Military expenditure’s share of GDP: 4.1 percent (2010)

Military spending’s share of the state budget: 13.6 percent (2010)

Sri Lanka Defense and Foreign Policy

Sri Lanka Defense and Foreign Policy

Foreign policy and defense

Based on geographical map from Digopaul, Sri Lanka is a nation in Southern Asia. Its capital city is Colombo; Sri Jayewardenepura Kotte. Under the leftist Rajapaksa government (2005–2015), Sri Lanka gradually approached China and eventually became heavily indebted to Beijing. Cooperation continued under President Sirisena, who, however, initially sought to reduce dependence on China. After the end of the civil war in 2009, Sri Lanka has been on a collision course with the UN and the Western world, demanding that the country go to the bottom with allegations of serious war crimes.

sri lanka military spending and defense budget

During the Cold War, Sri Lanka was a leading country in the so-called alliance-free movement, although the principle of freedom of alliance has been interpreted in different ways by different governments. Right-wing UNP governments have usually had a more Western-friendly attitude than the more left-leaning SLFP governments, which have won a friendly relationship with China, among others.

  • Countryaah: Overview of business holidays and various national observances in Sri Lanka for years of 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023, 2024 and 2025.

After the end of the Cold War, the importance of alliance-free status diminished. Instead, Sri Lanka’s main foreign policy issue was to try to persuade the outside world to distance itself from the separatists in the country, the so-called Tamil Liberation Tigers (LTTE).

Tight relationship with the western world

In the US, Canada and the EU, there were large groups of exile Tamils ​​during the war, and the Lankan government believed that many of them contributed financially to the LTTE guerrillas. The United States labeled the “Tamil Tigers” as a terrorist group in 1997 and the EU followed after 2006. The terrorist stamp was a financial setback for LTTE, as economic assets were frozen and guerrilla leaders were barred from entering the countries in question.

After the war, the suspicions of war crimes have, above all, negatively affected Sri Lanka’s traditionally good relations with the United States, as the United States has been driving behind resolutions adopted by the UN Human Rights Council. In the spring of 2012, the United Nations Human Rights Council adopted a resolution calling on Sri Lanka to conduct an independent investigation into the allegations of war crimes at the end of the civil war. Since Rajapaksa rejected the UN injunction, the Council repeated its call for new resolutions in 2013 and 2014. When these were also rejected by Sri Lanka, the Council proposed an international investigation. Sri Lanka dismissed the claims as “neo-colonialism”.

When the Sirisena government took office in 2015, the US and the rest of the Western world came closer. On a visit to Sri Lanka in May of the same year, US Secretary of State John Kerry praised Sirisena’s quest for reconciliation with the Tamils. But despite promises of war crimes investigations, nothing concrete has happened during the time of the Sirisans in power.

Strong ties to India

Sri Lanka has strong historical and cultural ties to India which has a large Tamil population. Among the Indian Tamils ​​who mainly live in the state of Tamil Nadu in southern India, many are committed to the cause of the Tamil people.

Relations between the countries were long strained by India supporting the struggle of the Sri Lankan Tamils. However, after India’s failed involvement in the Sri Lankan civil conflict in the late 1980s (see Modern History), the New Delhi government took a more cautious stance. When the LTTE then ordered the assassination of the former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1991, the guerrillas lost their support and the two countries saw a common enemy in the Tamil extremist group.

After the war, India has been heavily involved in rebuilding the Tamil-dominated areas in the north, among other things by financing house construction and lending money for road, bridge and other infrastructure repairs. India is Sri Lanka’s largest trading partner and has also invested in the energy sector.

In 2012-2013, the condition was strained by India voting for the UN resolutions mentioned above. India’s position was decided by then a Tamil Nadu-based party sitting in the Indian coalition government. India now stands on Sri Lanka’s side in the UN Human Rights Council polls.

President Sirisena’s first state visit in February 2015 went to India, and diplomatic and trade relations between the two countries have been strengthened during Sirisen’s time in power. India maintained a low profile during the political crisis that erupted in Sri Lanka in the fall of 2018, when a power struggle at the highest political level paralyzed large parts of the state leadership (see Current Politics).

Dependent on China

When relations with the West deteriorated during the Rajapaksa government, Sri Lanka turned its eyes on other countries, primarily China but also Russia and Iran.

Relations with China were significantly strengthened during Rajapaksa’s time as president. China has invested a lot of money in Sri Lanka, especially in the energy and infrastructure sectors. Among other things, a harbor and an airport have been built in President Rajapaksa’s home province of Hambantota.

The Sirisena government first tried to distance itself from China, including interrupting a major Chinese-funded infrastructure project in the port of Colombia. In 2016, however, the project was resumed, which was completed in 2019. At the end of 2017, China was allowed to lease the port of Hambantota for 99 years as part of Beijing’s major infrastructure initiative BRI (Belt and Road Initiative, or New Silk Road). In exchange, Sri Lanka got some of its loans to Beijing renegotiated.

When it comes to conflict with the UN, China is a reliable partner. China, as a rule, emphasizes the right of all countries to manage their own affairs without external interference. Consequently, China has voted against the resolutions adopted by the UN Human Rights Council on Sri Lanka.

Good relationship with Pakistan

Pakistan, too (like Russia) has stood on Sri Lanka’s side in the conflict with the UN. Pakistan assisted the Lankan government with large quantities of weapons during the war and, after the end of the war, has focused on strengthening ties with Colombo. Trade between Pakistan and Sri Lanka is great. The countries have also agreed to cooperate in export, education and research on agriculture.


Military service is optional. During the Civil War, defense spending was high and in connection with the final offensive many new soldiers were recruited. According to estimates, around 150,000 army soldiers participated in the battles against the LTTE guerrillas in 2009. The Tamil guerrillas are estimated to have had around 10,000 men under arms. After the war there were plans to lose the armed forces, but they have remained relatively large.

The military is not just devoted to defense. In the Northern Province, the military regulates large parts of daily life and throughout the country the military has obtained employment and extra income by engaging in tourism, agriculture and infrastructure projects. Since 2013, the army can be deployed to maintain the general order.


Army: 200,000 Men (2017)

The air Force: 28 000 men (2017)

The fleet: 15,000 men (2017)

Military expenditure’s share of GDP: 2.2 percent (2017)

Military spending’s share of the state budget: 11.0 percent (2017)

South Korea Defense and Foreign Policy

South Korea Defense and Foreign Policy

Foreign policy and defense

Based on geographical map from Digopaul, South Korea is a nation in Eastern Asia. Its capital city is Seoul. The Cold War between the East and the West and the Korean Peninsula have characterized South Korea’s foreign policy since the state was founded in 1948. The Korean Peninsula is one of the most militarized areas in the world. Formally, war permits still exist between North and South Korea, as the 1953 ceasefire agreement was not followed by any peace agreement.

south korea military spending and defense budget

Both South Korea and North Korea aim to reunite the Korean peninsula. However, the political and military contradictions have been too great, and in South Korea the enormous financial burden it would take to take responsibility for the poor North Korea’s development.

  • Countryaah: Overview of business holidays and various national observances in South Korea for years of 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023, 2024 and 2025.

Attempts to dialogue between South and North Korea in the 1970s and 1980s produced poor results. After the end of the Cold War around 1990, a cautious approach began and in 1991 North Korea gave up its opposition to UN membership for both countries, and the two Koreas were elected to the World Organization. The following year, a broad cooperation agreement came into force.

Kim Dae-Jung, president of South Korea in 1998–2003, worked purposefully for better relations with North Korea despite a series of North Korean cross-border intrusions. In 1999, however, North Korean and South Korean naval vessels fired at each other for the first time since the Korean War, with many casualties as a result. Nevertheless, contacts between the two countries were not interrupted. In June 2000, a summit was held between Kim Dae-Jung and North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il in Pyongyang. Among other things, they decided on financial cooperation and meetings for families who lived apart for half a century. At the Sydney Olympics that same year, South and North Korea’s participants marched in together.

New tensions

After the turn of the millennium, tension in the Korean Peninsula increased. Many deaths were claimed in 2002 during a fire in the Yellow Sea. Following an apology from North Korea for provocation, work began on restoring road and rail links.

The international six-party talks on North Korea’s nuclear weapons program begun in 2003 between North Korea and South Korea, China, Japan, Russia and the United States broke down in 2006, and the same year North Korea conducted its first nuclear test. Despite tensions, the countries’ economic cooperation projects in North Korea continued: the Kaesong industrial zone and the tourist resort on Kumgang Mountain.

The second Korea summit held in Pyongyang in 2007 paved the way for better relations, but promises of peace talks ran out in the sand. Under the conservative president Lee Myung-Bak, from 2007 a new hard line was launched against North Korea. South Korea demanded that the nuclear agreement be complied with in order to provide assistance and support. North Korea responded by closing the border between the countries, stopping tourist travel and freight by rail and expelling South Koreans from Kaesong.

North Korea lowers ships

North Korea’s second nuclear test in 2009 escalated war rhetoric between the countries. The situation worsened the following year when the South Korean warship Cheonan dropped after an explosion and 46 people were killed. After an international investigation, South Korea declared that a North Korean torpedo attack was behind. Trade with North Korea was frozen, and North Korean merchant vessels were banned in South Korean waters. President Lee declared that future attacks would be met directly with military response. Later in the year, North Korea shot down the South Korean island of Yeonpyeong, near the disputed sea border between the countries. Two South Korean soldiers and two civilians were reported to have been killed in the attack. North Korea accused South Korea of ​​starting the fire. South Korea denied this but admitted that missiles had been tested in the area.

Following North Korea’s rocket launch in December 2012 and the third nuclear test in February 2013, relations between Seoul and Pyongyang deteriorated again. In connection with North Korea being punished at the beginning of March of the same year with new harsh UN sanctions, Pyongyang threatened with a nuclear attack on South Korea (and the US). The South Korean Defense Ministry responded by promising immediate merciless retaliation to North Korea’s highest military leadership. In the following years, the grim climate between the Korean states persisted as North Korea stepped up its missile and nuclear test (see Calendar).

Approaching the Olympics in South Korea

However, in January 2018, for the first time since Kim Jong-Un’s accession as North Korean leader, countries held high-level bilateral talks. The official reason for the talks was to discuss North Korea’s possible participation in the Winter Olympics in South Korean Pyeongchang in February of the same year. During the meeting, North Korea announced that it intended to send a delegation to the sporting event.

During the inaugural ceremony, North and South Korean competitors competed together and later met with President Moon Jae-In North Korea’s Former Head of State Kim Yong-Nam and North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un’s sister Kim Yo-Jong. It was the first time since the end of the Korean War that so high-ranking North Koreans visited South Korea.

In April, a historic meeting was then held in the border village of Panmunjom, in the demilitarized zone along the 38th latitude, between North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-Un and South Korea’s President Moon Jae-In. At the summit, the two leaders agreed to work to reach a peace agreement in 2018 and for total nuclear disarmament on the Korean Peninsula. However, the process has stalled towards the end of the 2010s.

Relationship with the United States

South Korea has been heavily dependent on the United States since the Korean War. In 1954, Seoul and Washington signed an agreement to defend common security interests, and throughout the post-war era, the United States has had major troops in South Korea. At the same time, South Korea has been an important ally for the United States in Asia and the only country there that had major alliances in the Vietnam War.

Following the US-led alliance invasion of Iraq in 2003, South Korea sent troops to Iraq for five years. The operation was wound up after a South Korean interpreter was kidnapped and murdered. The last soldiers were taken home in 2008.

South Korea also contributed up to 2007 with a few hundred engineer soldiers and doctors to the NATO led Isaf force in Afghanistan.

The relationship between the United States and South Korea has been subject to both political and economic strain, including through large student demonstrations against the US military presence in South Korea. In 2007, both countries signed a free trade agreement, which in South Korea was seen as the most important event between them after the 1954 military agreement.

South Korea’s dependence on military strategic cooperation with the US declined over a period of time. North Korea’s nuclear weapons program forced Seoul to turn to China in 2002 to ask Beijing for help to influence Pyongyang, as US policy was considered too harsh. Since then, however, South Korea has sharpened its own line and once again approached the United States. North Korea has reacted sharply to South Korea’s annual military exercises with the US and the decision to set up the US missile defense system THAAD in South Korea (see below).

China and Japan

Relations with China have developed strongly, primarily through growing trade and investment. However, the relationship became colder after the 2016 joint decision by Seoul and Washington to deploy a US missile defense system THAAD in South Korea (see below). Beijing vigorously protested the decision, which is believed to disrupt the security balance in the region. South Korean commodity chain Lotte had to close almost all its stores, while sales of South Korean Hyundai were also reported to have hit sharply declining sales in 2017. When THAAD began to set up in South Korea in the spring of 2017, Beijing demanded that it be removed immediately. Chinese tourist trips to South Korea were suspended and Chinese authorities also imposed restrictions on South Korean group trips to China, which hit South Korean airlines and tour operators.

South Korea’s relationship with neighboring Japan has been complicated. The harsh colonial rule and subsequent occupation during the Second World War (see Older History) caused deep and long-lasting wounds in Koreans, who are still alive today. It was not until 1993 that the Japanese government acknowledged that many Korean women and girls were exploited as prostitutes on Japanese field brothels. Later, reports of continued discrimination against Koreans in Japan have rioted in South Korea. In 2015, an agreement was reached with Japan on financial compensation for the exploited women and the Japanese Prime Minister apologized for what had happened. Thus, the problem would be solved, one hoped not least from the Japanese side.

But after conducting an evaluation of the agreement, the new president Moon Jae-In decided three years later that it would be demolished because it had “major flaws”. The South Korean government would replace the fund set up with financial support from Japan to provide compensation to affected women and their families for their own funding. The decision helped to re-establish relations between the two countries.

In 2001, South Korea called home its ambassador from Japan in protest at the Japanese schools’ new history books smoothing over Japanese abuse during the occupation. Japan’s Prime Minister visited South Korea the same year and apologized for “the pain and sorrow” that Japan inflicted on the Korean people during the Japanese colonial empire.

An unresolved dispute over the sea border and the right to an uninhabited small archipelago (Dokdo; in Japanese Takeshima) flares up now and then. The area has rich fishing waters and in the depths of the sea there are large deposits of methane hydrates that are expected to be an important future energy source. As the first South Korean president, Lee visited Dokdo in August 2012. The visit led to a diplomatic protest from Japan as well as tensions between the two countries. South Korea’s critical attitude to Japan continued during the 2010s, but despite this line, South Korea and Japan’s cooperation has been strengthened in several areas, especially in the North Korea issue.


After the Korean War, South Korea was equipped with US assistance. The military was then ordained under UN command, and for a quarter of a century the UN command in South Korea was responsible for the country’s defense. The armed forces have since been subordinated to American control in the event of war.

In 2003 it was decided that the US ground alliance would be pulled south and that the South Korean army would take over at the front line to the north. By the end of the 2010, the United States had more than 30,000 people in South Korea. In the demilitarized zone there is a small base for neutral Swedish and Swiss officers who monitor the 1953 standstill agreement (see Modern History).

The defense was modernized in the 1980s and became one of Asia’s best-equipped military forces. North Korea has more soldiers and more weapons, but South Korea has just over 650,000 men under arms and a qualitatively stronger defense than its neighbor in the north. However, concern is high over North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, missile holdings and suspected stockpiles of biochemical weapons.

South Korea’s previous plans to develop a nuclear weapons program were abandoned following pressure from the United States.

In July 2016, South Korea and the United States signed an agreement to place the US missile defense system THAAD in South Korea. It could shoot down short and medium-range missiles from North Korea, which by the mid-2010s significantly increased its missile and nuclear weapons tests. The system began to be deployed in the spring of 2017 on a former golf course, owned by the Lotte department store, in the Seongj district south of the capital.

READ TIP – read more about South Korea in UI’s web magazine Foreign Magazine :
The shadows of history rest heavily on South Korea (2019-09-23)

DEEP on South Korea also available in World Politics Day Issues Korean Reunification: An Impossible Dream (No 9 2019) South Korea and the Presidential Crisis: Opening for Reform (No 6 2017)


Army: 495 000 men (2017)

The air Force: 65,000 men (2017)

The fleet: 70,000 men (2017)

Military expenditure’s share of GDP: 2.6 percent (2017)

Military spending’s share of the state budget: 12.1 percent (2017)

Singapore Defense and Foreign Policy

Singapore Defense and Foreign Policy

Foreign policy and defense

Based on geographical map from Digopaul, Singapore is a nation in Southeastern Asia. Its capital city is Singapore. Singapore has long had a complicated relationship with Malaysia in the north, but relations have improved since Lee Hsien Loong became Singaporean Prime Minister in 2004. Previously strained relations with Indonesia in the south have also become warmer. Singapore has a close relationship with the United States, while contacts with China are good on the economic level but tense on the political.

singapore military spending and defense budget

Relationship with Malaysia has been complicated since Singapore left the neighboring country and became an independent nation in 1965. The proximity means that mutual dependence is great and cooperation exists in many areas. The security services of both countries have cooperated in the arrest of suspected terrorists. However, conflicts over, for example, water supply, passport control, territorial water boundary, airspace and bridges across the Johor Strait have caused irritation.

  • Countryaah: Overview of business holidays and various national observances in Singapore for years of 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023, 2024 and 2025.

A meeting between Lee and Malaysia’s then Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak in 2010 led, among other things, to a solution to the water problem and exchanged land areas were exchanged, which in turn laid the foundation for a common zone for passport control. However, the warmer relations became a thorn in 2013 when it emerged in leaked US intelligence documents that Singapore was intercepting the Malaysian telephone network.

Improved relations with Indonesia

After bad relations in the 1960s, when Indonesia strongly opposed the Federation with Malaysia, Singapore invested in developing good relations with the then Indonesian President Suharto. After Suharto’s fall in 1998, relations became worse again. One source of conflict was the lack of a foreign exchange agreement, which resulted in Singapore not disclosing corruption-accused Indonesian businessmen who fled to Singapore during the Asian crisis of 1997-1998. Indonesia, in turn, has not disclosed persons accused of terrorism.

Relations deteriorated in 2013 when it emerged in leaked US intelligence documents that Singapore was spying on Indonesia. In February 2014, Indonesia renamed two warships after Indonesian militias carried out a bomb attack in Singapore in 1965, which led to protests from Singapore.

Indonesia’s inability to put a stop to the forest fires that sometimes ravage within the country, and to the health-hazardous smoke that develops from these, has caused irritation in neighboring countries such as Singapore as the smoke spreads throughout the region.

Since Joko Widodo became president of Indonesia in 2014, relations have improved significantly. A border conflict has been resolved and collaborations have been deepened in trade, higher education, counter-terrorism and disaster preparedness. The countries are now also cooperating in the fight against smoke development from the Indonesian fires.

Singapore attaches great importance to cooperation with the other Southeast Asian countries within ASEAN. This cooperation is considered to create such cohesion between the countries that the existing political contradictions between them can be kept under control. During the 2010 century, the Asean countries created a common free trade area. The membership of Apec is also of great importance. In 1993, Apec established a permanent secretariat in Singapore.

China and the United States

Singapore established diplomatic relations with China in 1990. Singapore primarily sees China as a market for trade and investment, but it also sees concerns about China’s growing economic and military influence in Southeast Asia. Singapore has extensive bilateral relations with China, as well as cooperation through ASEAN. In 2008, the two countries signed a free trade agreement and they cooperate in infrastructure development. China is today Singapore’s largest trading partner. China, however, disapproves of Singapore’s good relations with Taiwan as well as Singapore’s military and security cooperation with the United States in Southeast Asia.

Singapore is investing in good relations with Europe and the United States, partly as a counterbalance to China and Japan’s influence in the region. Cooperation with the US is particularly important. But especially during the 1990s, the United States criticized the Singaporean government’s lack of respect for human rights. At the same time, the US military has access to facilities in Singapore for maintenance, and after the terrorist attacks against the US in 2001, security cooperation has been strengthened as part of the fight against terrorism.

During the Obama administration in the United States, relations were very good. Among other things, a decision was made to base four American warships in Singapore. The decision was seen as part of the US’s increased interest in Asia and was taken at a time when regional tensions in the South China Sea were strong. In 2004, the two countries signed a free trade agreement.

In 2017, Singapore suspended its trade relations with North Korea as part of the UN sanctions against the Pyongyang regime and its efforts to develop its nuclear arsenal. The initiative for the new sanctions was taken by the United States.


As a small, mainly Chinese, state surrounded by Malays and Muslims, Singapore feels security policy vulnerable. The country is investing heavily in a strong and modern defense. Military duty is mandatory for 24 months and annual training camps are conducted for reservists. Military exercises are done together with the UK, Australia, New Zealand and Malaysia.

Cooperation between Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia since 2004, and with Thailand since 2005 and India since 2006, has led to virtually all piracy operations in the Strait of Malacca. It was previously a major regional security problem.

In 2015, Singapore signed an agreement with the United States on enhanced defense cooperation. The agreement was a result of rising tensions in the region over China’s territorial demands in the South China Sea. For the first time, the United States sent a spy plan to Singapore for a week.


Army: 50,000 men (2017)

The air Force: 13,500 men (2017)

The fleet: 9,000 men (2017)

Military expenditure’s share of GDP: 3.3 percent (2017)

Military spending’s share of the state budget: 17.2 percent (2017)

Saudi Arabia Defense and Foreign Policy

Saudi Arabia Defense and Foreign Policy

Foreign policy and defense

Based on geographical map from Digopaul, Saudi Arabia is a nation in Western Asia. Its capital city is Riyadh. The status of Saudi Arabia as the place of Islam is characterized by relations with the outside world. Solidarity with other Muslim countries has long been a cornerstone of foreign policy. At the same time, the country is a regional superpower with Shia Muslim Iran as its counterpart. Security aspects and financial interests lie behind Saudi Arabia’s strategic and economically close cooperation with the United States.

saudi arabia military spending and defense budget

Tensions have recently intensified in the region. Oppositions between Sunni and Shi’a Muslims, but also between authoritarian regimes and both liberal reformers and fundamentalist warriors, make the situation in the immediate area extremely unstable. In recent years, Saudi Arabia has actively participated in both Shiite and jihadist adversaries by assisting the government of Bahrain, participating in US-led air strikes in Syria and conducting air strikes in Yemen.

  • Countryaah: Overview of business holidays and various national observances in Saudi Arabia for years of 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023, 2024 and 2025.

The development is partly due to the popular democracy uprising in North Africa and the Middle East from 2011. The uprising caused domestic political unrest in Saudi Arabia and presented the country with a new security policy situation. An important ally was lost when Egypt’s authoritarian regime fell and for a time was replaced by a government dominated by the Islamic Muslim Brotherhood, which Saudi Arabia regards with suspicion. The relationship has improved since the Brotherhood overthrew in 2013 and Egypt was again given a military-controlled regime.

In the bloody uprising that began in Syria against President Bashar al-Assad, Saudi Arabia has supported arms rebels. Assad belongs to a Shiite Muslim minority and is closely allied with Iran, which competes with Saudi Arabia for dominance in the region. When the Islamic State (IS) extremist group – also opponents of Assad – took up large parts of Syria and Iraq in 2014, Saudi Arabia joined the US-led alliance that took up arms against IS. The development led to wear and tear in the relationship with the US. For the Saudi government, it was disappointing that the United States did not wholeheartedly endorse the Assad regime.

Approaching Trump

The cautious thunderstorm that arose between the US and Iran after the change of presidential post in Iran 2013 also worried. Saudi Arabia’s decision in October 2013 to reject the offer of a rotating seat in the UN Security Council was interpreted as indirect criticism of Washington and was seen as a signal that the country has now begun to pursue a more independent foreign policy. However, Donald Trump’s takeover as President of the United States in 2017 meant a new shift with strong mutual support. Trump’s first trip abroad began in Saudi Arabia and both he and King Salman then pointed out Iran as the center of Islamist terrorism.

Cooperation with the United States has been crucial since modern Saudi Arabia was founded and oil was found in the 1930s. The US has bought a large part of its oil from Saudi Arabia, which in turn is dependent on the US for its security. US strong support for Israel has not hindered cooperation. But the state of opinion at home and the development of the region made relations with the United States an increasingly difficult balancing act for the Saudi government after the turn of the millennium.

Disbelief against Iran goes way back in history. When the western-friendly regime in Tehran in 1979 fell for a US-hostile revolution that resulted in a Shi’ite regime in Iran, it was a blow to the US and Saudi Arabia’s joint strategy in the region. The government in Riyadh shares the Western world’s concern for Iran to develop nuclear weapons. When Iran signed agreements with the United States and other major powers on its nuclear energy program in 2015 (see Iran: Foreign Policy and Defense), Saudi Arabia worries that the arch rival would strengthen its role internationally. In 2016, Riyadh severed diplomatic relations with Tehran, since protesters in the Iranian capital stormed the Saudi embassy (see Calendar).

Concerns after the Iraq invasion

During the war between Iran and Iraq from 1980 to 1988, Saudi Arabia supported Iraq. But when Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990 and positioned troops at the Iraqi-Saudi border, the situation changed. The Saudis requested international assistance, and the United States responded with military charging in the area. In February 1991, a US-led UN force had expelled Iraqis from Kuwait. Saudi Arabia broke with Iraq and resumed relations with Iran. Only in 2015 did relations with Iraq resume.

The war of 1990-1991 meant a severe loss of prestige for the Saudi regime because it had to ask the West for help. Several thousand American soldiers remained after the war, with the good memory of the government. Many Saudis and Muslims in other countries were upset that the soldiers were allowed to be stationed near Islam’s most sacred sites.

The terrorist attacks against the United States in 2001 and the subsequent US-led global war on terrorism further complicated the situation. Under US pressure, the Riyadh regime promised to cooperate against terrorism without formally joining the US-led anti-terror alliance. The US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 also had a major impact on Saudi Arabia. The Saudi regime had to deal with a growing hatred of the US at home; during the invasion, Americans were not allowed to attack from Saudi soil. After the war, US soldiers left the country. Riyadh feared a growing influence for the previously powerless Shiite majority in Iraq. Saudi Arabia has since seen Shiite government officials in Iraq almost like Iranian lackeys.

Following Saudi Arabia’s handling of the mildly oppositional journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was brought to life at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul in October 2018, cooperation between Washington and Riyadh has instead been questioned from the US. Not least, President Trump’s friendship with the Crown Prince and Trump’s defense of the major contracts between Saudi Arabia and the US defense industry have been criticized.

Cooperation and cracks on the Arabian Peninsula

Out of concern for Shiite Muslim expansion, Riyadh took the initiative of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) in 1981, in which five other Arab states in the Persian Gulf are also included – Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, United Arab Emirates and Oman. The organization’s joint military force was used in neighboring Bahrain in 2011 to, at the request of the Sunni-dominated government, defeat Shiite Muslim insurgents.

A serious crack occurred in the GCC after the Arab Spring because of Qatar’s open support for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. In 2014, Riyadh stamped the Brotherhood, which has branches in several Arab countries, and brought home its ambassador from Qatar. So did the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. In June 2017, the conflict intensified sharply, when Saudi Arabia accused Qatar of supporting terrorists and breaking diplomatic relations. Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and other countries in the region followed the Saudi example and Qatar was isolated. Consequently, GCC was also paralyzed.

Border disputes that go back decades have even to some extent disturbed relations with Qatar, as well as with the United Arab Emirates. A rapprochement between Kuwait and Turkey, which led to a joint defense plan for 2019, is also reported to have led to disapproval. Saudi Arabia and Kuwait disagree on two common oil fields.

Support to Muslim countries

Saudi Arabia has increased its influence in other countries in recent decades, including through large financial contributions and favorable loans to poor countries. The recipients are found mainly in the Arab world and Africa but also further afield. The Prime Minister of Malaysia was released in 2016 from suspicions of corruption in his home country, after it was found that the $ 681 million he received prior to a 2013 election was a gift from the Saudi royal house. A Saudi source stated that the purpose was to counteract the influence of the Muslim Brotherhood in Malaysia, and noted that this kind of payments to other countries were not uncommon.

The Palestinians have received much financial assistance, but at the same time, Saudi Arabia has countered Arab demands for total isolation of Israel. In 2002, Saudi Arabia presented a peace plan that offered normalized Arab-Israeli relations in exchange for Israeli withdrawal from occupied territories. An attempt to breathe new life into the plan was made in 2007, with clear results. Riyadh has also sought to mediate between rival Palestinian groups Hamas and Fatah, and in the domestic conflict in Lebanon. A certain rapprochement between Saudi Arabia and Israel has been observed, especially as a result of both countries’ distrust of Iran. One question is how far that thawing weather can go. The US initiative during Trump’s presidency to push through a peace plan that strongly favors Israel has upset Arab countries,

Saudi Arabia’s relationship with neighboring Yemen in the south deteriorated after the Kuwaiti war in 1991, when Yemen did not support the Allies. Saudi Arabia expelled some 800,000 Yemenites and in the 1994 Yemeni Civil War, Riyadh supported the uprising in the south. Hostile Saudis find a sanctuary in the neighboring country, where al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (Aqip) has its stronghold. But in the increasingly unstable situation in Yemen from 2011, it is especially the Shiite Muslims who are concerned about the Saudis. When the rebels pushed the president away and took control of much of the country (see Yemen: Current Politics) in March 2015, Riyadh launched air strikes against them along with several other Arab countries and with indirect support from the United States. Later in the year, the Saudis also joined ground troops in Yemen. Saudi Arabia accuses Iran of supporting the Huthir rebels and the war in Yemen has come to be seen as an indirect war, partly through agents, between Saudis and Iranians. The war has led to a severe humanitarian crisis in the already poor neighboring country.

In the United Nations, Saudi Arabia has repeatedly opposed reports of global warming, as the texts usually contain conclusions that Member States are not taking adequate action against climate change emissions. Climate scientists argue that it is necessary to drastically reduce emissions from fossil fuels – Saudi Arabia’s most important export commodity.


Political unrest in the Middle East has fueled a military upheaval in Saudi Arabia. The country had the largest military spending in the region and the third largest in the world in 2018, according to the Peace Research Institute Sipri. Military spending amounted to 8.8 percent of GDP, and they had nevertheless declined compared to the previous year. The weapons are mainly purchased from the US but also from Europe. In recent years, the country has put more resources on border guard and on counterterrorism forces.

Under the royal house is the National Guard, which is almost as large as the army. The National Guard will protect the royal family and defeat coup attempts or rebellions. An industrial security force was established in 2007 to protect primarily the oil industry. There is also a semi-military border force. The regional cooperation organization GCC had in 2014 At least 30,000 soldiers in a joint force, and according to a decision the year before, the force would be expanded to about 100,000 men, of which a large proportion of Saudis. However, the break with Qatar 2017 means that the future of GCC cooperation is unclear.

Military service is optional.

The United States no longer has troops stationed in Saudi Arabia, but there are a number of US military advisers. In 2013, it was revealed that for two years the United States had a secret air base in Saudi Arabia from which driverless aircraft, so-called drones, could attack targets in neighboring countries.


Army: 75,000 men (2017)

The air Force: 2,000 men (2017)

The fleet: 13,500 men (2017)

Military expenditure’s share of GDP: 10.3 percent (2017)

Military spending’s share of the state budget: 30.4 percent (2017)

Qatar Defense and Foreign Policy

Qatar Defense and Foreign Policy

Foreign policy and defense

Based on geographical map from Digopaul, Qatar is a nation in Western Asia. Its capital city Doha. It is important for Qatar to maintain stability around the Persian Gulf. The country seeks to increase its influence internationally and at the same time calls for good relations with as many states as possible; among other things, Qatar maintains close political and military contacts with the West, especially the United States. The regime is considered more liberal and Western-friendly in foreign affairs than many of the more conservative countries in the region.

qatar military spending and defense budget

Qatar joined the GCC in 1981, but the relationship with other members has sometimes been frosty. After a period of heightened tensions with mainly Saudi Arabia and its close allies, relations in June 2017 became directly hostile. Several countries in the region broke diplomatic relations and, among other things, banned Qatari flights from using surrounding airspace (see Calendar).

  • Countryaah: Overview of business holidays and various national observances in Qatar for years of 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023, 2024 and 2025.

In addition to Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, Yemen, the Maldives, Mauritania and – to some extent – Lebanon, Senegal and Chad joined the boycott.

In the past, contradictions with the neighboring countries have been due to border problems or that countries such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have seen with unblinking eyes on Qatar’s will to reform. The al-Jazira TV channel, which is based in Qatar, has caused irritation as it was considered the regime’s foreign language channel, rather than an independent broadcaster. The channel’s news offering includes inconvenient events for power holders in neighboring countries, such as extensive surveillance of the assassination of Saudi regime critic Jamal Khashoggi at Saudi Arabia’s Consulate in Istanbul 2018. Among the demands that Qatar’s neighboring countries made in connection with the crisis that broke out in 2017 were -Jazira would be closed.

After the Arab Spring of 2011, relations with the other countries in the region deteriorated due to Qatar’s support for and al-Jazira’s reporting on the Muslim Brotherhood, which several countries considered to be a threat to their security. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain called home their ambassadors in 2014 after accusations that Qatar had joined the countries’ domestic politics, but the dispute was resolved after Qatar agreed to cushion the Brotherhood’s operations in the country. However, dissatisfaction persisted and was one of the reasons behind the new break in 2017.

Qatar, on the other hand, has very friendly relations. Turkey has promised military and other support since the conflict with neighboring countries arose.

Qatar’s close relations with Shia Muslim Iran disturb the Sunni Muslim royal houses in neighboring countries. Several of the countries, mainly Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, have partially Shiite people who feel discriminated against and the authorities hold a high suspicion of Iran’s actions in the region.

American airbase

Following the terrorist attacks against the United States on September 11, 2001, Qatar gave up its territory to the Americans in the ensuing war against the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. Qatar, on the other hand, opposed US plans for a unilateral attack on Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, but when the Iraq war began in 2003, US, British and Australian aircraft were stationed in Qatar, as well as the US Combat Command Center. After the war, the US forces and the US regional headquarters were moved from Saudi Arabia to Qatar. The air base in al-Udayd is now the United States largest military facility in the region with an American staff of about 9,000 people and about 90 fighter aircraft. At the end of 2014, the US lease of the base was extended by ten years. Today, Qatar belongs to a small crowd close to US allies outside NATO cooperation.

Both Qatar and the United States have chosen not to speak so highly of their close cooperation, as there is criticism within Qatar against it. It is also known that groups in Qatar have contributed to funding more extreme Islamist groups, and that some of the cash flows to the Islamic State (IS) have been able to pass through the country. Yet, like other countries in the region, Qatar has supported the US fight against IS. Among other things, Qatar has participated in air strikes against IS positions in Syria. It has also been promised to stop recruits from going to IS and to stop making money contributions to the jihadist group. However, support for extreme groups was a major reason stated by Saudi Arabia and its allies to break relations in 2017.

Qatar signed a bilateral trade agreement with Israel in 1996. However, after the Israeli offensive in Gaza in 2008-2009, Qatar broke off trade contacts. At the same time, Qatar has always maintained good relations with Israel’s worst enemies: Palestinian Hamas and Lebanese Hezbollah. In 2018, a collaboration that attracted attention was reported when Qatar, with the Israeli government’s consent, was allowed to finance fuel for Gaza’s power plant and salaries to public servants in the Hamas-controlled area. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu suffered a minor government crisis, but earlier in the year had declared openly that he saw better relations with Arab countries as a target, and as a possible path to a settlement with the Palestinians.

The good relations with Iran mean, among other things, that Qatar has declared that the country would never agree to allow US flights to use its base in Qatar for a possible attack on Iran.

mediating Efforts

Qatar has mediated between warring factions from Afghanistan and hosted talks between the Taliban movement and the United States, which sought ways to end their efforts in Afghanistan after a war started in 2003 (in pursuit of the al-Qaeda terror network) that lasted longer than Washington imagined. On March 1, 2020, the United States and the Taliban signed an agreement in Qatar with the intention of withdrawing from Afghanistan for the US soldiers.

Doha has also tried to mediate in other disputes in the region: in 2008, the government hosted a successful mediation between disputed Lebanese politicians. In 2007 and 2008, Qatar brokered peace between government and rebels in Yemen, but failed to stop the fighting. In 2014, an attempt was made to mediate in a war between Israel and radical Palestinian groups in the Gaza Strip and hosted meetings between Palestinian factions. Qatar also claimed the same year to have helped to release the release of 45 Fiji UN soldiers captured by Syrian rebels at the Golan Heights.

In addition, through “soft diplomacy”, Qatar has tried to put the country on the map, among other things by ensuring that a number of major international sporting events have been placed in Qatar, such as the short course World Cup in swimming 2014, the World Cup in handball 2015, the World Cup in athletics 2019 and football World Cup 2022. Not least the latter has been criticized for the poor working conditions for the many guest workers who build the arenas (see also Labor Market). Information that wealthy Qatar has defected to the host, since the hot and humid summer climate really makes the country unsuitable for many types of competition, is being investigated in, among others, France.

Relations with Russia deteriorated after the Chechen president Zelimtjan Jandarbijev was killed in 2004 by a car bomb in Qatar, which said this was done with the approval of the Russian leadership, which Moscow denied. However, in 2008, Qatar and Russia together with Iran – the world’s three largest gas exporting countries – formed the Gas Exporting Countries Forum (GECF) whose secretariat was placed in Doha.

General military duty was introduced in 2014 for men between the ages of 18 and 35. Anyone who has completed an academic degree is required to serve three months, the rest for four months. The military duty for men was extended in 2018 to a year at the same time as voluntary community service was introduced for Qatari women.

In 2019, Qatar received the first of 36 Rafale fighter aircraft ordered from French manufacturer Dassault. Previously, Qatar’s air force had, among other things, Mirage Plan. France’s interest in selling weapons to Qatar has been cited as the backdrop for Qatar’s applications for hosting major sports competitions to receive French support.


Army: 8,500 men (2017)

The air Force: 1,500 men (2017)

The fleet: 1 800 men (2017)

Military expenditure’s share of GDP: 1.5 percent (2010)

Military spending’s share of the state budget: 4.9 percent (2010)

Philippines Defense and Foreign Policy

Philippines Defense and Foreign Policy

Foreign policy and defense

Based on geographical map from Digopaul, Philippines is a nation in Southeastern Asia. Its capital city is Manila. The strong ties to the US dominate foreign policy. The Americans had military bases in the country for a long time, but were forced to leave them in 1992, but military cooperation continued even after that. At the same time, contacts with other Asian countries have become more important. However, relations with China in particular are disturbed by a dispute over an island group in the South China Sea. After the change of power in 2016, President Rodrigo Duterte has both ended up on a collision course with the US and China, which has adopted a more conciliatory line vis-à-vis the two major powers. The Philippines has also approached Russia.

philippines military spending and defense budget

Assessors pointed out that the president often acted to try to gain benefits by playing the United States, China, and to some extent, Russia against each other.

  • Countryaah: Overview of business holidays and various national observances in Philippines for years of 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023, 2024 and 2025.

As long as Barack Obama remained as US president, contacts between the Philippines and the US were complicated, as Duterte reacted negatively to all criticism of the human rights crimes committed in the country. After Donald Trump took over as US President in 2017, relations improved, but even then, Duterte quickly swung between positions.

Since 2002, the United States has been military advisers in the country to assist the Philippine Army in its offensive against Abu Sayyaf and other militant Islamist groups (see Muslim separatists). However, the American soldiers have no right to participate in fighting. The soldiers also assist in development projects. Joint military exercises have also been held annually at various locations in the Philippines (see below). The Philippines also participated with a small force in Iraq in 2003, but it was withdrawn in 2004 a month earlier than planned, despite criticism from the United States.

When Benigno Aquino took over as president in 2010, in September / October he made his first official trip to the United States, signaling that he wanted even closer contacts with Washington, in an attempt to balance China’s growing influence in the region. During his US visit, Aquino was promised more aid and investment. American soldiers also assisted in the rescue work after the typhoon Haiyan 2013.

In 2014, the countries renewed their defense agreement. The new Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA)), gives the United States greater access to Philippine military bases. In the Philippines, the agreement has been criticized mainly by left-wing politicians. However, Duterte said in September 2016 that he wanted the United States to bring in his military advisers from Mindanao in the southern Philippines, as they contributed to tensions in the region rather than counteracting them. He also announced a stop for joint marine exercises. The course change was welcomed by China. However, the joint exercise was held as planned in 2016. One of the exercises was canceled the following year, but was not completely stopped. However, when a new Islamist group entered the city of Marawi in May 2017, the Philippine army was assisted by US military advisers. Duterte claimed he did not know this, but at the same time thanked the United States for the help.

Duterte has also made several drastic statements about breaking ties with the United States, including a state visit to China in October 2016, but the importance of this was later downplayed by several of his ministers. In early 2020, however, the Philippines announced that it would terminate one of the military agreements, the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), which, if nothing new, would end within six months, hamper any continued military cooperation between the countries (see also Calendar). The agreement, which enables military cooperation and states that US military cannot be prosecuted in the Philippines. was terminated via a document signed by Foreign Minister Teddy Locsin, who at the same time claimed that it was about getting a revision, not ending it. At the same time, Defense Minister Delfin Lorenzana had briefly stated beforehand that all talk of terminating the agreement was “fake news”. It was pointed out that VFA was the basis for maintaining other defense agreements between the Philippines and the United States and that the decision to terminate it could have serious consequences. In addition, the Philippines continues to depend on the United States, not least because almost all defense equipment is American. Islamist terrorist groups. In June 2020, the government made a reversal, saying that no decisions on the issue would be made until the earliest. It is likely that China’s increasingly aggressive actions in the South China Sea are behind the turnaround.

The Philippines also has defense cooperation with Australia.

Conflict over the Sprat Islands

Relations with China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei are disturbed by the countries claiming, in whole or in part, the Spratly Islands (in the Philippines called the Kayalaan archipelago), which is located in an area of ​​the South China Sea (which the Philippines began calling the West Philippine Sea in 2011) which is believed to be rich in oil. Tensions have emerged several times between the Philippines and China, despite pledges that the countries should try to find peaceful solutions in regional conflicts. The United States supports the Philippines’ demands on the Sprat Islands. The two countries have conducted several military exercises near the islands.

The unrest area has been growing since 2011. The Philippines has accused China of entering the oceans on several occasions known as Filipino. China, for its part, has criticized the Philippines for starting to search for oil and gas in areas claimed by the Chinese. One of the most serious incidents occurred in April 2012, near Scarborough Shoal, when a Philippine naval ship attempted to intervene on Chinese fishing vessels which they claimed were not allowed to fish in the area. In June, however, the Philippines decided to withdraw its vessels from the area, which was welcomed by China. Shortly thereafter, the Chinese fishing boats also left the area.

In 2013, the Philippines said that the diplomatic channels had been exhausted to resolve the dispute and that they had asked the UN to mediate between the parties. Both countries have signed the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). The stance between the countries continued to be high and China threatened to impose financial sanctions on the Philippines. In 2014, President Aquino compared China’s actions with Hitler’s. His tough line against China received strong support at home.

After four years of work, the United Nations Permanent Arbitration Tribunal in The Hague in July 2016 announced its ruling in the Philippines-China conflict over China’s claim of 85 percent of the territorial waters of the South China Sea. The Court went on the Philippines’ line and ruled that the Chinese claims “have no legal basis”. Chinese President Xi Jinping announced that China rejected the verdict and would not accept any documents based on this decision. China also said it had the right to set up an air defense zone in the conflict area and announced that it would now begin regular air surveillance there.

The Philippines is approaching China

Having previously threatened to hold a hard line against China, Duterte announced at a summit in Asean in September 2016 that the Philippines would no longer patrol the waters around the Sprat Islands with ships of foreign power, that is, the United States. Duterte also tried in other ways to approach China. He tried to persuade the Chinese to slow down in the development of the Scarborough Shoal and to try to agree on common fishing rights.

He approached Beijing further in connection with a state visit to China in the fall of 2016. At that time, the countries signed 13 cooperation agreements dealing with coordination of coastguard, drug trafficking, infrastructure and more. In addition, China pledged $ 24 billion in loans. The following year, President Duterte made several statements suggesting a closer relationship between the countries. In November 2017, Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang visited the Philippines and promised new Chinese loans for several infrastructure projects, later promises of even more money for various infrastructure projects. China also helped the Philippines with weapons and ammunition in connection with the Islamist siege of the city of Marawi in Mindanao (see Muslim separatists). The countries also agreed on a proposal on how bilateral Disputes in the South China Sea would be resolved, but nevertheless new word wars have flared up.

Relations with other Asian countries

The Philippines is part of ASEAN which has gradually developed into a significant political and economic force. Cooperation is important for the Philippines as it gives the country a regional identity that has nothing to do with the United States.

In 2013, tensions also increased between the Philippines and Taiwan since the Philippine Coast Guard shot to death a Taiwanese fisherman who they claimed had entered Philippine waters. President Aquino apologized for the shooting, which he said was unintentional, but Taiwan highlighted that the apology was insufficient. Taiwan took several measures, including stopping all new work permits for Filipino workers (about 87,000 Filipinos lived and worked in Taiwan) and a travel alert to the Philippines was issued. Taiwan also recalled its envoy to the Philippines.

Relations with Malaysia have been strengthened through the neighboring country’s role as mediator between the Philippine government and the Milf guerrilla. The relationship between the countries has been complicated to some extent by the so-called Sultanate of Sulu, in the southern Philippines, claiming the Malaysian state of Sabah. A Filipino clan’s attack on a village in Sabah was quickly defeated by the Malaysian military in early 2013. At least 70 people were killed. The Government of the Philippines highlighted that it had nothing to do with the attack. Concerns were then high about how the event would affect the approximately 800,000 Filipinos working in Sabah. In 2016, nine Filipinos were sentenced by a Sabah court to life imprisonment for their role in the attack.

Japan is also an important partner country and several large Japanese companies have interests in the Philippine industry. Japan is also an important aid provider, and in recent years, the countries have increased their cooperation on security and organized crime. In January 2017, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was the first foreign head of government to visit the Philippines after Duterte came to power.

In 2014, after many years of negotiations, the Philippines and Indonesia concluded a settlement as to where the sea border between the countries would go. A few years later, they started a collaboration, together with Malaysia, to better protect themselves from terrorist and pirate attacks. The following year they began to jointly patrol the Sulus and Celebs. In 2018, the three countries, Thailand, Singapore and Brunei, began to share intelligence reports.

In recent years, the Philippines has concluded a number of trade agreements with Myanmar.

In connection with the murder of a Filipino woman in Kuwait in 2020, the Philippine government decided to prevent its citizens from visiting guests in the country. A similar stop was introduced in connection with another murder of a Filipino guest worker in Kuwait (see Calendar).


Alongside the Army (Armed Forces of the Philippines, AFP) is the National Police (Philippine National Police, PNP) which also belongs to the defense.

In the mid-1990s, large parts of the defense equipment were old, some of the navy vessels were from World War II, and helicopters used by the United States during the Vietnam War were used. A modernization of the defense was initiated by Benigno Aquino, but although the appropriations for the military increased sharply, there was not enough money to complete the plans. However, since 2000, the Philippines has received military support for about $ 800 million from the United States, in the form of military equipment (including drones, helicopters and automatic carbines). Under Duterte, further defense efforts have been announced, and in 2018 submitted a five-year plan with a budget of $ 5.6 billion for the purchase of new equipment, including from South Korea and Israel.

Defense-political cooperation began with Russia in the fall of 2017. In connection with a Russian warship visiting Manila in October that year, the Philippines received 5,000 automatic carbines (kalashnikovs) and 20 army vehicles. The Philippines also signed an agreement to buy Russian grenade launchers, but no mention was made of the quantities involved. China, too, has donated weapons to the Philippines.

Both the army and the PNP are accused of human rights violations and corruption. This also applies to militia groups such as Citizen Armed Forces Geographical Units (CAFGU), which are formally controlled by the military, and Civilian Volunteers Organizations (CVO) that are under police control.

There are also a large number of private armies, most of them in Mindanao, usually formed to protect the interests of provincial politicians and powerful landowners (both Muslim and Christian). Periodically, private armies have been able to register as CAFGU or CVO militia, which has meant that they have been able to obtain weapons from the government army.


Army: 86 000 men (2017)

The air Force: 15,000 men (2017)

The fleet: 24 000 men (2017)

Military expenditure’s share of GDP: 1.4 percent (2017)

Military spending’s share of the state budget: 6.9 percent (2017)

Pakistan Defense and Foreign Policy

Pakistan Defense and Foreign Policy

Foreign policy and defense

Based on geographical map from Digopaul, Pakistan is a nation in Southern Asia. Its capital city is Islamabad. Pakistan’s foreign policy has always been characterized by the conflict with India which mainly revolved around Kashmir. Due to the perceived threat from India, huge economic investments have been made in the military, whose leadership is in practice considered to govern large parts of foreign policy. The United States regards Pakistan as an important party – but also a weak link – in the fight against Islamist resistance groups in Afghanistan. Pakistan has a close relationship with China, which provides support in the form of loans and weapons.

pakistan military spending and defense budget

The Kashmir mountain range was split at the British India division in 1947 into a Pakistani and an Indian part. The border demarcation has never been accepted by the two countries and on three occasions – 1947, 1965 and 1971 – the conflict over Kashmir has led to war (for more on the background see the conflict on Kashmir).

  • Countryaah: Overview of business holidays and various national observances in Pakistan for years of 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023, 2024 and 2025.

Pakistan grants moral support to Kashmiri separatist groups but denies giving any military and financial support. In 2002, Pakistan banned the two most extreme separatist movements since the country was pressured to intervene against terrorists.

The Pakistan-India conflict is one of the most dangerous in the world because of the risk of nuclear war. Neither Pakistan nor India has signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Both hold large armed forces along the standstill line and shooting across the border often occurs.

Fear of nuclear war

While India has assured that the country will never be the first to resort to nuclear weapons, Pakistan has not issued a similar guarantee. Therefore, there is a high risk that an Indian attack with conventional weapons would be countered by Pakistani nuclear weapons. Both countries have robots that are capable of carrying nuclear weapons and can reach most places in the neighboring country.

In the summer of 1999, a fourth major war broke out after several thousands of Kashmiri separatists and Pakistani semi-military police entered India at a sensitive border section. During the 2000s and 2010s, periods of escalating violence at the border were replaced by peace talks and confidence-building measures, which increased contacts across the border in trade, tourism, culture, sports and communications. However, no significant progress in the Kashmir issue has been made.

An attack on the Indian Parliament in December 2001 triggered an acute crisis, as did Islamic terrorist attacks in Bombay (Mumbai) in November 2008 and a suicide bombing in February 2019 by banned Jaish-e-Mohammad against Indian soldiers in Indian-controlled Kashmir. Prime Minister Modi’s Hindu nationalist government of 2014 has made some attempts at the rapprochement, but it basically feels deep distrust of Pakistan. And in Pakistan, leading military leaders do not want to give up support to armed extremists fighting Indian interests.

In August 2019, the situation in Kashmir was sharply sharpened when India withdrew the constitutional article guaranteeing the state of Jammu and Kashmir autonomy (see India, current policy). Pakistan called the decision “illegitimate” and turned to the UN Security Council for support.

Complicated relationship with the United States

India’s approach to the Soviet Union in the early 1950s pushed Pakistan into the arms of the US and the Western powers. Relations with the United States, however, have often been conflicting. There are strong anti-American sentiments among large sections of the population and the United States has often criticized Pakistan’s possession of nuclear weapons and human rights violations. During the 2010s, the United States also criticized what Washington believes is too powerless action against Islamist terrorist groups in the area.

Through the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, Pakistan became a leading state in the United States’ fight against communism and the country received extensive military and financial support. Much of the Western support for the Afghan resistance movements was channeled through the Pakistani military.

Following the fall of communism in Afghanistan in 1992, US interest in Pakistan declined, but through its close contacts with the Afghan Taliban regime, the country again became at the center of US foreign policy. Following the terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001, Pakistan became one of the US key allies in the “war on terrorism”. Between 2002 and 2010, Pakistan received $ 2 billion annually in US aid. Three quarters of it went to the military.

Under President Barack Obama, US contacts were more cautious than those of predecessor George W Bush. The Obama administration showed greater understanding of the dual command that characterizes Pakistani politics, where the government can say one thing and the military – especially the ISI intelligence service – do something completely different.

However, the US drone attacks on Pakistani territory provoked anger at both the government and the residents. The US military raid in 2011 that killed terrorist leader Usama bin Ladin led to a bottom-up relationship, as neither the Pakistani government nor the military had been informed in advance. This showed the United States’ lack of confidence in their allies and, conversely, led to increased suspicion of the United States in Pakistan.

The US is reducing military support

When Nawaz Sharif became new Prime Minister, he visited the United States in October 2013. The two countries agreed to continue the joint fight against terrorism, but the United States made no promises that the drone attacks on Pakistan would be stopped or reduced in number, as Sharif had demanded. When Pakistan launched a military offensive against the Taliban, al-Qaeda and other militant Islamist networks in the clan areas on the Afghan border in June 2014, it was supported by US drones.

When the Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour was killed by an American drone in Baluchistan in May 2016, the Pakistani reaction became strong. The military leadership accused the United States of violating the country’s sovereignty. The US, for its part, withdrew military assistance on the grounds that Pakistan’s efforts against militant networks such as Haqqani were ineffective.

In August 2017, US President Donald Trump declared that US policy towards Pakistan (and Afghanistan) would change. The rhetoric against Pakistan was fierce and Trump demanded increased efforts from Islamabad to fight the militant Islamists. In January 2018, Trump accused Pakistan of providing a haven for militant elements that US troops are fighting in Afghanistan, and the United States frozen parts of military support for Pakistan during the year.

Afghan mistrust

Relations with Afghanistan have been almost as important as relations with India. Since the colonial era, Pakistani Pashtuns have demanded their own state called Pashtunistan. The demand has been fueled by the Afghan governments. The fear that the communist Afghan regime would claim the North-West Frontier Province (now Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) was one of the reasons for the Pakistani support for the Afghan resistance movements. Another was Afghanistan’s good contacts with India and Pakistan’s concern about being surrounded by Indian interests.

The Pakistani military security service ISI, in collaboration with conservative religious groups and parts of the business community, played a major part in the creation of the Afghan Taliban movement. The reason was that the chaos in Afghanistan following the fall of the Communist regime in 1992 disturbed Pakistan’s contacts with the new Central Asian states.

Following the fall of the Taliban regime in the fall of 2001, Pakistan said it wanted a good relationship with the US-backed Afghan government. But the Afghans’ mistrust has persisted, since all three militant organizations that pose the greatest threat to the Afghan government are allowed to have their headquarters and military bases in Pakistan. The Afghan Taliban, the so-called Haqqani network and Hezb-i-Islami, all have direct or indirect support from ISI.

Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani, on his take-up in 2014, advocated a fresh start for relations with Pakistan. However, it was uncertain whether the civilian Pakistani leaders would be able to take the initiative of the generals. In May 2015, signs of thunderstorms emerged in the relations when the two countries agreed to share intelligence information with each other as well as coordinate intelligence operations in order to combat terrorism. The agreement was concluded after Prime Minister Sharif, with army and intelligence chiefs, visited colleagues in Kabul.

However, in connection with military offensives within the Pakistani clan areas along the border, the level of violence increased and border crossings have been closed several times in recent years.

Relations with the Afghan government deteriorated further in 2018 when Pakistan contributed to the Taliban movement in peace talks with the United States, without the Afghan government’s participation. The peace talks stranded in the fall of 2019, which was a setback for Pakistan, hoping for US support both financially and in the escalated conflict with India over Kashmir.

Support from China

During the Cold War, when India was close to the Soviet Union, Pakistan made contacts with China. Good relations have continued even in modern times, despite China’s economic proximity to India, and they have been confirmed when Chinese leaders visited Pakistan.

In the face of widespread hostility to the United States, China is the majority of Pakistanis as the country’s only reliable friend. Enthusiasm is only partially dampened by reports of Chinese discrimination against Muslims in the Xinjiang region. Even during periods when the United States and Pakistan have worked closely together, Beijing has continued to provide Pakistan with both weapons and assistance, including several nuclear power plants being built with Chinese support. In 2016, China took over the US position as Pakistan’s largest arms supplier.

In the context of China’s huge infrastructure and development projects for large parts of Asia (the Belt and Road Initiative, the “New Silk Road”), Pakistan received extensive Chinese support during the 2010s, mainly in the form of cheap loans. Critics warn that Pakistan in this way has become too dependent on Beijing. In 2013, the two countries agreed to link the port of Gwadar in Pakistan with Kashgar in Xinjiang in western China through highways, railways and oil and gas pipelines, the so-called China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). When Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Islamabad in April 2015, the two countries signed 51 cooperation agreements under this infrastructure project. The CPEC should be ready by 2030 and is estimated to cost a total of $ 62 billion,

Frosty relations with Bangladesh

In 1971, East Pakistan’s (today Bangladesh) liberation from West Pakistan (now Pakistan) led to a year of civil war, which left bitter traces in relations. Only five years later, they were normalized when embassies were established and trade relations and communications resumed.

After a prolonged dispute with Bangladesh, Pakistan promised in 1991 that about a quarter of a million million-speaking Muslim bihars, who had openly supported West Pakistan in the war and who had lived in refugee camps in Bangladesh since the end of the war, could move to Pakistan. But the return of refugees was extremely slow, and in 2008 Bangladesh decided that around 150,000 Bihar refugees, who were minors in 1971 or subsequently born, would gain Bangladeshi citizenship.

In 2002, Pakistan’s then President Pervez Musharraf lamented the abuses committed by Pakistani soldiers during the war. In 2010, Bangladesh demanded a formal apology for this, something Pakistan rejected. Pakistan has strongly condemned a series of executions that Bangladeshi authorities from 2013 carried out by fellow runners to West Pakistan during the war. Several of them were senior leaders of an Islamist party. During the latter part of the 2010, relations remained frosty.

Other important relationships

Pakistan has had significant economic cooperation since the early 1990s with the five Central Asian republics of Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, as well as Iran, Azerbaijan and Turkey. In December 2015, work began on building a natural gas pipeline (Tapi) from Turkmenistan to Punjab in India via Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Despite protests from the US, Pakistan and Iran agreed in March 2010 to build a gas pipeline from southern Iran to Multan in Pakistan, via Karachi. But while Iran had completed its part of the leadership in March 2016, due to economic and political problems, Pakistan has not yet begun its part of the construction. However, with Iran, Pakistan has long-term trade and economic cooperation agreements.

As the United States and India have grown closer, Russia and Pakistan have strengthened their military cooperation in recent years. In 2014, Moscow lifted its arms embargo on Pakistan and a year later an agreement was signed to sell Russian combat helicopters and combat aircraft engines to Pakistan. In September 2016, the two countries conducted joint military exercises for the first time, in Pakistan, then in Russia a year later. In February 2018, a new Russian-Pakistani Military Commission was set up to strengthen Pakistan’s capacity to fight terrorism. The countries also signed an agreement that allows the Russian military to train Pakistani officers. With Russia, Pakistan has also entered into a series of agreements in the energy field.

Pakistan has good relations with Saudi Arabia and therefore ended up in a dilemma when the Saudis in spring 2015 asked Pakistan to contribute militarily to the Saudi-led coalition formed the same spring to fight the Iranian-backed huthi rebels in Yemen. Pakistan, which is also closely allied with Iran, chose not to participate in combat troops, but promised to assist if Saudi territory was threatened. In the fall of 2018, Saudi Arabia provided multi-billion dollar financial aid to Pakistan, which then ended up in a debt crisis (see Calendar).

Pakistan is a member of the United Nations, the Commonwealth, the South Asian Cooperation Organization Saarc, the Asian Development Bank, the World Trade Organization (WTO), the Central Asian Cooperation Organization SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization) and several other regional and international organizations.


Pakistan’s defense is the most modern and effective part of the state apparatus and often contributes to the UN peacekeeping forces. When the United States has periodically refused to sell weapons, China has primarily been a loyal supplier. France and Britain have also helped to equip the Pakistani armed forces. About one-third of the state budget goes to the defense at the expense of education, health care and other social areas.

The disproportionately large budget allocation of the Armed Forces is reflected in the army’s great influence in society. For nearly half of Pakistan’s time as an independent state, the country has been ruled by military junta, which, according to many analysts, has been a major cause of the political instability, lawlessness and corruption that characterize the country.

The Pakistani Armed Forces also have major interests in business through a number of companies that own real estate, dairies, banks, factories and more.


Army: 560 000 men (2017)

The air Force: 70,000 men (2017)

The fleet: 23 800 men (2017)

Military expenditure’s share of GDP: 3.5 percent (2017)

Military spending’s share of the state budget: 16.7 percent (2017)

Oman Defense and Foreign Policy

Oman Defense and Foreign Policy

Foreign policy and defense

Based on geographical map from Digopaul, Oman is a nation in Western Asia. Its capital city Muscat. Oman for an independent foreign policy towards the countries of the Persian Gulf region. Sultan Qabus, deceased in 2020, tried to maintain good relations with all neighboring countries during his long-term power holdings. This balance has led to some irritation in the area, but the new Sultan Haitham bin Tariq has promised to stick to the neutrality. The country has at times played a mediating role in the region, not least in terms of conflicts with Iran.

oman military spending and defense budget

Oman has long had good relations and cooperation with both the United States and the United Kingdom. The country housed US Air Force during the 2000s that supported US military operations in Afghanistan. In 2019, a new agreement was signed to allow the United States to use ports and airports in Oman for its armed forces. In 2014, it was revealed that the UK had an intelligence base near Musqat that oversees data and telecommunications in the area. In addition, Oman has made large arms purchases from both countries.

  • Countryaah: Overview of business holidays and various national observances in Oman for years of 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023, 2024 and 2025.

When Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, Oman joined the UN-supported alliance in the subsequent war against Iraq. Following the terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001, Oman expressed support for the US war on terrorism. When the United States attacked Iraq in the spring of 2003, Oman chose to formally stand outside but reluctantly surrendered its territory for US flights. In autumn 2014, unlike many of its neighboring countries, Oman chose not to participate in the US-led attacks against the Islamic State (IS) jihadist movement in Syria.

Oman was a driving force when the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) regional partnership was formed in 1981; In addition to Oman, the GCC also includes Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Oman, which was itself hit by popular protests in 2011, stood behind when the GCC countries Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates sent troops to Bahrain to assist the regime there during street protests in 2011. On the other hand, Oman refused to participate when the other GCC countries began in March 2015 air strikes against the Iran-backed Huthirbells in Yemen.

In 2011, Omani authorities revealed a spy network that was said to work for the United Arab Emirates. The neighboring country, with which Oman normally has good relations even though the common border was not finally established until 2008, denied all charges of espionage. Oman’s close relations with Iran were one of the areas believed to be of interest to the neighboring country.

Oman has a long month of good relations with Iran, with which it shares the inlet of oil traffic so important to the Persian Gulf while Iran supplies Oman with natural gas. Oman has served as a communication intermediary while being able to mediate in conflicts. Oman has succeeded in establishing prison exchanges in both directions between Iran, the United States and the United Kingdom in the 2000s and hosted negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program from 2011. Negotiations led to the international agreement in 2015 aimed at limiting Iran’s nuclear weapons capabilities.

The neighboring countries of the GCC have not always looked with open eyes on Oman’s contacts with Iran. Shiite Iran has been accused of supporting Shiite groups that have challenged Sunni Muslim regimes in Arab countries.

Even in relation to neighboring Yemen, with which Oman previously had a border conflict, Oman has tried to assume a mediator role and, among other things, contributed to the release of Europeans kidnapped by the terrorist network al-Qaeda’s local branch.

Relations with India and China have increased during the 2000s as trade and cooperation with these countries grew.

In 2018, it was noted that Oman was one of the countries that Israel approached during a diplomatic offensive to achieve better contacts with Arab states. However, countries do not have full diplomatic relations.

The military service is voluntary, but the state’s military spending is high. In 2018, they decreased compared to the previous year, but still amounted to 8.8 percent of GDP, according to the Sipri Peace Research Institute.


Army: 25,000 men (2017)

The air Force: 5,000 men (2017)

The fleet: 4,200 men (2017)

Military expenditure’s share of GDP: 12.1 percent (2017)

Military spending’s share of the state budget: 26.3 percent (2017)

North Korea Defense and Foreign Policy

North Korea Defense and Foreign Policy

Foreign policy and defense

Based on geographical map from Digopaul, North Korea is a nation in Eastern Asia. Its capital city is Pyongyang. The Korean War has characterized North Korea’s foreign and security policy for more than half a century (see Conflicts: Korea). War permits formally prevail with South Korea, as the 1953 ceasefire agreement was not followed by any peace agreement. Since the 1990s, international relations have largely been about North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, and the world’s attempts to put an end to it.

North Korea Defense and Foreign Policy

The pursuit of independence according to the juche ideology (see Political system) has been the official guiding principle in North Korea’s foreign policy. It has contributed to the country’s isolation, although in reality it has long been closely linked to China and the Soviet Union (see Modern History).

  • Countryaah: Overview of business holidays and various national observances in North Korea for years of 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023, 2024 and 2025.

Nowadays, North Korea has diplomatic relations with most countries in the world, including most of the EU. However, diplomatic relations with the US are lacking and Washington’s interests are represented in Pyongyang by the Swedish Embassy.

Nuclear issue

Attempts to get North Korea to discontinue its nuclear weapons program have taken place with both carrot and whip. Pyongyang has also been attracted with oil, food deliveries and trade exchanges, and has been penalized with frozen bank accounts, delisted goods deliveries and other penalties.

The North Korean regime has promised numerous times to refrain from developing nuclear weapons, but has done so anyway. Since 2012, North Korea has inscribed in its constitution that the country is a nuclear weapons state. The country is also believed to have an active chemical weapons program and possibly biological weapons as well.

In light of the fact that the United States had nuclear weapons in South Korea, as early as the 1950s, North Korea initiated a program to develop nuclear technology, with the potential for both nuclear and nuclear weapons. The US nuclear weapons were removed in the 1970s. In 1992, North and South Korea agreed that the Korean Peninsula should be free of nuclear weapons.

North Korea refused, despite allowing the UN Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to inspect facilities suspected of preparations for nuclear weapons. But in 1994, Pyongyang signed an agreement with the United States that the North Koreans would scrap nuclear reactors that could have been used for peaceful nuclear power – and for the development of nuclear weapons. In return, North Korea would get help with its energy supply through oil supplies and help with the construction of light water reactors.

In the years that followed, North Korea’s program of developing robots capable of carrying weapons long distances was also discussed. Promises and broken promises made each other succeed. In 2003, North Korea formally withdrew from the International Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) – which it joined in 1985 but never followed. The decision prompted the United States to pressure North Korea into so-called six-party talks, in which South Korea, China, Japan and Russia also participated, to get Pyongyang to discontinue its nuclear weapons program.

First nuclear test

But in October 2006, the North Koreans for the first time blasted an underground charge. The reactions in the outside world became strong. The UN introduced sanctions that put an end to the import of military equipment.

The six-party talks continued and in 2007 a breakthrough appeared to be reached when, among other things, North Korea agreed to close its reactor in Yongbyon and other nuclear facilities and allow inspections by the IAEA. North Korea, in return, received promises of energy and food aid, normalized relations and enforced sanctions.

Nor did the pledges now lead to any major course change. In 2009, instead, the tone hardened. When the UN condemned the trial of a long-range robot, North Korea responded by jumping off the six-party talks. In May of the same year, the country again conducted a test of a nuclear weapon. In February 2013, a third underground explosion was conducted.

During the second half of the 2010s, North Korea increased the amount of robotic and nuclear weapons tests. A fourth nuclear test was carried out in early 2016 and shortly thereafter another rocket launch. According to the outside world, it was again a cover for the work of developing long-range missiles that can be equipped with nuclear weapons.

In response to the US and South Korea’s decision to deploy an air defense system in South Korea (see South Korea: Foreign Policy and Defense), with the stated purpose of protecting South Korea from missile attacks from the north, in July of the same year, North Korea fired three robots into the sea outside South Korea.

The same autumn, the country performed another nuclear test, the fifth in order. North Korean sources said that after the test, the country was now technically able to mount nuclear warheads on robots. Continued robot testing followed, resulting in new tensions and sharpened sanctions from the UN.

On US initiative, the United Nations Security Council in August 2017 adopted additional sanctions against North Korea. The sanctions, which completely prohibit the country from exporting coal, iron and lead, were estimated to reduce export revenues by more than a third.

After a sixth nuclear test took place in September 2017 – the first hydrogen bomb found – new sanctions were introduced for the eighth time since the country conducted the first nuclear test in 2006. This time, a limit was placed on how much oil was allowed to be exported to North Korea. This mainly concerned China, which is the country that mainly supplies North Korea with oil. Chinese oil exports could continue at the same level as last year, but no more. A ban on North Korea’s important textile exports was also introduced. In addition, new visas were also not issued for North Korean guest workers.

After a close relationship with South Korea and the United States (see below), in the spring of 2018, North Korea’s leaders announced that the country no longer needed to test nuclear weapons and long-range robots because they now had nuclear weapons that could deter the country’s enemies. He also said he was willing to work for nuclear disarmament on the Korean Peninsula. No more nuclear and robotic tests would be done and the nuclear weapons testing facility destroyed, as witnessed by foreign journalists.

Relations with South Korea

North Korea has never acknowledged South Korea, but has the goal of reuniting the peninsula (the reverse also applies). Despite this, a cautious dialogue was initiated between the countries in the 1970s and in the mid-1980s group trips began with meetings between family members who had not met since the Korean War. After the end of the Cold War around 1990, trade and talks followed.

When North Korea released the requirement that only a reunited Korea could join the UN, both Korea were admitted as members there in 1991. The following year, a broad cooperation agreement came into force.

In June 2000, a historic summit was held in Pyongyang between Kim Jong-Il and South Korea’s President Kim Dae-Jung. They decided on financial cooperation, re-established rail links and reopened liaison office at the Panmunjom border station. At the inaugural Olympic Games in Sydney the same year, North and South Korea’s participants marched in together.

North Korea’s nuclear test in 2006 created new tensions. A second summit between North and South Korea in 2007 gave hope for more icing, but in practice did not lead far. In 2009, the rhetoric of war was escalated and after the second test blast, the North said it was no longer bound by the 1953 standstill agreement.

In 2010, the situation was further tightened. In March, 46 South Korean sailors died after the warship Cheonan exploded and dropped near the Yellow Sea border. An international investigation found that a North Korean torpedo dropped the ship. Pyongyang refused to interfere and broke all relations with Seoul. In November, a firefight broke out when North Korea suddenly fired artillery fire at the South Korean island of Yeonpyeong, also near the border. Four South Koreans were killed in the attack, which also caused material destruction.

The situation remained predominantly tense between countries and worsened by North Korea’s rocket launch and nuclear test 2012-2013.

Following Pyongyang’s rocket launch in early 2016, South Korea made the decision to close the Kaesong joint industrial zone, which the countries have been operating along with some disruption since 2004 (see Industry).

Although the conflict was perceived as more frozen than ever towards the end of 2017, an iceberg occurred in early 2018. In January of that year, for the first time since Kim Jong-Un’s accession as North Korean leader, bilateral talks were held at a high level. The official reason for the talks was to discuss North Korea’s participation in the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang in South Korea next month. During the inaugural ceremony, North and South Korean contestants marched together and later met with South Korean President Moon Jae-In North Korea’s Former Head of State Kim Yong-Nam and Kim Jong-Un’s sister Kim Yo-Jong. In April of that year, a historic meeting was held, in the border town of Panmunjom in the demilitarized zone, between Kim Jong-Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-In.

The two Korean leaders then met on two more occasions in 2018 and agreed on concrete measures to reduce tensions and spur joint cooperation. These included removing land mines along the common border and reducing the number of guard posts. In addition, a reunion was held for families who split up in the Korean War and ended up on each side of the border. However, the continued international sanctions against North Korea have put a stalemate on closer economic cooperation between the states and investments in North Korea.

Relations with the United States

Relations with the United States are particularly closely related to the game around the core program. Pyongyang ideally wants direct negotiations with Washington and only reluctantly agreed that other countries in the region participated in the six-party talks that lasted until 2009. North Korea counts the United States as its main enemy and accuses South Korea of ​​being its puppet state.

The relationship was extraordinarily much in tune with then-US President George W Bush’s 2002 speech on the “axis of evil” – North Korea, Iran and Iraq. When Barack Obama took office as president in 2009, there were hopes of thunderstorms. Instead, North Korea provoked the launch of a long-range robot and then a nuclear weapon.

After Donald Trump took office as new US president in January 2017, the relationship between the two countries became increasingly hostile as North Korea expanded its robot tests (see Calendar). The same spring, in conjunction with the annual military exercises between South Korea and the United States, when North Korea’s leadership has traditionally protested openly with threatening statements, the turmoil in the Korean peninsula increased again. But the Trump leadership made it clear that the goal was for North Korea to be piloted again in a dialogue on the nuclear program. To achieve this, diplomacy and further sanctions would be used. At the same time, the American press had also increased the pressure on China (see below) to actively participate in attempts to get North Korea on the right path.

After Kim Jong-Un suddenly began a rapprochement with South Korea in early 2018, he also came in the spring with an invitation to President Trump. This man surprisingly agreed to hold a summit with Kim Jong-Un. The meeting finally took place on June 12 the same year in Singapore. It was the first time a US president met with North Korea’s leaders. The two leaders discussed nuclear disarmament and signed a document to promote the Korean Peninsula to be free of nuclear weapons. The United States pledged to safeguard North Korea’s security and would also stop the recurring military exercises with South Korea. In addition, it was agreed to endeavor to establish a formal peace agreement after the Korean War. However, how it all went to was very unclear and therefore further meetings were needed.

In February 2019, Trump and Kim Jong-Un met at a second summit, this time in Vietnam’s capital Hanoi. Expectations were high before the meeting, both of the parties as well as the outside world. But the summit was stranded and had to be canceled prematurely. The countries blamed each other. The US believed that the North Koreans demanded too much, according to President Trump, to lift all sanctions, against the partial dismantling of the Yongbyon nuclear facility. It was stated from North Korean sources that they had only demanded that the sanctions introduced in 2016-2017 be removed.

Relations with China

Since the end of the Cold War, China has been North Korea’s closest ally. A friendship agreement was signed in 1961 between the countries where China promises to come to the rescue of North Korea in an external attack. Almost all of North Korea’s trade is done today with China, which is also an important source of food and energy for the North Koreans. But the relationship is complicated and China’s influence seems more limited than before.

Beijing has tried to intercept North Korea’s nuclear weapons test blasts in the early 2000s and participated in its condemnations. At the same time, China is believed to be more concerned about instability in the Korean Peninsula than for the nuclear weapons themselves. Beijing has supported UN sanctions against North Korea, but Chinese leaders have not wanted to resort to overly harsh methods to avoid the collapse of the Pyongyang regime. Not least, in China, there is a strong concern about a refugee storm across the common border.

After Kim Jong-Un took over the leadership of North Korea, relations cooled. But in early 2018, just before the planned US summit, Kim Jong-Un made a train trip to Beijing, where he met with Chinese President Xi Jinping. The trip, Kim Jong-Un’s first official trip abroad as a North Korean leader, was perceived by observers as a way to assure Beijing that it was not excluded from the negotiations that had begun on the situation on the Korean Peninsula.

Relations with Japan

Japan has joined South Korea and the United States in the conflict on the Korean Peninsula and Japan also has a military alliance with the United States. This has made North Korea perceive Japan as an enemy. Relations have been further strained by the difficult experiences of the North Koreans during the former Japanese colonial empire and a dispute over North Korea’s abduction of Japanese nationals in the 1970s and 1980s. In 2002, Pyongyang acknowledged that 13 Japanese were kidnapped, of which five were sent back, but according to Tokyo, hundreds of Japanese may be detained in North Korea.


North Korea has the world’s fourth largest military power and is the most militarized country in terms of population. Military spending in recent years has been estimated at around one quarter of gross domestic product (GDP). The military has over one million soldiers and several million reservists. The military service can last up to twelve years in the army and up to ten years in the Navy.

It is unknown how many nuclear weapons North Korea has available: estimates range from 15 to 60. It can produce both highly enriched uranium and plutonium for nuclear bombs. The sixth nuclear test 2017 was a hydrogen bomb and the most powerful to date.

With its robot tests, North Korea has also shown that it has developed several different types of robots, from short-range, to medium- and long-range weapons.


Army: 1 100 000 men (2017)

The air Force: 110,000 men (2017)

The fleet: 60,000 men (2017)

Mongolia Defense and Foreign Policy

Mongolia Defense and Foreign Policy

Foreign policy and defense

Based on geographical map from Digopaul, Mongolia is a nation in Eastern Asia. Its capital city is Ulaanbaatar. Mongolia’s foreign policy is characterized by its geographical location, squeezed between Russia and China. From the beginning of the 1920s to the end of the 1980s, Mongolia was heavily dependent on the Soviet Union. Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, the country has been labeled as neutral. However, Russia has remained an important trading partner.

mongolia military spending and defense budget

The relationship with China is characterized by mutual suspicion, although it has improved since the early 1990s. Many Mongols still fear today that history should repeat itself and that the Chinese will again have a dominant role in the country (see Older history). China, for its part, is worried that a growing Mongolian nationalism will spread to the Chinese province of Inner Mongolia. However, China is the country’s largest trading partner and represents the largest foreign investment.

  • Countryaah: Overview of business holidays and various national observances in Mongolia for years of 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023, 2024 and 2025.

In order to reduce the influence of the two neighboring countries, Mongolia has grown contacts with, above all, the United States, but also with Japan, South Korea, India and a number of EU countries. All have provided significant development assistance to the country.

Relations with the United States have improved significantly since the fall of the Mongol Communist regime in 1990. Mongolia condemned the terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001 and welcomed the government that succeeded the Taliban regime in Afghanistan that year. The US and Mongolia began military cooperation in 2005, which included, among other things, financial support for the Mongolian armed forces and joint military exercises.

Mongolia is one of the few countries in the world to have friendly relations with North Korea. The capital, Ulan Bator, has hosted talks between Japan and North Korea on the North Korean nuclear weapons program. Like other countries in the region, Mongolia is advocating the dismantling of North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.

The religious ties between Mongolia and Tibet (both have Lama Buddhism as the main religion) have become stronger since the Mongols rediscovered their Buddhist heritage in the 1990s. Despite protests from China, Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama has visited Mongolia several times.


Mongolia mainly has a defense conscience. There are also paramilitary forces as well as an army reserve. The country’s fighting forces were significantly reduced during the 1990s for economic reasons. In recent years, military cooperation with Russia has contributed to the country’s military equipment, which is originally Soviet, being upgraded and modernized, including through the purchase of fighter aircraft. Mongolian soldiers have participated in exercises with both Russian, Chinese and American forces. Mongolian allies have also participated in international coalition forces or UN troops in Iraq, Afghanistan and South Sudan.


Army: 8 900 men (2017)

The air Force: 800 men (2017)

Military expenditure’s share of GDP: 0.7 percent (2017)

Military spending’s share of the state budget: 2.1 percent (2017)

Maldives Defense and Foreign Policy

Maldives Defense and Foreign Policy

Foreign policy and defense

Based on geographical map from Digopaul, Maldives is a nation in Southern Asia. Its capital city is Male. In the international context, the Maldives emphasizes the fight against climate change. The country is particularly concerned about a good relationship with the nearest neighboring countries India and Sri Lanka. During the Yamin government (2013–2018) relations with India were strained by the Maldives’ approach to China.

Maldives Defense and Foreign Policy

Climate issues are central to low-lying island nations like the Maldives, which risk being completely submerged if sea levels rise as a result of climate change. The country has hosted several regional and international conferences on the subject several times. Former President Mohamed Nashid held a particularly high profile on the issue (see Modern History).

  • Countryaah: Overview of business holidays and various national observances in Maldives for years of 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023, 2024 and 2025.

The Maldives spreads across one of the world’s busiest waters and thus holds a strategically important position. During the 2010s, the Maldives became more and more important to the two Asian superpowers China and India. During Abdulla Yamin’s reign as president, ties and dependence were strengthened by China, and the country was heavily indebted to Beijing. Trade between the two countries increased rapidly, as did Chinese investment in infrastructure in the Maldives. The number of Chinese tourists visiting the Maldives also increased sharply.

Under President Solih, the Maldives has once again strengthened ties with India, providing extensive aid to the island public and funding military investments such as radar systems and training centers. India and the Maldives also cooperate against piracy, terrorism, organized crime and smuggling through the patrol of the waters, air surveillance and information exchange.

With Sri Lanka, the Maldives cooperates primarily in tourism, trade, energy, fishing and telecommunications.

Maldives’ contacts with the UN, the EU, the US and other western countries deteriorated during the Yamin government because of the growing democratic shortcomings. Relations improved rapidly after Solih’s entry.

Under President Yamin, the Maldives withdrew from the Commonwealth in October 2016 following criticism from the organization against the government’s growing authoritarian rule. In December 2018, Solih’s coalition government applied for re-entry into the Commonwealth, which was realized in February 2020.

In 2016, the Maldives broke diplomatic relations with Iran. The official explanation was that the Maldives considered that Iran was undermining the peace and security of the Persian Gulf. Behind the decision was also Saudi Arabia, whose relations with Iran in recent years have greatly deteriorated and which promised large sums of assistance to the Maldives. Iran and the Maldives established diplomatic relations in 1975 but have never held embassies or consulates with each other.

The Maldives lack a proper defense. There is a semi-military national defense force that consists of about 2,000 men and handles both internal and external security. The Maldives regularly conduct military exercises together with mainly India and cooperate in security matters also with Sri Lanka, Mauritius and Seychelles.



Seven ministers are forced to step down

President Nashid is being pressured by the DRP-led opposition in Parliament and forced to replace seven of his ministers since the opposition demanded it.


UN experts to the rescue

The UN sends legal experts to the Maldives to try to help resolve the political crisis, where the opposition in Parliament opposes the government’s reform proposals (see June 2010).


Stalemate in Parliament

The MDP-led government is accusing the opposition, with the DRP at the forefront, for making the country impossible to rule by opposing any reform proposals by the government parties. All ministers resign since the opposition threatened to direct a distrust vote against each of them. The government is reinstated a week later but the deadlock in Parliament remains.

Malaysia Defense and Foreign Policy

Malaysia Defense and Foreign Policy

Foreign policy and defense

Based on geographical map from Digopaul, Malaysia is a nation in Southeastern Asia. Its capital city is Kuala Lumpur. The emphasis of Malaysia’s foreign policy lies on the Southeast Asian community within ASEAN. At the same time, the country is active within the UN and has participated in many peacekeeping efforts in the world. Malaysia also wants to be a bridge builder between the Muslim and the non-Muslim part of the world. During the 2010 century, contacts with China have been significantly strengthened.

malaysia military spending and defense budget

Malaysia’s most important bilateral relations are still those with neighboring Singapore, although China is now competing for the spot as its main trading partner. Singapore is the largest exporting country. Relations with the city state in the south have been periodically strained due to territorial conflicts. In 2008, the International Court of Justice in The Hague granted Singapore the right to the Batu Puteh Rock Island in the Singapore Strait. Both countries had been disputing the island since 1979. At the same time, Malaysia was granted the right to a rock formation called Middle Rocks in the same area. Some territorial disputes arose when Mahathir Mohamad, who has a history of strained relations with Singapore, again became prime minister of Malaysia 2018. These disputes a year later appeared to have been resolved through ministerial talks.

  • Countryaah: Overview of business holidays and various national observances in Malaysia for years of 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023, 2024 and 2025.

Relations with Thailand in the north have long been disturbed by a separatist uprising among the Muslim population in southern Thailand (see Conflicts: Southern Thailand). The uprising has escalated since 2006. Thailand has accused Malaysia of supporting the separatists by not doing enough to prevent them from finding sanctuary inside Muslim Malaysia. Malaysia, for its part, has criticized Thailand for not doing anything about many civilians fleeing from the unrest in southern Thailand to the neighboring country in the south. Following a military coup in Thailand in 2014, relations have improved and countries have agreed to build a more than a mile-long wall in the southern Thai province of Songkhla. The purpose is to stop rebels and refugees from moving across the border.

Malaysia has mediated in the Mindanao conflict in the Philippines between the country’s government and the Muslim guerrilla Milf (Moro’s Islamic Liberation Front; see Philippines, Muslim separatists). Relations with the Philippines have been complicated by the so-called Sulu state of Sulu in the southern Philippines claiming the Malaysian state of Sabah in Borneo. In 1878, Sulu handed over control of Sabah to the British for an annual fee. Malaysia still pays an annual fee to the Sultanate. In February 2013, a coastal community in Sabah was temporarily occupied by a Philippine armed group on the grounds that it belonged to Sulu (see Calendar).

Comprehensive labor migration

Relations with Indonesia are also periodically strained. Malaysia has repeatedly complained that health-threatening smoke from huge forest fires in Indonesian Borneo is devastating the air in the region. A subject of conflict is also the many Indonesian guest workers who illegally enter Malaysia, where the pay situation is higher than in the home country. Malaysia has in turn deported paperless Indonesians. At the same time, Indonesian authorities have reacted strongly to data that Indonesian labor was being treated poorly in neighboring countries. Between 2009 and 2011, Indonesians were prohibited from traveling to Malaysia to work as domestic servants. The ban was lifted after the two countries signed an agreement on improved working conditions for women. Cambodia also banned domestic maids from traveling to Malaysia for a period of time after reports of abuse. The Philippines has protested against mass deportations of Filipino citizens. In February 2018, there were 1.8 million registered guest workers in Malaysia, of which 40 percent came from Indonesia, 22 percent from Nepal and 15 percent from Bangladesh. Estimates of the number of paperless migrant workers vary between 3 million and 4 million.

In the 2010s, Malaysia has expressed growing concern over how the Muslim minority Rohingy is being treated in Myanmar (see Myanmar, Rohingy situation). In 2019, there were just over 84,000 registered Rohingya refugees in Malaysia. The Kuala Lumpur government has criticized Myanmar for the military offensive in the state of Rakhine, which in 2017 led to nearly 800,000 Rohingy people being driven out of the country, and former Prime Minister Najib Razak termed the ban as genocide.

Like the Philippines, Brunei, Taiwan, Vietnam and China, Malaysia claims the uninhabited Sprat Islands in the South China Sea, where there is probably oil beneath the seabed. In 2002, the parties agreed on a Code of Conduct which means that they must abstain from actions that may aggravate the situation in the area. Despite this, tensions have occasionally increased. Malaysia has kept a fairly low profile in the conflict and has thus been able to maintain a balance in relations with the parties involved.

Close relations with China

Despite the dispute over the Sprat Islands, relations with China are good. Trade between the two countries has increased significantly in the 2010s, and now China is Malaysia’s largest importing country.

During Najib Razak’s time as prime minister (2009–2018), Chinese investment in infrastructure development in Malaysia increased significantly, while Malaysia’s government debt grew rapidly. A series of agreements were signed on joint initiatives under China’s huge infrastructure project BRI (Belt and Road Initiative, or New Silk Road), where a number of train lines, road systems and ports, from China in the east to Europe in the west, are linked. When Mahathir Mohamad took over the Prime Minister’s post in 2018, a review of the contracts with China was promised. Several projects were temporarily halted and an important agreement on a railway line through Malaysia was renegotiated with a 30 percent cost reduction for Malaysia as a result.

Cooperations with China in the field of energy and defense have been extended. China has also financially supported Malaysia in connection with the 1MDB scandal (see Current Policy).

Strengthened ties to the United States

The United States is another important trading partner and one of the largest foreign investors. Malaysia and the United States cooperate on a number of security issues, including in the fight against terrorism.

Relations between the two countries have traditionally been good, with a few exceptions. For example, during his first term as prime minister in 1981–2003, Mahathir Mohamad gladly criticized what he saw as the Western racism and moral decay. In particular, he turned to the attempts to “impose” on Asia the Western view of human rights and democracy. During the Asian crisis in 1997, Mahathir accused “foreign speculators” of deliberately undermining Malaysia’s economy. A special target was US financier George Soros, and anti-Semitic outpourings of Mahathir aroused strong anger in the US Congress.

Gradually, Malaysian-American relations were normalized, but a few years later Malaysia’s reputation was damaged by the prison sentences against Anwar Ibrahim (see Modern History) and by the 1MDB scandal.

In the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Malaysia has taken a stand for the Palestinians and lacks diplomatic relations with Israel. Najib Razak, as prime minister, received harsh criticism from, among others, Israel when, in January 2013, as the first leader outside the Arab world, he visited the democratically elected but terrorist-labeled Islamist group Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

From February 2017, relations with North Korea deteriorated significantly when North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un’s half-brother Kim Jong-Nam was poisoned by two Southeast Asian women at Kuala Lumpur International Airport. The approach led the mind to North Korea’s security service. When the trial against the women began in October of that year, they both said that they had been tricked into believing that the murder was a joke that would be part of an entertainment program on TV. The conflict with North Korea included, among other things, the handling of Kim Jong-Nam’s remnants and a departure ban temporarily imposed on Malaysians living in North Korea and vice versa. Both women were released unexpectedly in the spring of 2019, probably following pressure from their home countries, Vietnam and Indonesia (for more details, see Calendar).


In July 2014, Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore began to jointly patrol the Strait of Malacca in an attempt to stop the piracy operations there. Since 2016, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines have been conducting joint naval exercises, which a year later were extended to include air and ground combat forces. The main objectives of the exercises were to curb kidnappings and Islamic terrorism.


Army: 80,000 men (2017)

The air Force: 15,000 men (2017)

The fleet: 14,000 men (2017)

Military expenditure’s share of GDP: 1.1 percent (2017)

Military spending’s share of the state budget: 5.0 percent (2017)

Lebanon Defense and Foreign Policy

Lebanon Defense and Foreign Policy

Foreign policy and defense

Based on geographical map from Digopaul, Lebanon is a nation in Western Asia. Its capital city is Beirut. Prior to the civil war of 1975-1990, when the Christian groups dominated politics, Lebanon tried to remain neutral in the region’s conflicts while close relations with the West, especially France. During the war, Syria gained a strong grip on the country and since then both domestic and foreign policy have been dominated by the question of how Lebanon should relate to Syria.

lebanon military spending and defense budget

Syria has had a hard time accepting that Lebanon had broken out of the Syrian mandate in the 1920s, managed by the United Nations’ forerunner of the United Nations. During the civil war, Syria gained a stronger position in the country and became in practice an occupying power. A 1991 cooperation agreement allowed Syria and its friends in Lebanon to rule over the appointment of both president and government. The situation changed radically again in 2005, when the Syrian army was forced to leave Lebanon (see Modern History). Lebanon was now given more leeway.

  • Countryaah: Overview of business holidays and various national observances in Lebanon for years of 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023, 2024 and 2025.

Which line since then characterized foreign policy has depended on which political block dominated the government. From 2005 to 2011, the government was led by the west-friendly March 14 alliance, which is also backed by Saudi Arabia and has a critical attitude towards Syria and Syria’s ally Iran (which is Saudi Arabia’s arch rival in the region). During this time, however, there was a closer relationship between the Lebanese government and Syria, which had its basis in a temporary tension between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Both Iran and Saudi Arabia tend to act kingmakers in Lebanon. The Saudi Arabian tendency to intervene was demonstrated in a crisis in the fall of 2017, when Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri (who is also a Saudi citizen) was detained on Saudi soil for weeks, judging by his will.

In 2008, Syria recognized Lebanon’s independence. It was agreed to resume work on defining the border between the countries, with the exception of the disputed Sheba area, which is at the intersection of southeast Lebanon, southwestern Syria and northern Israel. The 25-square-kilometer area was occupied by Israel during the six-day war in 1967. Israel claims that the area belongs to the Golan Heights while the UN believes its maps show that Shebaa is Syrian territory, which Lebanon in turn questions. The residents of the village of Shebaa on the Lebanese side have for many years – until 1989 – used the agricultural land in the area, which is now a closed military zone.

With Israel, Lebanon has been formally at war since 1948 when the state of Israel was proclaimed and immediately attacked by surrounding Arab states. In 1949, a ceasefire was concluded, but no peace agreement was ever reached. Instead, Lebanon has formed the basis for both Hezbollah’s and Palestinian guerrilla groups’ attacks on Israel. Retaliation attacks from Israel have on several occasions caused havoc in Lebanon. The countries are also involved in a dispute about where the sea boundary between them should go (see Natural Resources and Energy).

Lebanon’s most important partner in the western world is the former colonial power of France. Today, France not only has contacts with the Christian minority but with several groups; after 2005 mainly with the March 14 alliance. In the EU, France has countered that Hezbollah would be designated a terrorist group (see Political system). France has also been active in providing financial assistance to Lebanon in times of crisis.

Relations with the rest of the EU are also good. The EU and Lebanon have an association agreement and the EU is also an important aid donor, not least in terms of funding for dealing with the refugee situation (see Population and languages). The EU and Lebanon cooperate in a number of areas, including reforming Lebanon’s legal system, electoral system and increasing transparency and efficiency in governance. Strengthened human rights are also in focus.

The Lebanese also have extensive contacts with the United States, which calls for Lebanon to remain a cohesive and democratic state. Washington has contributed large sums to the post-war reconstruction of Israel in 2006, and to the Lebanese army that the United States sees as vital to keeping Lebanon together. The countries also have a trade agreement. However, the US embassy in Beirut must be closely guarded because of US support for Israel’s policy and past terrorist acts against US targets.


The army, which is a professional army, is dominated by Sunni Muslims but has nevertheless been seen as a national force in Lebanon where many political groups have moved with their own militia. The army is deployed if necessary to try to curb local violence and mediate between combatants.

One problem is insufficient and outdated equipment but this is changing. Following the Islamic Islamist (IS) extreme expansion of the Islamic State (IS) in Iran and Syria, primarily the United States and Saudi Arabia, but also other countries, have provided billions of dollars in grants to equip the Lebanese army.

The strongest military force in Lebanon is Hezbollah’s armed branch, which is estimated to have about 20,000 men under arms, of which 5,000 are considered elite soldiers. Hezbollah is dependent on Iran for funding, training and weapons. Israel is monitoring the relations between Hezbollah and Iran to the best of its ability. One of the aims is to prevent Hezbollah from accessing precision controlled robots if possible.

There is some cooperation between Hezbollah and the army. Army soldiers, among others, received training and training from Hezbollah.

The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), established in 1978 to monitor Israel’s retreat from Lebanon, is still in the country and has the task, among other things, of guarding the border between Lebanon and Israel. The force comprises more than 10,000 men.

About our sources


Army: 56 600 men (2017)

The air Force: 1 600 men (2017)

The fleet: 1 800 men (2017)

Military expenditure’s share of GDP: 4.5 percent (2017)

Military spending’s share of the state budget: 15.6 percent (2017)




Call for boycott by UN tribunal

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah calls on Lebanon to boycott the UN tribunal, which is reported to be in mascot with Israel.

Iran’s President Visits Lebanon

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is making a controversial visit to Lebanon, ending with a demonstration in Hezbollah’s stronghold near the Israeli border.


Hezbollah suspected to be behind murder

Leaking media in the West argues that the UN tribunal investigating the assassination of Hariri is leaning on Hezbollah who organized the assassination that took the life of former Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri five years earlier (see February 2005). Hezbollah launches a campaign to discredit the tribunal and presents material to prove that Israel was behind the murder instead.

Several dead in clash at the border

Three Lebanese – two soldiers and one journalist – as well as an Israeli military are killed when the Israeli and Lebanese military collide at the disputed border. The incident is the most serious since the 2006 war.


Storayatollan dead

Storayatollan Muhammad Hussein Fadlallah dies (see Religion).

Laos Defense and Foreign Policy

Laos Defense and Foreign Policy

Foreign policy and defense

Based on geographical map from Digopaul, Laos is a nation in Southeastern Asia. Its capital city is Vientiane. Lao’s geographical location, sandwiched between more powerful countries with different political systems, has long characterized the foreign-political relations. However, the relaxation after the Cold War has meant that the country now has relatively good contacts with all neighboring states.

Laos Defense and Foreign Policy

Regional cooperation has become increasingly important for Laos. Since the mid-1990s, work has been underway to integrate the four countries around the Mekong River: Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. With expanded infrastructure and joint projects around the Mekong, the economies of the four countries will be linked.

  • Countryaah: Overview of business holidays and various national observances in Laos for years of 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023, 2024 and 2025.

In 1997, Laos became a member of the Southeast Asian cooperation organization Asean. Membership accelerates Lao’s integration with the economically more developed countries of the region.

Improved relations with Thailand

Relations with capitalist and US-friendly Thailand were long overdue. In 1984 and 1988, short-term fighting broke out at the border. The main problem was that the Lao guerrillas had bases in Thailand from where the attacked targets in the home country. From the early 1990s, relations improved since Thailand intervened several times to prevent guerrillas from making raids into Laos.

In 1991, the two countries agreed to allow the majority of about 60,000 Lao refugees in Thailand, most of whom are native to Hong Kong, to settle in the United States. As the refugee camps were emptied, support for the Laotian insurgency groups in Thailand decreased. Since then, the two neighboring countries have cooperated in bringing thousands of remaining Laotian refugees back to their homeland, usually against their will; There are reports that many of these refugees are having a hard time.

Across the border of the Mekong River, several bridges have been built between Thailand and Laos, the first in 1994. The first rail link between the countries was opened in 2009. Thailand also contributes to several projects in Laos. Among other things, the neighboring country is the main financier for the controversial Xayaburi dam that was inaugurated in 2019. Thailand buys almost all electricity generated there (see Natural Resources, Energy and the Environment).

Close ties to Vietnam and China

Communist Laos has had close relationships with communist Vietnam as well since the Indochina wars between the 1950s and 1970s (see Modern History). The relationship has been strengthened by the fact that over the past 30 years, countries have encountered similar problems during the transition from socialist planning economics to market-adapted economic conditions, without sacrificing the political dominance of the ruling Communist parties. Vietnam has made extensive investments in Laos since 1989.

Lao’s relations with China have been stable since the mid-1980s and can now be said to be as important as Lao’s relationship with Vietnam. The Chinese investment in Laos is greater than the Vietnamese and the Thai. However, the regime in Vientiane has been careful to try to balance the relationships without favoring anyone. Laos receives technical assistance and loans from China to expand the infrastructure, as well as buy Chinese-made weapons and other military equipment. Not least, China is financing several road construction projects in northern Laos. Moreover, the exchange consists of both trade and aid.

Japan, India and the United States

The Lao Government signed bilateral trade and cooperation agreements with Japan in 2000 and with India in 2002. With India, a broad financial and technical assistance program was signed in 2010 in a number of areas, including electric power projects. In 2011, India and Laos signed a free trade agreement. Japan has provided loans and assistance for infrastructure and bomb remediation in the 2000s and 2010s. Laos also has good relations with Myanmar and Cambodia.

Relations with the United States and other Western countries have improved since the end of the Cold War. Laos has helped the United States find the remains of Americans killed in the country during the Vietnam War in the 1960s and 1970s. They have also worked together to stop the opium cultivation in Laos and to destroy the bombs that the US dropped over the country during the Vietnam War.

1995 repealed the United States a 20-year aid embargo against Laos in 2004 resumed trade relations between the countries, and in 2012 visited Hillary Clinton Laos, the first US Secretary of State since 1955. The US has also been critical to the Lao government’s treatment of the Hmong population (see Population and language).

In September 2016, Laos was visited by Barack Obama, the first US President ever. Obama spoke to the Lao State leadership about the problem of the undetected US bombs in Laotian land, and about China’s growing influence in Southeast Asia. Obama pledged $ 90 million to bomb remediation, saying the United States has a “moral obligation” to help Laos heal the wounds after the war.


Lao’s defense is based on general military duty for at least 18 months. Alongside the regular military forces, there are semi-military associations in the form of “public security forces” for self-defense of rural villages and towns.


Army: 25 600 men (2017)

The air Force: 3,500 men (2017)

The fleet: 600 men (2015)

Military expenditure’s share of GDP: 0.2 percent (2013)

Military spending’s share of the state budget: 0.8 percent (2013)

Kyrgyzstan Defense and Foreign Policy

Kyrgyzstan Defense and Foreign Policy

Foreign policy and defense

Based on geographical map from Digopaul, Kyrgyzstan is a nation in Central Asia. Its capital city is Bishkek. Kyrgyzstan strives for good relations with both the old ruling power Russia and the new economic giant China. With its strategic location in the middle of Central Asia, Kyrgyzstan is important to the great powers. From 2003 to 2014, the country was alone in the world to house both a Russian and a US military base on its territory.

Kyrgyzstan Defense and Foreign Policy

Kyrgyzstan was one of the smallest and poorest Soviet republics, and completely dependent on the rest of the Soviet Union. Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, ties to Russia weakened. However, the entry of Islamist guerrilla groups into the country after the turn of the millennium led to closer military and security cooperation between Russia, China, Kyrgyzstan and other Central Asian countries under the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).

  • Countryaah: Overview of business holidays and various national observances in Kyrgyzstan for years of 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023, 2024 and 2025.

Kyrgyzstan was a member of the Eurasian Economic Community (Eurasec), together with Belarus, Kazakhstan, Russia, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan until January 1, 2015, when Eurasec dissolved. At the same time, another regional cooperation organization, the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), formally entered into force between Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Armenia. Kyrgyzstan joined the EEU in August 2015.

The terrorist attacks in the United States on September 11, 2001 led to Kyrgyzstan also forging closer security policy ties with the United States. Kyrgyzstan joined the US-led Alliance on Terrorism, allowed US soldiers at Manas Air Base outside Bishkek and opened its airspace for US military flights fighting the Taliban regime and the al-Qaeda terrorist network in Afghanistan. It was balanced with the fact that Russia was allowed to station combat aircraft and soldiers on the Kant military base on the other side of Bishkek. In 2003, the Kant base became the first new Russian military base in a former Soviet republic following the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

Islamic terrorism

Around the turn of the millennium, armed Islamists from the Uzbek Islamic Movement (IMU) moved several times into Kyrgyzstan via Tajikistan from bases in Afghanistan (see Modern History). They raised concerns in the Muslim Fergana Valley, where Kyrgyzstan borders on Uzbekistan. Following a hostage frame in 1999, Kyrgyzstan held a military exercise with Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kazakhstan with the support of Russian military advisers. The cooperation has since continued.

In the densely populated Fergana Valley live a number of ethnic groups competing for land and water. The lively border trade is made more difficult when drug trafficking and armed groups are to be stopped. There are also old and new border disputes. Kyrgyzstan claims an Uzbek part of the Fergana Valley, and Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan dispute the Osh area of ​​Kyrgyzstan. There is also conflict over the river water, which flows down from the Kyrgyz mountains to the Uzbek plains. Uzbekistan is dependent on the river water for its huge cotton crops.

After the 2005 massacre at Andizjan in the Uzbek part of the Fergana Valley (see Uzbekistan, Modern History), many Uzbeks fled to Kyrgyzstan, which sought to resist the Uzbek regime’s pressure for the country to return the refugees. Uzbekistan’s security service has been active in Kyrgyzstan, and joint military operations have been carried out at the border of the Fergana Valley.

Relations with Uzbekistan sealed significantly in 2017 following a presidential shift in the neighboring country. Following President Mirzijojev’s accession to Uzbekistan 2016, significant progress was made in attempts to resolve the Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan border conflicts, and the value of trade between the two neighbors almost doubled in 2018.

The border with Tajikistan is partially unmarked and violent clashes occasionally erupt between livestock keepers about access to land and water. Since 2018, government-level work has been underway between the countries to speed up the process of marking the border.

China and the Uighurs

With growing trade, aid and investment, China’s economic – and political – significance for Kyrgyzstan has increased, which has worried both Russia and the United States. Kyrgyzstan borders on the politically troubled Chinese province of Xinjiang, where there are Uighurs who want their own state or want their rights respected. This makes the important relationship with China sensitive. Tens of thousands of Uighurs live in Kyrgyzstan, and according to the Beijing government, Islamist separatists have made raids from Kyrgyz territory bases into China, which has asked Kyrgyzstan to fight this activity.

Turkey and the Central Asian countries of Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan cooperate on a number of issues and the summits are held regularly. Iran has tried to increase its influence in Kyrgyzstan, but without much success. Saudi Arabia and other Arab states support mosque construction and offer loans to industry.

Kyrgyzstan, together with other former Soviet republics, is part of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). Kyrgyzstan and several CIS countries have a joint force against Islamic terrorism in Central Asia. The force is located in Bishkek.


Kyrgyzstan participates in the OSCE and has joined the NATO Partnership for Peace (PFP). The Kyrgyz support behind the US war in Afghanistan from 2001 has been rewarded with generous US assistance, but among the Kyrgyz there is opposition to US influence in the region.

In 2009, Kyrgyzstan threatened to close the US base Manas, but non-military transport was allowed to continue for another five years after the rent was sharply raised. At the same time, Russia was promised to establish a second military base in exchange for loans and assistance to Kyrgyzstan.

In June 2014, the US’s use of Manas for transit transports from Afghanistan ceased, and the approximately 1,000 US soldiers left the base. At the Kant base there are about 500 Russian soldiers. Negotiations for a second Russian military base have stalled.

Kyrgyzstan’s defense forces are small. The country relies on Russian and Uzbek military support to prevent guerrilla cross-border activity. Kyrgyzstan has also signed a security agreement with China on border surveillance. 18 months of general military service applies.


Army: 8,500 men (2017)

The air Force: 2 400 men (2017)

Military expenditure’s share of GDP: 3.2 percent (2017)

Military spending’s share of the state budget: 7.8 percent (2017)



Resignation claim after politician murder

A number of politicians with alleged ties to organized crime are murdered, triggering demonstrations demanding the resignation of President Bakijev and Prime Minister Kulov.


Kulov becomes new head of government

President Bakijev appoints Felix Kulov as new prime minister.


Bakijev becomes regular president

Acting President Kurmanbek Bakijev is elected as Head of State. According to Western observers, the choice is largely free and fair.


President Akaiev resigns

From the exile in Moscow, President Akajev reluctantly submits his resignation application. Thus, the so-called tulip revolution has been implemented.


Bakijev becomes new interim president

Kurmanbek Bakijev, leader of the Kyrgyz People’s Movement, is appointed prime minister and acting president of a temporary government. Felix Kulov, leader of the Kyrgyz People’s Congress, is released from prison (see Modern History) and given responsibility for police and security matters. Roza Otunbajeva becomes Foreign Minister.

President Akaiev flies after protests

The second round is held. The Election Commission announces that the opposition gets 5 out of 75 seats. The election results trigger demonstrations in southern Kyrgyzstan, where Akajev is unpopular. When the protests spread to the president’s home region in the north, he is forced to flee to Russia. The Supreme Court annuls the election because of widespread cheating.


Parliamentary elections are criticized for cheating

The first round of the parliamentary elections is held. Several opposition politicians are prevented from running for office. The opposition accuses the Akajev regime of electoral fraud, which is confirmed by European election observers. A wave of demonstrations is being carried out against President Askar Akajev and his regime.

Kuwait Defense and Foreign Policy

Kuwait Defense and Foreign Policy

Foreign policy and defense

Based on geographical map from Digopaul, Kuwait is a nation in Western Asia. Its capital city is Kuwait City. The small, militarily weak Kuwait has always been in a vulnerable position and it has therefore been important for the country to try to maintain good relations with more powerful countries in the region: Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Iran. Several times the country has been forced to buy territorial security by sharing its oil riches. At the same time, wealth and generosity have led the country to play a role in the Arab world that is disproportionate to its modest size and population.

kuwait military spending and defense budget

Kuwait was driving when the oil exporting countries’ organization Opec in the 1970s pushed up oil prices. The country was also in 1981 and founded the Gulf States Cooperation Organization GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council), which includes neighboring countries Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman and the United Arab Emirates.

  • Countryaah: Overview of business holidays and various national observances in Kuwait for years of 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023, 2024 and 2025.

Kuwait has actively supported the Palestinians in the conflict with Israel. However, the involvement of the Palestinians slowed significantly after Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990, when PLO leader Yasir Arafat openly supported Iraq. After that, relations with the Palestinians were long bad and were only normalized in 2004, when then-Prime Minister Mahmud Abbas (later Palestinian President) visited Kuwait and publicly apologized.

For a long time, relations were cold to countries that did not distance themselves from the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, but in 1999 relations with Jordan, Sudan and Yemen were normalized.

In order to strengthen the defense following Iraq’s invasion and the 1990-1991 war, Kuwait entered into a defense cooperation agreement with the United States, which led Kuwait’s liberation, and the United States has had troops throughout the country ever since the war, albeit in reduced numbers. Ali al-Salim Air Base is one of the most important in the region of the United States and Kuwait is one of NATO’s military alliance’s most important and closest partners in the area of ​​the Persian Gulf. Discussions have been held within the GCC to form a “Gulf States’ NATO”, to which even the kingdoms of Morocco and Jordan would be invited, but so far the project has fallen on the various interests of the individual countries.

Kuwait’s defense budget amounted to 5.1 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2018, according to the Peace Research Institute Sipri. At about that level, military spending has been around for a few years, but the proportion has increased if compared with the situation in line with the so-called Arab Spring. In 2011, several dictators in the Arab world were overthrown and several civil wars erupted.

Arms purchases are mainly made from the USA, for example Patriot Robots 2020.

Kuwait supported the US-led terrorist alliance formed after the terrorist attacks against the United States on September 11, 2001. The country also supported the war against the Taliban regime in Afghanistan that year. Ahead of the planned attack on Iraq in March 2003, the US expanded its military activity and presence in Kuwait, which served as a transit area when US troops were taken home from Iraq and later Afghanistan. Kuwait has also backed the 2014 US fight against the Islamic State (IS) extreme Islamist movement. At the same time, groups in Kuwait have been funding the Islamists.

Along with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait has supported governments in neighboring countries financially when they appear to be under pressure from popular protest waves. In 2018, both Jordan and the Sunni Muslim royal house in Bahrain received such support packages.

In 2004, Kuwait and Iraq reestablished their diplomatic relations for the first time since 1990, but only in July 2008 did Kuwait appoint an ambassador to Baghdad; In 2010, an Iraqi ambassador to Kuwait was appointed. Kuwait has actively participated in the reconstruction of Iraq.

Kuwait’s relationship with Iran is usually better than many other GCC countries, although there are grits from time to time. Kuwait relies on good relations with Iran and has supported the country’s right to develop a nuclear program for peaceful purposes. Even more important, however, is the relationship with Saudi Arabia, which has often been supported by Kuwait in its foreign policy. Among other things, Kuwait has taken part in the Saudi-led attacks against the Shiite Muslim Shire rebels in Yemen, which began in March 2015. Since Saudi Arabia broke its ties with Iran in early 2016, Kuwait has also reduced its diplomatic presence in Tehran. In the summer of 2017, Kuwait announced that 15 Iranian diplomats must leave the country as a result of a verdict against members of an alleged terrorist cell with links to Iran (see Calendar).

With Turkey there is an agreement on certain cooperation in the field of defense (see Calendar).


Army: 11 000 men (2017)

The air Force: 2,500 men (2017)

The fleet: 2,000 men (2017)

Military expenditure’s share of GDP: 5.8 percent (2017)

Military spending’s share of the state budget: 11.3 percent (2017)



The government is leaving again

The government resigns after some MPs tried to answer Nasir for failing to fulfill his office; the revolting members believe that corruption with state funds has increased during Nasir’s tenure.


Islamist successes in recent elections

The campaign before the election is dominated by financial issues. Islamists, both Sunnis and Shi’ites, win 26 of the 50 seats. Liberal candidates get seven seats. None of the 27 women who are candidates are elected. Sheikh Nasir is again commissioned to form a government.


The government is retiring

The government resigns after a dispute with Parliament, which wanted to raise the salaries of civil servants. Parliament is dissolved and new elections announced in May.

Kazakhstan Defense and Foreign Policy

Kazakhstan Defense and Foreign Policy

Foreign policy and defense

Based on geographical map from Digopaul, Kazakhstan is a nation in Central Asia. Its capital city is Astana. For Kazakhstan, relations with Russia are central, but the government also strives for good relations with neighboring countries and the western world. Contacts with China have been significantly strengthened during the 2010s; they are mainly about Chinese investment in Kazakh infrastructure.

kazakhstan military spending and defense budget

With Russia, Kazakhstan pursues extensive trade, mutual investment is numerous and security cooperation is tight. Russia rents the Bajkonur space base in central Kazakhstan and has contributed to the Kazakh communications satellite program.

  • Countryaah: Overview of business holidays and various national observances in Kazakhstan for years of 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023, 2024 and 2025.

Russia’s influence became particularly evident in connection with the crisis in Ukraine in 2014 (see Ukraine, current policy). The Ukrainians then had to pay a high price when they chose increased cooperation with the Western countries instead of Moscow. Kazakhstan, like Ukraine, has a long border with Russia and a large proportion of Russians in the population. Russia’s annexation of the Crimean Peninsula and the Moscow-backed aggression in eastern Ukraine raised concerns among many for a similar development in Kazakhstan. This was especially true when Russian President Vladimir Putin questioned Kazakhstan’s legitimacy in a statement that Nazarbayev created a state that had never existed as an independent entity before.

Kazakhstan has been forced to strike a balance between staying well with Moscow without unnecessarily bumping into Western countries. Kazakhstan acknowledged the referendum that formed the basis of the Russian annexation of Crimea, as well as voiced criticism of the Western countries’ sanctions on Russia. However, the country chose not to participate in the subsequent Russian import bans on some goods from EU countries.

Regional cooperation

Kazakhstan is an advocate for close cooperation between the former Soviet republics. In the early 1990s, the country sought to play an active role in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), the association that former Union republics formed when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. But the CIS has not come to play any major function.

A smaller group of states has instead gone ahead with other cooperation plans. Together with Russia and Belarus, Kazakhstan and a couple of the Central Asian neighbors in 2000 formed the Eurasian Economic Community (Eurasec), which in 2006 merged with the regional body Central Asian Cooperation Organization (Caco). From 2010, three of Eurasec’s member states – Kazakhstan, Russia and Belarus – went on to form a Customs Union, and in May 2014, a decision was made to convert it into the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU). The new EEU was born on 1 January 2015 and Eurasec ceased to exist. Armenia already joined the following day and Kyrgyzstan in August 2015.

The idea is that the EEU countries should have a common market and extensive economic cooperation, partly with the EU as a model. Free movement of goods, services, capital and labor must be guaranteed. The EEU is intended to give full access to a market with 170 million residents and make it easier to reach the rest of the world market. However, many are worried that EEU cooperation will tie Kazakhstan even harder to Russia.

The cooperation is also extensive with the Central Asian neighbors in the south. Kazakhstan has made investments in Kyrgyzstan and assisted the country with financial assistance. Tajikistan has also been the subject of investment and aid. Relations with Uzbekistan were previously strained, partly because of ambiguities surrounding the border crossing. However, Nazarbayev’s first state visit to Uzbekistan in 2006 became the starting point for closer economic and security cooperation between the two countries. At a meeting in Semipalatinsk the same year, Kazakhstan and the four other Central Asian former Soviet republics signed an agreement for the region to be a nuclear-free zone.

Cooperation with China

In the 2000s and 2010s, cooperation with China increased, both bilaterally and within the framework of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), which includes China, Kazakhstan, Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. In addition to trade and other economic cooperation, agreements have been signed in areas such as energy, security and telecommunications.

In the western Chinese province of Xinjiang, there are separatist efforts, which have caused tensions between Kazakhstan and China. In Xinjiang, some one million Kazakhs and over six million Uyghurs live – a closely related Turkish people who are also represented in Kazakhstan. Among the Uighurs in Kazakhstan, there are many who have fled the Chinese regime’s attempt to defeat the Uighur autonomy in Xinjiang.

From August 2018 came reports, including from Human Rights Watch (HRW), that up to one million Uyghurs were being held in so-called retraining camps in Xinjiang. In October of the same year, Kazakh citizens submitted a call to the German Embassy in Astana (renamed Nursultan in 2019) in which they appealed to German Chancellor Angela Merkel for help in releasing relatives in the Chinese camps. In January 2019, following popular pressure, the Kazakh government agreed with Beijing that information had come out that released Uighurs had been placed under house arrest in Xinjiang. Beijing responded by allowing 2,000 ethnic Kazakhs in China to move to Kazakhstan if they gave up their Chinese citizenship.

Interest in Kazakh natural resources

US and other Western energy companies are involved in the exploitation of Kazakh oil and natural gas. In the 2000s and 2010s, too, China has made major investments in the Kazakh oil industry. In 2005, an oil and gas pipeline between the two countries was completed. In connection with the 2009 financial crisis, Kazakhstan received support loans from China. China’s extensive infrastructure project BRI (Belt and Road Initiative, New Silk Road), which will link all of Asia and parts of Europe, also includes Kazakhstan.

In August 2018, the five countries that coast towards the Caspian Sea – Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Iran, Russia and Turkmenistan – signed an agreement regulating its legal status. The agreement was signed by the country’s leaders in the port city of Aktau, Kazakhstan. The status of the Caspian Sea has been unclear since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. The conflict has affected whether it is a lake or an inland sea. An inland sea would be subject to UN maritime law, while the right to a lake must be negotiated between the countries. The ambiguity has led to strained relations between the states as well as ambiguities about who has the right to extract the rich oil and natural gas resources.

The agreement provides that the Caspian Sea is neither a lake nor a sea, but has “special legal status”. This means that the surface water will be used jointly by the five states, while the seabed and its assets will be divided. How these boundaries are to be drawn does not say anything about the agreement. The big fishing that produces caviar is regulated by means of quotas. The agreement also states that no other country may establish military bases on the Caspian Sea alongside the five states.

Defense and military cooperation

From Soviet times, Kazakhstan inherited an oversized armed force with poorly maintained equipment. Since most of the officers were Russians, who moved after independence, there was a lack of qualified command. In the early 1990s, the government began cutting the armed forces to a level that the country could afford to pay for. The military service is one year.

Kazakhstan cooperates militarily with Russia and other CIS states. The cooperation includes combating international terrorism, where the threat is not least perceived to come from extreme Islamist movements in Central Asia. Within the framework of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), China also participates in this work.

At the same time, Kazakhstan is a member of the NATO-led Partnership for Peace (PFF). Following the terrorist attacks in the United States on September 11, 2001, and the subsequent US-led war against the Taliban regime in Afghanistan that year, Kazakhstan offered its support for the US global fight against terrorism. Among other things, the US military was allowed to fly over Kazakh territory. The United States views Kazakhstan as strategically important and makes major investments in the country.

It was a great relief to Kazakhstan when in 1996 China decided to cease its nuclear weapons tests in the Xinjiang border province.


Army: 20,000 men (2017)

The air Force: 12 000 men (2017)

The fleet: 3,000 men (2017)

Military expenditure’s share of GDP: 0.8 percent (2017)

Military spending’s share of the state budget: 3.2 percent (2017)



The ruling party is doubtful winning elections

President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s power party The Fatherland (Otan) wins by a wide margin a parliamentary election which, according to both the OSCE and the Council of Europe, has serious democratic shortcomings. Other mandates mainly go to presidential parties and candidates. The only real opposition party, Ak Zjol, gets a single seat but refuses to take it in protest. Outgoing Speaker Zjarmachan Tujaqbaj, so far a member of the Fatherland, resigns in protest against election fraud.

Jordan Defense and Foreign Policy

Jordan Defense and Foreign Policy

Foreign policy and defense

Based on geographical map from Digopaul, Jordan is a nation in Western Asia. Its capital city is Amman. Jordan has a geographically vulnerable location, squeezed between strong neighboring states in a troubled region. Its strategy has been to strive for good contacts with a great power (formerly the United Kingdom, now the United States) that can intervene if the country is threatened. At the same time, the Jordanians have invested in their own strong defense and the Jordanian army is perhaps the best educated in the Arab world, equipped with weapons mainly from the United States.

jordan military spending and defense budget

The Jordanian royal house invokes kinship with Islam’s prophet Muhammad, giving the ruler respect not only in the Muslim world. Jordan has also long been seen as a quiet haven in the troubled Middle East.

  • Countryaah: Overview of business holidays and various national observances in Jordan for years of 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023, 2024 and 2025.

Security and stability have also been the most important for King Abdullah, who has chosen to continue his father’s policy of supporting the West and a peaceful coexistence with Israel. But the king has a difficult balance to go. On the one hand, economic assistance from the West, especially the United States, is important as well as peaceful relations with Israel, not least in view of the distribution of the limited water resources from the Jordan River (see Natural Resources and Energy). On the other hand, a large portion of the Palestinian and Islamist population opposes Western and Israeli-friendly policies. That is why King Abdullah has been actively involved in trying to reach a solution to the Middle East conflict. He has expressed support for a Palestinian state on the West Bank, with East Jerusalem as its capital, and has demanded that the US and the EU exert pressure on Israel to end its settlement policy in Palestinian territories so that peace talks can be resumed.

Despite close relations with the United States, Jordan refused to participate in the US-led UN alliance’s warfare with Iraq 1990-1991. The reasons were mainly the proximity to Iraq and a dependence on Iraqi oil. The stance led to worse relations with the United States in the 1990s, but the situation improved after King Abdullah’s takeover of power in 1999. Jordan was the first Arab country to enter into a free trade agreement with the United States in 2001. Following the terrorist attacks in the United States on September 11 of that year, the Amman government quickly supported it. US-led alliance against terrorism.

Saudi Arabia and other states around the Persian Gulf severed relations with Jordan following its decision to stay out of the war against Iraq 1990-1991. King Abdullah has prioritized the reestablishment of good relations and the wounds after the crisis are said to have healed largely. With Saudi Arabia, relations in the 2010s have been friendly, and the country has also replaced the war-affected Iraq as an oil supplier.

Jordan made peace with Israel in 1994. By then, both countries had formally been at war since the state of Israel was formed in 1948. In practice, peace had prevailed since 1971, when Jordan’s army crushed the Palestinian guerrillas in the country (see Modern History). The peace agreement was made possible by the thaw of the 1990s in the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. Diplomatic relations were established, trade exchanges and economic cooperation emerged and the countries agreed on the distribution of water from the Yarmuk and Jordan rivers.

Relations with the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) improved when Jordan withdrew claims on the West Bank in 1988 (see Modern History). The sensitive issue of Jordan’s Israel-backed claim to be the protector of Islam’s holy sites in Jerusalem has also been resolved (at least as far as internal Jordan-Palestinian relations are concerned; the area is still occupied by Israel). The Palestinian Authority was given daily responsibility for the sites, while Jordan has legal responsibility until the conflict over Jerusalem’s status is resolved. Relations with Palestinian Hamas have also improved.

Iraq has been economically important for Jordan, both as a market and as an oil supplier. Therefore, the US attack on Iraq in March 2003 put the Jordanian government in a difficult situation. At the same time as there was strong domestic opposition to the war, King Abdullah wanted to safeguard security cooperation with the United States. As a result, Jordan was not actively involved in the war, but the United States and Britain were allowed to station special forces on Jordanian territory. In return, the United States significantly increased its financial assistance to Jordan.

The escalating violence in Iraq led to a growing stream of Sunni Arab refugees to Jordan, which after 2003 received half a million refugees from Iraq. In 2014, a new wave of refugees from Iraq could also be seen, partly from the terror of the Islamist extremist group Islamic State (IS) and partly from increased violence between different ethnic groups (see also Iraq: Current politics).

Despite widespread sympathy for the Iraqis, the Jordanians’ attitude to the refugees has been shared. Wealthy refugees have contributed to an upswing in the Jordanian economy but at the same time to increased inflation and rising housing prices. The majority of refugees, however, have no assets and are a vulnerable group which, despite international aid, has incurred high costs for Jordan.

The previously problematic relations with Syria improved after King Hussein’s death in 1999, when the two countries agreed, among other things, that Syria would supply Jordan with water during the dry periods of the year. The war in Syria since 2011 has again complicated the situation. In Jordan, there are both supporters and opponents of the Assad regime in Syria, and clashes have occurred between them. The opposition party IAF (see Political system) has supported the more moderate opposition to Assad and King Abdullah demanded the departure of Assad as the first Arab. At the same time, the regime’s fall could have serious consequences for Jordan: already in the fall of 2014, the country had received 1.2 million Syrian refugees, and most remain in the country.

Jordan lined up in the US-led bombing campaign in Syria and Iraq against the terrorist group IS. At the same time, a survey showed that IS was supported by at least seven percent of Jordanians. Hundreds had also joined the group even though it was illegal. After IS brutally murdered a captured Jordanian pilot in early 2015, Jordan increased the bombings against IS moorings.

King Abdullah, to the dismay of the Islamic opposition, openly supported the military coup in Egypt in 2013, when the elected president Muhammad Mursi of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood was overthrown. He was also the first head of state to visit Cairo after the coup.


Army: 74,000 men (2017)

The air Force: 12 000 men (2017)

The fleet: 500 men (2017)

Military expenditure’s share of GDP: 4.8 percent (2017)

Military spending’s share of the state budget: 15.8 percent (2017)

Japan Defense and Foreign Policy

Japan Defense and Foreign Policy

Foreign policy and defense

Based on geographical map from Digopaul, Japan is a nation in Eastern Asia. Its capital city Tokyo. Ever since Japan regained independence in 1952, cooperation with the United States has been a foreign and security policy cornerstone. At the same time, the country has strived for stable relations with its Asian neighbors, among other things, to secure its supply of raw materials. But in recent years, relations with China have become increasingly conflict-prone. In mid-2015, Parliament approved amendments to the law that reinterpret the Constitution so that armed operations abroad can be made in certain circumstances.

japan military spending and defense budget

No Japanese-Soviet peace was concluded after World War II. Only when Japan joined the UN in 1956 did Tokyo and Moscow establish diplomatic relations. The biggest obstacle to a peace agreement between Japan and today’s Russia is the conflict over four southern islands (Shikotan, Kunashiri, Etorofu and Habomai Group) in the Kurilas chain north of Hokkaido. Soviet troops occupied the strategically important islands during the war. Russia has said that it will be able to release two of the strategically important islands occupied by Soviet troops during the war; Japan demands all four back. A peace treaty would open for extensive investments and assistance from Japan to Russia, but no immediate solution is in sight.

  • Countryaah: Overview of business holidays and various national observances in Japan for years of 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023, 2024 and 2025.

During the 1950s and 1960s, Japan followed the United States in its tracks with close ties to anti-communist countries such as Taiwan, South Korea, and then South Vietnam. After US President Richard Nixon’s Beijing visit in 1972, Japan was also able to normalize its relationship with China, at the expense of Taiwan, and in 1978 entered into a friendship treaty and trade agreement. The countries have a large common cultural heritage, but Japan’s military atrocities during the wars and China’s nuclear weapons and growing military force contribute to mutual vigilance and contradictions. China also looks with distrust at the close cooperation between Tokyo and Washington. At the same time, China’s rapid march towards market economy has facilitated an approach.

But the past is still sensitive. Several Japanese ministers have been resigning since they weakened their country’s war crimes, including the so-called rape of Nanjing (China’s then capital Nanking), where Japanese troops massacred around a quarter of a million Chinese in 1937. In 2005, anti-Japanese violence erupted in many parts of China after Tokyo’s school officials approved a new history book that silenced the Japanese army’s atrocities. Behind it was also Chinese anger that Japan had started drilling for natural gas at the disputed archipelago Senkaku (Diaoyu in Chinese) and over Japan’s desire for a permanent place in the UN Security Council.

Several times Japan has publicly complained about its abuses against neighboring countries, but at the same time annual visits by leading politicians at the Yasukuni Temple in Tokyo have continued to offend (see Modern History). The temple honors millions of war victims, but also military men executed for war crimes.

Since Shinzo Abe visited Beijing in his first term as prime minister in 2006, it was decided that Japanese and Chinese historians would try to reach a consensus on the past – differing interpretations have constantly aroused conflict. When Chinese President Hu Jintao visited Japan in the spring of 2008, he and Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda determined that the countries’ relationship would be characterized by a “constructive and forward-looking” spirit. In June 2008, Japan and China agreed to jointly extract natural gas in the East China Sea from fields claimed by both parties. However, in 2010, tensions between the countries increased after a Chinese fishing boat collided with two Japanese military vessels near the disputed islands in the East China Sea.

Hundreds of incidents involving ships and fighter aircraft, some dangerously close to triggering weapons operations, have since occurred near Senkaku / Diaoyu. At the same time, fierce anti-Japanese demonstrations have erupted in China on several occasions.

But the relationship with China is not only characterized by conflicts. On the one hand, trade and investment continue to be exchanged on a very large scale, and on the other, the leaders of the countries have made some attempts to discuss the problems. In 2012, relations deteriorated again due to the territorial disputes, but towards the end of the 2010s a gradual thaw occurred.

Japan’s relationship with the United States has been divided over the years. The 1951 security pact is no ordinary military alliance; it gives the US the right to have bases on Japanese soil against Japan being granted US protection. But many Japanese have been disturbed by the strong influence of the United States and the presence of American soldiers in the country and on the island of Okinawa is contentious.

Okinawa is the largest island in the long Japanese desert chain stretching between Japan and Taiwan. Okinawa was conquered by the United States after bloody battles in 1945 and held under US sovereignty until 1972. The island played an important role as a US military base during the Vietnam War and continues to have strategic significance for the United States.

US-hostile feelings have flared up from time to time, for example, since three American soldiers in 1995 raped a little girl on the island of Okinawa. During President Bill Clinton’s Tokyo visit the following year, the parties agreed on expanded Japanese security responsibilities in the region and that the United States would shrink its bases on Okinawa. In 2005-2006, a major and costly relocation of the US forces was decided, but the process stalled.

In the fall of 2009, the US troop presence caused a new schism. When Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, leader of the ruling Democratic Party, failed to fulfill the election promises to remove the US airbase from Okinawa, he chose to resign (see Modern History). In January 2011, the United States and Japan decided that some exercises with the F-15 fighter plane would be moved from Okinawa to Guam, as a way of partially meeting the Okinawas. Furthermore, in the spring of 2012, the countries entered into an agreement which meant that the United States promised to relocate about half of the marines based on Okinawa to areas outside Japan. However, about 10,000 American soldiers would still remain on Okinawa. At the end of 2013, the deadlock in the matter of a relocation of the air base seemed to break. Then Okinawa’s governor approved plans to build a new base on the northern part of the island.

At the same time, the Japanese way of making coins of their progress has annoyed the United States. After helping Japan on its feet after the war, it felt bitter for the Americans that during the 1960s and 1970s they were competing in areas where they used to dominate. The United States also considered that Japan greatly exploited its advantages in the US market without giving anything back.

Following the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington on September 11, 2001, Japan joined the US war on terrorism (see below) with support efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Like many other neighboring countries, Korea, the Japanese colony of 1910-1945, bears bitter memories of brutal Japanese rule. However, today’s relations are relatively good, although South Korea disliked Tokyo’s trade surplus between countries and the special treatment of Koreans in Japan. Despite Japanese excuses for war abuse, the wounds are difficult to heal. Nearly 200,000 women from primarily Korea were exploited during the war as sex slaves on Japanese field brothels – something Japan first admitted in 1993. After long silence in shame, elderly South Korean women have begun to demand compensation. The government has said no to formal state compensation but in 1995 set up a state-funded private fund of $ 100 million to help affected women. At the end of 2015, Japan agreed to establish a fully government-funded fund for the women and Prime Minister Abe apologized for what had happened. The South Korean government declared itself satisfied with the settlement. Thus, the countries hoped to put this issue behind them. But at the end of 2017, South Korea’s then-incumbent President Moon Jae-In requested a review of the deal, which South Korean critics do not think takes sufficient account of the victims. Thus, it was clear that the sensitive issue has not been definitively resolved.

As the first South Korean president, Lee Myung-Bak visited the islands of Takeshima (in Korean Dokdo) in 2012, which Japan and South Korea claim. The visit led to a diplomatic protest from Japan as well as tensions between the two countries. However, Japan and South Korea’s economic competitors participate at the same time in several important regional cooperation organizations.

Japan’s relationship with Communist North Korea has long been chilly. The regime in Pyongyang demands Japanese damages for both colonial times and the war abuses and refuses Japan’s diplomatic support for South Korea. Information that North Korean agents abducted Japanese in the 1970s and 1980s has long prevented an approach. Only in 2002, when Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi met Kim Jong-Il in Pyongyang, Kim admitted that North Korea had kidnapped a number of Japanese to force them to spy on their homeland. Five of them were then allowed to return home, but Japan claims that there are more left in life in North Korea. New negotiations on kidnapped Japanese started in 2014. The issue is well-known in Japan and important for Prime Minister Abe.

A major shock test is North Korea’s attempt to develop nuclear weapons. In 1995, the United States, South Korea and Japan promised the North Koreans modern nuclear technology (light water reactors) if they interrupted their nuclear weapons program. But no disarmament followed, on the contrary, worries increased when the North Koreans in 1998 fired a robot-like object over Japan, claiming it was just a satellite. After North Korea jumped off the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), Japan decided in 2003 to procure a so-called robotic shield against possible attacks. Japan participated in the so-called six-party talks in 2003 with China, North and South Korea, the US and Russia on the dismantling of the North Korean nuclear program, but North Korea left these talks in 2009 after the UN Security Council unanimously condemned a satellite launch. Since then, North Korea’s nuclear weapons program and missile launches have been a concern for Japan. North Korea’s test firing in the early fall of 2017 of a missile passing over Japan gave new impetus to strengthening the Japanese defense (see below). Many wondered why the missile was not shot down by the missile defense. Some experts explained that the missiles were not considered to be direct threats to Japan, while others believed that the missiles traveled so high over Japan that the existing missile defense system could not reach them. Another view was that the decision makers hesitated to use the missile defense due to the risks associated with this: if an attempt to shoot down a missile was unsuccessful, defense capabilities could be called into question which would create concern in the country and region and favor North Korea. Some experts explained that the missiles were not considered to be direct threats to Japan, while others believed that the missiles traveled so high over Japan that the existing missile defense system could not reach them. Another view was that the decision makers hesitated to use the missile defense due to the risks associated with this: if an attempt to shoot down a missile was unsuccessful, defense capabilities could be called into question which would create concern in the country and region and favor North Korea. Some experts explained that the missiles were not considered to be direct threats to Japan, while others believed that the missiles traveled so high over Japan that the existing missile defense system could not reach them. Another view was that the decision makers hesitated to use the missile defense due to the risks associated with this: if an attempt to shoot down a missile was unsuccessful, defense capabilities could be called into question which would create concern in the country and region and favor North Korea.

The oil crisis of 1973–1974 reminded the Japanese of their lack of their own commodities, and they have tried to secure commodity supplies and export markets through good ties to both the Asian neighborhood and the western world. The country’s low foreign policy profile despite its powerful economy has prompted Japan to take greater responsibility in global issues such as free trade, foreign exchange systems and peace work. This has also happened and Japan now plays a more active role in many international contexts.

Japan has long been one of the world’s largest aid donors with annual billion grants for development assistance. The majority goes to bilateral development cooperation. Technical assistance and loans dominate, only a small portion is given as gifts. Japan is also the second largest contributor to the UN and accounts for one sixth of the UN’s entire budget.

Japan has also become increasingly active in Asia and participates in a number of multilateral organizations, such as Asean + 3, (the ten original member countries of Southeast Asia cooperate with China, Japan and South Korea). This is done for economic reasons but also to try to balance China’s growing influence.


As the only country affected by the horrors of the nuclear war, Japan has refused to manufacture, possess or hold nuclear weapons, and even today there is a deep-rooted pacifist opinion. The defense is defensive and Japan has not even had a defense ministry for a long time. It was not until 2007 that the so-called “Defense Agency” got the rank of department. After the defeat of 1945, the imperial armed forces were discontinued, and in the 9th paragraph of the Constitution, Japan promises never again to try to resolve conflicts with violence or threats of violence. No military can sit in the government. Some have interpreted this as not allowing the country to have any armed forces at all, but the government side has argued that the UN Charter gives all sovereign states the right to self-defense.

With the Korean War close, Japan began to build its Self-Defense Forces (SDF) already in the 1950s. Nowadays Japan has a technologically advanced defense force fully developed with army, navy and air force with an annual budget which is one of the largest in the world. Japan’s defense has a quarter of a million employees, over 100 vessels and more than 750 aircraft (half of which are fighter aircraft). Military service is optional.

At the same time, the Self-Defense Forces have been surrounded by severe restrictions. The Constitution was long read as a total ban on Japanese military overseas. During the Kuwait crisis of 1990-1991, the government decided that SDF personnel could work outside the country in non-military missions, whereupon Japanese minesweepers helped clear up the Persian Gulf. In 1992, Parliament stated that Japanese troops could also participate in UN peacekeeping operations. Since then, the Japanese military has worked under UN flags in both Africa and Asia and the Middle East.

Following the terrorist attacks in the United States in 2001, Parliament for the first time gave the SDF clear sign to be deployed abroad in war mode. But the efforts did not have to be contending and only concerned the support of the United States and its allies in the fight against terrorism. A Marine SDF force was sent to the Indian Ocean to assist the US troops in Afghanistan with fuel and other support. SDF soldiers in UN service were later given the right to, among other things, monitor ceasefires, disarm local forces and patrol in demilitarized zones. Japanese troops may also use weapons to protect themselves, refugees and personnel from the UN or other international organizations.

In 2003, Parliament agreed to send soldiers to humanitarian work in Iraq. Japan also promised billions to rebuild the country. Despite domestic resistance, in 2004 Japan sent about 550 people to the relatively safe Samawah in southern Iraq. In 2006 the troops were taken home early.

At the same time, more active participation in international peace operations and a lifting of the ban on arms exports were announced, mainly concerning a Japanese-American robotic defense system (MDS). In 2005, the Tokyo government decided to start developing MDS together with the United States. In 2007, the system was activated in response to North Korea’s nuclear test six months earlier.

In 2010, the government presented a new defense policy which meant that greater force would be put on the defense of the country’s southern part with a strengthening of the submarine fleet and the number of fighter aircraft. At the same time, the defense in the north would be reduced. The reason was a concern about China’s expanding war capabilities at sea and the neighboring military’s growing military activity in the South China and East China seas, but also North Korea’s threatening actions.

After LDP’s return to power in 2012, defense appropriations were increased. After a number of years of stagnant defense budgets, an increase in military appropriations began after the LDP’s return to power in 2012. This was in light of China’s strong armament, growing tensions in the region and the more nationalist policies that the Abe government wants to pursue. In the budget year ended March 2014, the defense budget increased by 3 percent to almost 4.9 trillion yen (one percent of GDP), which is a fairly moderate increase. The government also stated that it wants to strengthen Japan’s defense over the next five years, including new fighter planes, hunters, submarines and amphibious vehicles – but at the same time defense appropriations are only expected to increase marginally in the government’s five-year forecast.

The next step was the controversial reinterpretation of the constitutional clause that, throughout the post-war period, prohibited the Japanese military from acting abroad, other than in humanitarian operations and certain peacekeeping operations. In a decision on July 1, 2014, the government stated that its new interpretation is that Japan has the right to exercise “collective self-defense” by assisting allies under certain circumstances, such as whether US vessels would be attacked by hostile forces or a missile passing over Japan with the US goal.

This issue has been debated for many years. A great pacifist opinion has resisted change. Nevertheless, Abe has pushed forward the new interpretation, mainly in light of China’s growing military force challenging the United States and its allies in Asia. However, Abe has emphasized that the change will not lead to Japan going to war. In order for the military to act outside Japan, several conditions must be met, for example that the situation poses a clear threat to Japan and cannot be resolved in any other way. In addition, efforts must be kept to a minimum. In the summer and autumn of 2015, both parliament’s chambers adopted the legislative changes required for the change.

Exactly what the government’s interpretation of the key concept of “collective self-defense” would mean was an open question. When and how the decision was to be rooted in various legislative changes was also unclear. But the reinterpretation has attracted great attention and has been met by harsh criticism from China while welcomed by the United States.

Tensions between China and Japan were also highlighted in August 2014 when an annual white paper on Japanese defense policy characterized China’s actions in much of the East China Sea and the introduction of a military flight zone as risky. The report was immediately met by strong Chinese criticism.

In the state budget for 2018, defense appropriations for the sixth consecutive year increased. The reason was that Japan must strengthen its protection against the threat from North Korea’s nuclear missiles that have been fired on several occasions in recent times.


Army: 150 850 men (2017)

The air Force: 46 950 Men (2017)

The fleet: 45 350 men (2017)

Military expenditure’s share of GDP: 0.9 percent (2017)

Military spending’s share of the state budget: 2.6 percent (2017)

Israel Defense and Foreign Policy

Israel Defense and Foreign Policy

Foreign policy and defense

Based on geographical map from Digopaul, Israel is a nation in Western Asia. Its capital city is Jerusalem. The United States is Israel’s foremost ally, while relations with EU countries are sometimes strained. In its own region, Israel has remained isolated, despite peace agreements with two of its neighboring countries: Jordan and Egypt. The isolation is mainly due to the failed peace process with the Palestinians, who have sympathies with them in the Middle East. Iran has the role of Israel’s arch enemy. But the many conflicts within and between countries in the region sometimes open up unexpected benefits for Israel.

israel military spending and defense budget

Israel’s external borders are yet to be determined: this is especially true of the border with the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which the Palestinians claim, and the Golan Heights, which Israel occupied from Syria at the same time, in 1967. At the border with Lebanon there is disagreement over an area called the Sheba Gardens.

  • Countryaah: Overview of business holidays and various national observances in Israel for years of 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023, 2024 and 2025.

For Israel’s opportunities to achieve peace with its neighbors, the unfinished peace process with the Palestinians is the most important factor. In this matter, Israel applies different lines, since in practice Israel has two counterparts: the Palestinian Authority on the West Bank and the Islamist movement Hamas in Gaza. The Palestinian Authority recognizes Israel but Hamas does not.

The Palestinian Authority was established after Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) tentatively concluded peace in 1993 and the agreements in the Oslo process gave local Palestinian autonomy (see Modern History). The goal was that the process would also result in an independent Palestinian state, but Israel’s supremacy persists and Israel strengthens its grip on both the West Bank and Jerusalem (see Settlement Policy and Current Policy). Peace negotiations have not taken place since 2014, but parts of the practical cooperation on which the Oslo process laid the foundation have continued, not least in security matters. At the same time, Palestinian officials are campaigning, among other things, within UN organizations aimed at raising international support and action against Israel – and they sometimes produce results. One example is what has happened since Israel built a long barrier against the West Bank, which is largely on Palestinian land. The building was raised in the International Court of Justice (ICJ), which in 2004 concluded that the barrier is illegal. But the ruling in the UN Court of Justice is not binding. It does not force Israel to change its policy. Israel sees the barrier not only as justified but also as effective: fewer acts of terror within Israel have been the result.

The fact that there is a second counterpart to Israel has to do with the insanity between Palestinian factions (see Modern history). There is also a sharp dividing line for Israel. Israel is acting harder, with blockades and military offensive, against the Gaza Strip where Hamas rules. There is open enmity between Israel and Hamas, which has repeatedly escalated into full war. Israel is sometimes fired from rockets by both Hamas and other militant groups, but the scale of Israel’s military countermeasures, which often go beyond civilians, is accompanied by massive criticism both from individual countries and from international human rights organizations. This happened not least in the spring of 2018, when Palestinians demonstrated at the Gaza border in connection with Israel’s 70th anniversary. Israel took sharp shots at protesters with high death rates as a result.

Increased US support

Israel’s strong ties to the US are expressed, for example, by US support in the UN, where the US uses its veto power in the Security Council to stop decisions and interventions against Israel. The United States also acts within the UN member organizations to protect Israel.

As President, Donald Trump has reinforced Israel-friendly politics. His representative Barack Obama had followed a line applied by both Republican and Democratic presidents: strong support for Israel politically, militarily and economically – but also objections, especially to settlements on occupied land. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu received internal criticism in Israel for jeopardizing important relations with the United States by disguising himself with Obama, who also marked by not, as usual, supporting Israel in a UN vote on settlements. With Trump followed a patchwork: On December 6, 2017, the United States decided to recognize Israel’s supremacy over Jerusalem. The United States moved its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in May 2018. Trump also appointed an Israeli ambassador who actively supports settlers on occupied land. USA: In November 2019, the government passed another very controversial message: that it was not considered that Israeli settlements on occupied land necessarily constitute a violation of international law and that the assessment of whether settlements are legal in Israel should be made by the Supreme Court. The outside world, for example the EU, hastened to reiterate the attitude that has been in place since the 1967 occupation: that settlements violate the Fourth Geneva Convention which prohibits an occupation power from moving into its own population.

Even in international arenas, Israel is now receiving even stronger support from the United States, which is putting pressure on the Palestinians: The United States is countering Palestinian membership in international organizations and has withdrawn its support for the UN organization UNRWA, which is responsible for health care and schools for refugees. The United States refuses the International Criminal Court (ICC) as the authority to test whether Israelis have committed an abuse of Palestinians (a policy to be seen in light of the fact that the United States also does not want to see Americans facing international court).

On the Palestinian issue, people in the vicinity of Trump have been working on a peace plan, which was tabled in January 2020. The main features of the plan: East Jerusalem is permanently invading Israel (though the King of Jordan would retain a role as protector of the holy sites for Muslims). The 600,000 Israelis living in East Jerusalem and the West Bank are allowed to remain and continue to use the land they have used. No Palestinian refugees are allowed to return to their homes in what is today Israel. Israel retains security responsibilities all the way to Jordan’s border.

Large investments in the Palestinian economy have been under view. The United States has tried to persuade Arab states, in particular, to make investments. (The Palestinians, for their part, have urged both Arab neighbors and EU countries in the region not to support the plan.) The Americans are also reported to have approached President Abbas with the question of how the Palestinians would form a confederation with Jordan. But the US’s clear favor with Israel has not raised expectations that peace proposals from Trump could lead to a breakthrough. Security services in Israel have voiced concern that it could even pose a danger to Israel if US measures increase misery among Palestinians.

Disgust with neighboring countries

With Muslim Turkey, Israel has at times had very good relations. The relations were buzzing after the turn of the millennium over the war in Gaza, where Turkey has criticized Israel for treating Palestinians mercilessly. In 2010, Israel also shot dead Turkish activists on the Mavi Marmara ship, which was on its way to Gaza to break Israel’s blockade against the Palestinians. The US recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel has further aroused Turkey’s sympathies for the Palestinians and allowed the President of Turkey to emerge as the leading Muslim world in the Sunni Muslim world against Israel extending its power over places sacred to Islam as well.

Iran’s actions in the region cause deep concern in Israel. Iranian regime hates Israel, upsets military and builds alliances with Middle Eastern Shiite groups Israel sees as a threat: In Syria, Iran supports Bashar al-Assad’s regime and its Lebanese arms carrier Hezbollah movement (see below). Both are sworn enemies to Israel, who in turn carry out air strikes against targets inside Syria (see Calendar). Israeli ministers have openly declared that Israel will not allow Iran to secure holdings in Syria. Even military attacks against Iranian soil are not excluded as an alternative. It is known that Iran and Israel carry out hacker attacks against each other.

Israel has intensely opposed political agreements on Iran’s nuclear technology. Distrust in Israel was one of the reasons when in May 2018 the United States withdrew from an international nuclear agreement with Iran, which aimed to prevent the regime in Tehran from developing nuclear weapons. Well-informed Israeli media attribute to Israeli agents responsibility for several murders of physicists linked to the nuclear program in Iran.

The Syrian government demands Israel to bring back the Golan Heights that were occupied in the war in 1967. Over the years, secret attempts to reach a peace agreement have been reported, but conditions have not increased. Trump’s Israel ambassador has declared that he is convinced that the Golan will pass Israeli. In the Syrian civil war, the Assad regime has managed to regain large areas and is unlikely to give up claims on the Golan either. Nearly 5,000 Syrian refugees at the border received care at Israeli hospitals in 2013–2018. By contrast, Israel has not received refugees from Syria permanently.

Israel held southern Lebanon under military occupation for 18 years, 1982–2000. After first chasing Palestinian guerrillas on Lebanese soil, Israel in the 1980s encountered a new enemy in the Shiite Hezbollah militia, which occasionally shoots Israel from the north. Hezbollah, which is also a political movement, has a strong position in Lebanon and is usually described as a state in the state. Along the border, Israel 2018 began to build a wall, which will be equipped with surveillance cameras, among other things. Israel claims it is being built entirely on the Israeli side of the “blue line”, a ceasefire line drawn by the UN in 2000. The military’s goal is for the wall to be 13 miles long. Since 2012, there is a wall around the city of Metula near the border. In 2006, Israel fought a war against Hezbollah, which has been called the “Second Lebanon War”.

Friendships in the region

With two of the Arab countries that had leading roles in the wars 1948-49, 1967 and 1973, Israel today has peace agreements: Egypt (1979) and Jordan (1994). Governments in all three countries have guarded the peace, though it has rarely been described as cordial.

The king of Jordan has traditionally and through the peace treaty an important role in Jerusalem, as supreme protector of the holy places of Islam in Jerusalem. When the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) acknowledged Israel and gave up terrorist methods, it also laid the foundation for Israel’s peace with Jordan, which released its claims on Jerusalem and the West Bank. In the absence of their own state, some of the Palestinians are still Jordanian citizens.

With Egypt, which through the peace gained the Sinai Peninsula, Israel has a common enemy in Hamas. In Egypt, among other things, Hamas Islamism – more than enmity against Israel – is disturbing the rulers. Hamas emerged as a committee of the Muslim Brotherhood organization. After the Arab Spring of 2011, elections were held that brought the Brotherhood to power in Egypt, but the military withdrew power and the Israeli regime’s old policy. Egypt is trying to mediate between the Palestinian factions. That development is difficult for Israel to influence, but Egypt, like Israel, has a border with the Gaza Strip and wants as little as Israel to give Islamists – and weapons – free passage across the border.

An entirely different community has begun to arouse interest in recent years: Old animosity between Shiite-dominated Iran and leading Sunni Muslim countries that Saudi Arabia – between Persians and Arabs – can benefit Israel. Saudi Arabia, like Israel, sees Iran as an arch enemy and from Saudi Arabia, Israel-friendly statements were made in 2018. The countries do not have diplomatic relations, but a sign of the softening Saudi attitude is that Saudi Arabia has opened its airspace for aviation flights to or from Israel.

During a visit to Lithuania in 2018, Prime Minister Netanyahu stated that Israel is striving to normalize its relations with Arab countries, as a way to also achieve peace with the Palestinians. During the year he also made a visit to Oman, which was surprising as the countries do not have diplomatic relations. But even though most Arab countries have given up the idea of ​​going to war against Israel, the Palestinian issue remains an obstacle, especially for authoritarian Arab regimes – such as the Saudi one – who themselves risk losing their popular support if they openly take Israel’s part.

On edge with EU countries

In Western Europe, Israel had strong support when the Jewish state was formed, but Israel is annoyed by repeated European criticism of the treatment of the Palestinian population and the expansion of the settlements. Israel has reacted strongly to countries that recognized Palestine as an independent state. Sweden acknowledged Palestine in 2014, it deteriorated diplomatic relations. Most EU countries say they are waiting for a definitive peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians, but they are criticizing Israel for making a two-state solution more difficult.

In recent years, Israel has had reasons to voice concerns about anti-Semitism in EU countries and the terrorist attacks on Jewish institutions. At the same time, some Jews are relocating to places in Germany, Poland and the Baltics, whose numerous Jewish population was almost wiped out by the Nazis. A Polish law, which seeks to ward off accusations that there was Polish involvement in the Holocaust, is part of what put relations between Israel and Poland to the test (see Calendar).

With Cyprus, Israel shares the Aphrodite oil and gas field, from which Cyprus hopes to export gas via Egypt. Israelis and Cypriots negotiate the distribution of resources. They also discuss the establishment of an Israel-controlled port on the coast of Cyprus for transhipment of goods to the Gaza Strip. Gaza has no deep harbor, and Israel controls ship traffic off the strip, but ferry transport from Cyprus could supply Gaza with goods and thus reduce criticism of Israel subjecting Palestinians to blockades.

In UN polls, European states, as well as Arab countries and other Muslim countries, tend to criticize Israel.

Trade in great powers

During the Cold War, the Soviet Union was one of Israel’s foremost critics, but relations with today’s Russia are good. Russia participates in the Syrian war on the part of the Assad regime – but it does not have to seriously interfere with relations with Israel: The rebel groups fighting in Syria are as unfriendly to Israel as Syria’s leadership is. When Syrian Air Force 2018 accidentally shot down a Russian military plane while Israeli fighter planes attacked Syrian targets nearby, Israel received criticism from Moscow – but Prime Minister Netanyahu immediately promised Israeli involvement in the crash investigation and President Putin soon took a conciliatory stance.

China’s foreign policy is particularly intense in the area of ​​trade and its interest is mutual. While China voted against Israel in the UN vote on Jerusalem that followed Trump’s political shift in 2017 (see above), China was also Israel’s largest trading partner in Asia, and the third largest overall. “We complement each other,” said Finance Minister Eli Cohen at the end of 2017, emphasizing that Israel wants to see more of Chinese investment. The largest food manufacturer has been purchased by a Chinese state-owned company. Agreement on Israeli cooperation with China in the management of the port of Haifa worries the United States, whose military vessels sometimes add to the Mediterranean port.

A few countries, like the US, have chosen to move their embassies from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Brazil, under President Jair Bolsonaro, has flagged to follow the United States in its tracks. Paraguay, on the other hand, has changed its decision after the regime change and Israel has responded with the message that the Israeli embassy in Paraguay should be closed. In Latin America, Panama is the only country that has not recognized Palestine.


Israel allocates a greater share of its budget to the defense than any other democratic country, and can quickly mobilize a large number of soldiers.

Jews and Druze perform military service while Israeli Arabs are exempt. For the ultra-Orthodox Jews there are special associations, but in practice they are usually exempted from military service. However, this relationship is changing (see Current Policy).

Women also do military service, but may not be included in all associations. The period of military service for men should be gradually reduced from three to two years, while the time for women should remain 18-24 months. Women over the age of 24, married women and women with religious barriers are exempt from military service.

International observers are convinced that the country has nuclear weapons. Israel has neither confirmed nor denied this, but has stated that it does not intend to be the first to use nuclear weapons in the event of a conflict. Israel has not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

An air defense system against incoming short-range projectiles called the Iron Dome was launched in 2011. It is manufactured by state-owned Rafael and has been developed with US aid. The system detects threats in the air with the help of radar, calculates the probable impact site and provides coordinates to be able to fire robots at the projectile that is coming in. Tracks for tracking and firing can be moved and the system is stated not to be weather sensitive. It has been used not least against rocket fire from the Gaza Strip, but it began to develop at the height of the 2006 Lebanon War, when the Hezbollah movement fired rockets at Israel.

Another example of the military assistance Israel receives from the United States is that the two countries have jointly developed an air defense system with Arrow robots that will be able to shoot down enemy robots at high altitude. The system is manufactured by Israeli Aerospace Industries and American Boeing and was commissioned in Israel 2017.

Since the turn of the millennium, Israel has been one of the world’s leading arms exporters. In particular, radar systems and targeting robots are exported to India, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States and other countries.

READING! Read more about Israel in the UI’s online magazine Foreign magazine:
Israel hopes Putin can take away Iran in Syria (05/05/2011)


Army: 133 000 men (2017)

The air Force: 34 000 men (2017)

The fleet: 9,500 men (2017)

Military expenditure’s share of GDP: 4.7 percent (2017)

Military spending’s share of the state budget: 11.5 percent (2017)

Iraq Defense and Foreign Policy

Iraq Defense and Foreign Policy

Foreign policy and defense

Based on geographical map from Digopaul, Iraq is a nation in Western Asia. Its capital city Baghdad. Until 2003, when Saddam Hussein’s regime was overthrown, Iraq was internationally isolated and subject to UN sanctions because of the attack on Kuwait in 1990. The United States and Britain maintained aviation zones and supported the opposition. After a US-led invasion in 2003, Iraq came under American control. The foreign forces left the country 2,011, but soon the Islamic State (IS) forced a new war effort with international support. Having initially had a common interest in fighting IS, the US and Iran have since been drawn into a power struggle that is largely fought in Iraq.

iraq military spending and defense budget

The United States still has a strong connection to the Iraqi army, which it built up after 2003, and influence over politics, especially after the US military again intervened in the country in 2014 (see Current Policy). Other countries are also involved in Iraq’s policy. This applies primarily to Iran, which exerts a great deal of influence over Shiite parties and has ties to the government and the military, in particular a multitude of Shi’ites that have become ever closer to the government army. Turkey is watching what is happening in the Kurdish areas of the north and Qatar and Saudi Arabia are watching Iraq’s Sunni Arab population.

  • Countryaah: Overview of business holidays and various national observances in Iraq for years of 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023, 2024 and 2025.

The Arab League countries and the oil-producing state’s organization Opec were initially skeptical of US-backed Iraqi leaders who took office after the 2003 invasion, but already invited them to the meetings the year after. Iraq’s neighboring countries were concerned about the risk that the United States would have hidden plans with the occupation, such as gaining control of oil production. Several also worried about Iran’s growing influence in Baghdad. In 2005, the first agreements between former Iranian enemies Iran and Iraq on joint use of oil pipelines, Iraqi access to Iranian ports and trade and security matters were signed. In 2008, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited Baghdad as the first Iranian president.

With Syria, Iraq reestablished diplomatic relations in 2006, which had been terminated in 1982 when Syria took a stand for Iran in the war against Iraq.

Iraq’s contacts with states on the Arabian Peninsula have been normalized since Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait and the subsequent war 1990-1991, but relations have remained tense. Saudi Arabia, which severed diplomatic relations with Iraq in 1990, has an Iraqi ambassador again, but was forced to change positions in 2017, after the envoy dared to criticize Shi’i militaries receiving support from Iran.

Iraq still pays war damages to Kuwait after the 1990-1991 war. The payments were suspended between 2014 and 2018, when Iraq’s budget was strained by the fight against IS.

Relations between Iraq, Turkey and the United States spiked until 2007, when the Turkish-Kurdish PKK guerrilla carried out attacks in southeastern Turkey. When the US and Kurdish authorities in northern Iraq refused to act against the PKK, the Turkish air force attacked. In 2008, Turkey launched a ground offensive with air support. The Iraqi government called the invasion a violation of the country’s sovereignty. After a week, the Turks returned to their bases, after US President George W Bush also called on Turkey to withdraw. Turkey shows repeated disapproval of the strong position the Kurds have in Iraq, with regional autonomy.

IS’s rapid advancement and widespread expansion in the north of 2014–2017 presented Iraq’s regime with a need for military force gathering. The IS-empire also created refugee waves. Both the United States and Iran have an interest in combating Sunni extremism, and the brutality of IS’s advancement strengthened popular support for outside assistance. A US-led alliance was once again given a lead role, and by the end of 2017, the United States had nearly 9,000 soldiers in Iraq. When the toughest battles were cleared and IS thrown out of all major support, the government appealed for a Marshall Plan similar to the one the US embarked on for Europe’s reconstruction after the Second World War.

In the intensified conflict between the United States under President Trump and Iran since 2018, Iraq that has feared has been stuck. Iraq has pledged to respect US re-imposed sanctions on Iran, as a result of which Iraq’s commodity imports from Iran are limited. But the United States has agreed to make exceptions to the energy exchange; lack of energy supply has the potential to lead to social unrest in Iraq, which had also happened shortly before the new sanctions came into force. However, the United States has pushed Iraq to reduce its dependence on Iran, which for its part has steadily strengthened its presence and impact on Iraqi politics. Irrational militias carried out a number of attacks on US targets, before the US and Iran finally stepped up to also conduct direct war actions against each other on Iraqi soil.

The Kurds took on a significant role in the fighting against IS and breathed morning air, hoping to strengthen their independence and control over the oil city of Kirkuk. But there, the Iraqi central government was reported to have Iran in the back. When IS was defeated, Iraq’s government army and allied Shi’ilists recaptured Kirkuk, and Kurdistan political rule was forced to adhere to Baghdad’s central power.

Military forces

During Saddam Hussein, Iraq had one of the world’s largest armies, although it was not as capable as it appeared on paper. The army was severely injured by the Kuwait War in 1991 and the subsequent sanctions. After the 2003 US invasion, the army disbanded, with some former soldiers and officers joining the armed resistance (see Modern History). Instead, the United States began building a new security apparatus from the ground up.

Over the next eight years, the United States spent $ 25 billion on this. Nevertheless, Iraq’s army was weak when the United States left the country in December 2011. It was further undermined by political intrigue and religious mistrust between soldiers and officers following the US departure.

In 2014, the army had a total of 14 divisions, but they were weakened by corruption and political appointments within the officer corps. An investigation later revealed that the army had around 50,000 so-called “ghost soldiers” who were not in reality. The purpose was to deceive salary payments and military appropriations, which were then shattered by commanders and politicians. Four divisions are believed to have collapsed in connection with the Islamic State (IS) march in Mosul in June 2014. Since then, the army has undergone reorganization. Since 2014, the United States and other countries have had several thousand military forces in the country to support and train people in the armed forces.

During Saddam Hussein’s time in power, Russia was the largest supplier of weapons to Iraq, a role that the United States later assumed. However, in 2012, Iraq was reported to have signed a contract with Russia on arms purchases for the equivalent of $ 4.2 billion, which would make Russia the country’s second largest arms supplier. In 2014, Russia handed over several Suchoi Su-25 fighter aircraft as a contribution to the fight against IS.

militia Groups

Alongside the army and the police, a large number of more or less independent Shiite militias operate (see Political groupings). The role of the Shi’ilim decreased somewhat when the violence in Iraq was suppressed, around 2008–2012, but then grew again. Several Iraqi militia groups sent fighters to Syria to support President Bashar al-Assad against Sunni insurgents from about 2012, and received money and training for this from Iran. When IS began to become a major problem in Iraq in 2014, many Iraqis returned from Syria. Shiite Muslim leaders began mass recruitment of militiamen after the fall of Mosul in the summer of 2014. The Iraqi government has called the militia “the people mobilization”, al-Hashd al-Shaabi. Some of them are elite forces with better weapons than the Iraqi army, while others are poorly trained and equipped. In addition, the Shi’ilis have become known for abuses against Sunnis. It has also happened that they fought among themselves. According to US press records, the militia had grown to between 100,000 and 120,000 at the beginning of 2015, while the regular Iraqi army did not consist of more than 48,000 combatants. The figures were said to come from US and Iraqi decision makers. The mobilization forces then have knutitis closer to the government army, even though they continue to act as separate militias (seeCalendar).

Following IS’s breakthrough in June 2014, the Baghdad government began discussing the creation of a National Guard, where Sunni Muslim militants, clans and ex-rebels could be recruited in the same way as in al-Sahwa in the 00s (see Modern History). The National Guard would be organized provincially. Only in February 2014 was a law passed on this in Parliament and the process seemed to drag on in time. Many Shiite politicians are skeptical of arming Sunni groups whom they regard as unreliable at best, at worst purely hostile.

In the Kurdish areas, the parties KDP and PUK have their own armed forces, commonly called peshmerga. There is also the PKK guerrilla, whose armed supporters are not counted as the pesh merger. Until 2014, PKK was not militarily active in Iraq, although the group had bases there, but PKK later participated in the fighting against IS.


Army: 54,000 men (2017)

The air Force: 4,000 men (2017)

The fleet: 3,000 men (2017)

Military expenditure’s share of GDP: 3.9 percent (2017)

Military spending’s share of the state budget: 9.4 percent (2017)



Terrorist acts against official buildings

More than 150 people are killed when two powerful car bombs explode near official buildings outside the so-called Green Zone of Baghdad. The Islamic State terrorist group in Iraq says it has performed the deed.


Syria is accused of terror

Iraq accuses Syria of being involved in several bomb attacks in Baghdad.


The retreat of the Western powers continues

The US military is retiring according to plans from Iraq’s cities. The number of severe bombings is increasing during this time. On July 31, the last British soldiers leave Iraq.


Prison for Saddam’s Foreign Minister

Saddam Hussein’s Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz is sentenced to 15 years in prison for the execution of 42 businessmen who enriched when the sanctions were in force in 1992. Aziz also receives seven years in prison for forced displacement of Kurds. Two of Saddam’s half-brothers – his former adviser Watban Ibrahim and former security services chief Sabaawi Ibrahim – are sentenced to death in the same trial. Saddam’s cousin Ali Hassan al-Majid, “Chemical Ali”, was sentenced to 15 years in prison, but he had previously been sentenced to death for other crimes.


Timetable for US Retreat

US new President Barack Obama presents a new timetable for US retreat from Iraq. All combat units must be taken home before August 31, 2010. Other units, no more than 50,000 men, will stay until the end of 2011.


Election success for al-Maliki

Local elections in 14 of the 18 provinces will be a success for Prime Minister al-Maliki’s Alliance Rule of Law coalition. New leaders emerge in Sunni Arab provinces. The elections in the Tamim province (Kirkuk) are postponed. The elections in the Kurdish region will be held in July.

Iran Defense and Foreign Policy

Iran Defense and Foreign Policy

Foreign policy and defense

Based on geographical map from Digopaul, Iran is a nation in Western Asia. Its capital city Tehran. With its size and strategic location on the Persian Gulf, between the Arab world, Central Asia and southern Asia, Iran is a regional power. Many see the country as a Shi’a Muslim counter-pole to the Sunni Muslim heavyweight Saudi Arabia. But Iran has since been largely isolated, especially in relation to the Western world. Since Iran agreed to limit its nuclear technology program in 2015, the country’s hopes of breaking the isolation increased. Developments were broken when the United States left the agreement and reintroduced sanctions in 2018.

iran military spending and defense budget

Since the violent revolution of 1979, Arab countries and other states in the region have feared Iranian propaganda directed at “wicked” regimes around the world. Iran has supported Shiite Muslim opposition in Iraq and Kuwait, among others. Even the Soviet Union, with a large Muslim population, was troubled by the revolution. Therefore, when Iraq attacked Iran in 1980 (see Modern History), the Iranian regime had no reliable allies.

  • Countryaah: Overview of business holidays and various national observances in Iran for years of 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023, 2024 and 2025.

After the war, which ended in 1988, Iran made efforts to create ties with the Arab world. The regime in Syria became intimately familiar, not least after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Iran played a big part in the formation of the Hezbollah Shiite Muslim militia in Lebanon. Iran also acts as the main sponsor of Palestinian Hamas.

When the United States became militarily involved in the region following the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington in 2001, a side effect was increased influence for Iran, when first the Taliban in Afghanistan and then Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq overthrew. In both cases, Iranian-friendly governments came to power. Among Sunni Muslim neighbors, concerns about an increasingly stronger Shiite sphere of interest extended from Iran via Iraq and Syria to Lebanon on the Mediterranean coast.

The so-called Arab Spring, with major upheavals in several countries from 2011 onwards, initially seemed to strengthen Iran’s position. The Muslim Brotherhood, which came to power in Egypt and made advances in other countries, had good relations with Tehran. However, the brotherhood soon overthrew Egypt and elsewhere, more Sunni extremist movements took up more space. Countries in the Arabian Peninsula also accused Iran of supporting Shiite groups challenging Sunni regimes in Arab countries. Iran, in turn, criticized Saudi Arabia as it militarily intervened in Bahrain, in support of the tiny Gulf state’s power. In Yemen, Iranians and Saudis have supported each other in a bitter civil war with dire consequences for Yemeni civilians.

The war in Syria has highlighted the divide between the countries in the region. Tehran has spent billions on the support of Bashar al-Assad’s regime and helped it remain in power. But the distance has grown between Iran and the Sunni-dominated Arab monarchies of the Persian Gulf, which have been on the side of the Syrian opposition. It has also destroyed much of the “goodwill” Iran has tried to build up among Arabs in common, not least through President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s (2005-2013) violent outburst against Israel. By involving Hezbollah in Syria, the reputation of the Lebanese militia in the Arab world has also sunk.

The developments in 2014 when the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group took control of large parts of Syria and Iraq meant that hostile forces established themselves along Iran’s western border. IS, which also established a Sunni extremist caliphate, considers Shi’a Muslims as apostates who should be obliterated. At the same time, the Iran-friendly government in Afghanistan was weakened. As a result, Iran was surrounded by more or less hostile Sunni Muslim forces. IS advancement increased cooperation between Shia Muslim countries and movements. Contacts have increased between Tehran and allied states on the Arabian Peninsula.

With Iraq, Iran has a close relationship. Since the US invasion in 2003, Shiite-dominated governments have ruled the country, but Iran’s active involvement and economic dependence on Iran is not seen with a positive eye by all Iraqis, not even by all Shi’a groups. In Iraq, there are two of the most sacred places of Shia Islam, Karbala and Najaf, and the country has the world’s second largest Shiite population (after Iran).

The situation that emerged in the region with IS also meant that Iran gained common interests with the United States, which in 2014 launched air strikes against IS in which several Arab states participated.

Since the revolution, the United States has been designated “the great Satan”. The US role when Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadeq was overthrown in 1953 and the revolutionaries’ occupation of the US Embassy in Tehran in 1979 are events that have poisoned relations between the countries. The United States has sought to isolate Iran internationally and supported Iraq during the war between the two countries in the 1980s. Washington has accused Tehran of supporting international terrorism, undermining peace efforts in the Middle East, committing human rights violations and trying to acquire nuclear weapons. The United States introduced sanctions for the first time as a result of a long-standing hostage frame in 1979.

President Khatami (1997-2005) sought to achieve better relations with the West, but he was thwarted by conservative forces within the country. In addition, some time after the regime change in the White House in 2001, the US attitude became more aggressive. President George W Bush branded Iran as one of the “axis of evil” along with Iraq and North Korea, which were said to pose a threat to the United States. Other statements suggested that the United States was prepared to actively support groups trying to overthrow the regime in Iran.

Nuclear energy dispute

At the same time, US criticism of Iran’s nuclear program increased. There were suspicions that Iran was striving to develop nuclear weapons. In 2002, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) became aware of two new nuclear facilities in Iran, which meant that the country had acquired the opportunity to produce nuclear weapons. For several years, accusations, promises, cooperation calls and demands for inspections were carried out without progress. The EU and several countries also adopted their own sanctions, alongside the UN, due to growing concerns over the nuclear program. The dispute was brought to the UN Security Council, which in 2006 adopted a first resolution on limited sanctions unless Iran stopped enriching uranium. The UN sanctions were gradually expanded.

Tehran has constantly asserted its right to continue with the nuclear program, which is said to have only peaceful purposes. However, the IAEA has not been able to confirm that the goal is solely to develop nuclear power and not nuclear weapons.

Following a sharp report by the IAEA, stating that Iran had enough nuclear fuel to eventually produce two nuclear weapons, the 2010 sanctions were tightened with expanded arms embargo and measures against Iranian individuals, several from the Revolutionary Guard, as well as banks, shipping companies and other companies. In addition, as in the past, the US and the EU went further and increased their own, bilateral, sanctions in 2012.

All in all, the penalties of the outside world have been described as the most extensive and harsh measures taken against any country. It became difficult for companies, individuals, banks and government agencies to interact with the outside world. Iran’s customers in Europe stopped buying oil almost overnight. Money transactions and bodies linked to Iran’s central bank were banned, government assets abroad were frozen, and balances with hundreds of state and semi-state companies were banned.

After 2011, the sanctions became increasingly noticeable in Iran, which experienced a sharp slowdown in growth and became increasingly isolated (see Economy). Negotiations continued, between Iran, on the one hand, and the UN’s five permanent members, and Germany on the other (a group called P5 + 1 or sometimes EU3 + 3: France, the UK and Germany, and China, Russia and the US).

The change of power in Iran in 2013 provided better conditions. In November of that year, a settlement described as historic came: Iran promised to limit the enrichment of uranium in exchange for relief in the sanctions. It was the first time a concrete result was achieved after years of talks. A provisional agreement was concluded and extended in two rounds. The deadline for reaching a permanent settlement was extended to mid-year 2015. The crack question was how long it would take for Iran to produce fuel for a nuclear weapon. Iran wanted the right to continue enriching uranium on a large scale and, of course, getting the sanctions lifted.

In July 2015, after intensive negotiations in Vienna, the parties agreed on an agreement under which the Iranian nuclear program would be severely lost and UN inspectors allowed to ensure compliance. In return, the international trade sanctions would be abolished. However, the arms embargo against Iran would remain for five years. The deal was hailed in large parts of the world but criticized harshly by Israel and met with skepticism in conservative Republican circles in the United States. The reactions, even from Saudi Arabia’s regional rival, were the same when most international sanctions were lifted in January 2016, when the IAEA confirmed that Iran had lived up to its commitment to reduce its nuclear technology capabilities.

During the negotiations, the Israeli right-wing government called on the United States to tighten its policy against Iran. Israel regards Iran as a threat to its existence and has made threats of air strikes against Iranian nuclear facilities. The suspicion is based not least on former President Ahmadinejad’s statements to eradicate “the Zionist regime”. It is known that Iran and Israel carry out hacker attacks against each other.

With Donald Trump as president, the US tone against Iran sharpened again. After several months of harsh criticism of the nuclear agreement, Trump announced in May 2018 that the United States has decided to withdraw from the agreement and reintroduce harsh sanctions. In principle, this meant that the United States left the agreement – but demanded that Iran continue to follow it. Trump made no reference to Britain, France and Germany trying to persuade the United States to hold on to the deal. Like the United Nations Atomic Energy Agency, the Western countries held that Iran had not violated the terms of the agreement. Since then, however, Iran has taken several steps to abandon the nuclear agreement. These include enrichment of the radioactive substance uranium, which Iran agreed to restrict in the agreement, storage of heavy water, which can be used to produce weapons plutonium,

By the beginning of 2020, tensions between the United States and Iran had grown so strong that it led to direct fighting, on Iraqi soil where both sought influence. The decisive step was that President Trump ordered a killing robot attack against General Qasim Soleimani. As head of the Revolutionary Guard’s overseas efforts through the elite force Jerusalem Force, Soleimani had been the key player in Iran’s contacts with Shiite forces in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen.

While EU countries sought to save the nuclear deal, the EU has also sharpened the tone against Tehran, for other reasons: Iran is accused of brutally prosecuting regime-critical exile Iranians on European soil. In addition, Iran uses recurring foreign nationals, who have been arrested on unclear grounds, as playing fields in negotiations with other countries (see Calendar).

The sanctions also create tension in Iran’s relations with other countries. China, India and Turkey, who are all major oil buyers, are being pressured by the sanctions to turn to Saudi Arabia instead. Iran is strategically located on the Persian Gulf, and sometimes makes use of its opportunities to disrupt traffic by tankers through the important strait. But this is also a strategy that could benefit the United States, whose oil production has grown strongly through modern extraction of shale oil. Iran may put obstacles in the way of oil states on the Gulf, but not for US oil exports, which on the contrary can benefit from it.

With the United Arab Emirates, Iran has a dispute over the islands of Abu Musa, Great Tunb and Little Tunb in the Persian Gulf. The islands are controlled by Iran.

Iran competed with Turkey and Saudi Arabia for influence in the states that formed in the Caucasus and Central Asia after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. Summer 2018, after protracted contradictions, concluded an agreement between the five countries that coast towards the Caspian Sea. Iran has stood alone in its demand that the sea be divided into five equal parts, no matter how long the coastline is. The result was a compromise, which gives the Caspian Sea “special status”, but several issues have not been resolved in the long term.


Iran has since the revolution two parallel armed forces, the regular armed forces and the Islamic revolutionary guard (also called the pasdaran).

The Revolutionary Guard was established after 1979 and serves as both semi-military force and intelligence service. The force played an important role in crushing the opposition after the revolution and in the war against Iraq. It has also become an economic power factor (see Finance). Within the guard is an elite force, the al-Quds Brigade, who is accused of secret involvement in other states’ conflicts through, among others, Hezbollah, Hamas and support for Shia groups in Bahrain and Yemen, among others.

The Revolutionary Guard also controls the people’s militia. It can mobilize hundreds of thousands of militia.

The armed forces were weakened by purges after the 1979 revolution and the long war against Iraq 1980-1988.

War materiel used to come mainly from the United States and the United Kingdom, and much of it today is outdated or unusable. In recent years, Iran has purchased weapons mainly from former Soviet republics, China and North Korea, and has also developed a domestic weapons industry.

While the Air Force has become outdated, Iran has instead focused on domestic development of robotics. Iran now has robots capable of reaching both Israel and Saudi Arabia, both conceivable targets in a war situation. In 2017, Iran also showed off a robot capable of carrying multiple warheads.

In 2020, in the wake of several months of paratroopers in the Gulf of Persia, it was reported that the Revolutionary Guards naval forces were expanded by 110 new vessels, among them fast tanks, patrol boats and submarines.

Reading tips – read more about Iran in the UI’s online magazine Foreign magazine :
The Iran-US crisis: a golden state for mediation? (2020-02-10)
The Russia-Iran Relationship in a Sanctions Era (2019-11-20)
Hans Blix: From an isolated Iran to an isolated US (2017-11-04)
Trump wants to provoke Iran to submit nuclear technology agreement (2017 -10-13)
China offers to mediate between Riyadh and Tehran (15/03/2017)


Army: 350,000 men (2017)

The air Force: 30,000 men (2017)

The fleet: 18,000 men (2017)

Military expenditure’s share of GDP: 3.1 percent (2017)

Military spending’s share of the state budget: 15.8 percent (2017)



Concessions on uranium enrichment

Iran agrees to cease most of its enrichment of uranium, in a deal with the EU.


Criticism from UN agencies

The IAEA criticizes Iran for lack of cooperation.


Reform candidates are excluded from elections

Thousands of reformers are disqualified by the Guardian Council before the parliamentary elections. The Conservative camp in politics is regaining control in Parliament.



Iranian Peace Prize Awarded

Human rights lawyer Shirin Ebadi is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.


The UN requires notification of nuclear projects

The United Nations Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) gives ultimatum to Iran to prove that it does not plan to manufacture nuclear weapons.


Student protests against the clergy

Thousands of students participate in protests in Tehran against the conservative clergy.

Indonesia Defense and Foreign Policy

Indonesia Defense and Foreign Policy

Foreign policy and defense

Based on geographical map from Digopaul, Indonesia is a nation in Southeastern Asia. Its capital city is Jakarta. As a major power in Southeast Asia, Indonesia has long prioritized regional issues in foreign policy. Despite this, the country has had a number of difficult conflicts with neighboring countries, not least with Malaysia and East Timor. Occupation of East Timor 1975–1999 lay for decades as a shadow over Indonesia’s contacts with the outside world. Today, however, foreign policy relations are generally good, even with East Timor. Indonesia receives military support from the US in the fight against terrorism.

indonesia military spending and defense budget

Indonesia’s geographical, economic and military size makes the country a regional superpower. Ever since the 1960s, the Indonesian governments have concentrated foreign policy on regional issues. In 1967 Indonesia participated in the formation of Asean (Association of South East Asian Nations). In 2007, the Asian countries agreed to create an economic union. Within it, goods, services, labor and capital can move freely. The aim is for the region to attract more foreign investment and not be overshadowed economically and politically by China and India.

  • Countryaah: Overview of business holidays and various national observances in Indonesia for years of 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023, 2024 and 2025.

Indonesia has a complicated relationship with the Asian countries Malaysia and Singapore. The wooden cases have mainly been about the right to territorial water, the use of natural resources and the fact that many Indonesian guest workers have been treated poorly in Malaysia and Singapore. Malaysia, for its part, has expressed dissatisfaction that the Indonesian government has not done enough to stop emigration. The heavy and health-threatening smoke caused by forest fires in Indonesia, which sometimes spread to the two neighboring countries, is also a source of discontent. However, under President Widodo, relations with Malaysia and Singapore are believed to have improved, partly because Indonesia has taken more measures to stop the forest fires and smoke.

Good contacts with East Timor

Despite Indonesia’s 24-year occupation of East Timor, the two neighboring countries now have good relations. At independence in 2002, East Timor quickly established diplomatic relations with Indonesia, which is East Timor’s most important trading partner. The East Timorese attitude towards Indonesia is conciliatory. The East Timorese government has stated that it will not make any further attempts to bring responsible Indonesians to justice for crimes committed during the occupation (1975-1999) or the wave of violence that Indonesia-friendly militia staged with the support of Indonesian military in connection with East Timor’s release in 1999 (see East Timor: Modern History).

Indonesia, however, received international criticism for its actions in connection with the referendum on independence in East Timor in 1999. Indonesian military would be responsible for security in the area, but the Indonesian-friendly militia was instead supported by local military in the pursuit of independence supporters. Even today, it is a burden for Indonesia in an international context that several high-ranking militants have not been brought to justice for participation in human rights violations in East Timor.

Complicated relationships with Australia

Contacts with Australia deteriorated in connection with the events in East Timor in 1999. Indonesia reacted negatively to the neighboring country taking over the command of the international UN force that then entered East Timor. Relations improved from 2001, and in 2005 Australia and Indonesia signed a cooperation agreement on security and defense issues.

However, when Australia granted about 40 people from Papua temporary residence permits in 2006, Indonesia reacted sharply and felt that Australia, through its actions, took a stand for the separatists in Papua (see Papua). However, Australia expressed its support for a united Indonesia, and since Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd took office in 2007, relations have improved again through increased cooperation in the environment, diplomacy and the economy.

A new crisis arose in the fall of 2013, when it was revealed that the Australian intelligence service in 2009 had intercepted President Yudhoyono, his wife, the Vice President and a number of Indonesian ministers. As a result, Indonesia interrupted some cooperation with Australia, such as efforts to smuggle human trafficking, joint military exercises and exchange of intelligence. The crisis was resolved through a special agreement in August 2014, which meant that the canceled partnerships could be resumed.

Relations became once again frosty when Indonesia executed two doomed Australians in April 2015. Through diplomacy, the relationship then improved to such an extent that in August 2018 the two countries could enter into both a free trade agreement and an agreement on enhanced security cooperation.

In recent years, the boat refugee stream from South Asia and Afghanistan to Australia via Indonesia has also caused great irritation between the countries, as Australia has accused Indonesia of not doing enough to stop the refugees’ further journey towards Australia. The flight often takes place with the help of human smugglers via Indonesian ports. Indonesia, for its part, accuses Australia of letting ships enter Indonesian waters and forcing the refugee boats back to Indonesia.

US a close ally

In Western countries, not least in the United States, Indonesia has been seen as a counter-pole to China and the location in the middle of the shipping routes between the Middle East and Northeast Asia has given the country a significant strategic importance. The United States sees Indonesia as “a moderate voice in the Islamic world” and a reliable ally in the fight against terrorism. The United States provides Indonesia with military support, which increased during the terrorist fight in the 21st century. When Barack Obama, who partially grew up in Indonesia, became president of the United States in 2008, an even stronger bond was formed between the countries. At a visit to Indonesia in February 2009, then-US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the country would play a key role in the Obama administration’s foreign policy as a bridge between the Muslim world and the West.

When Obama visited Indonesia in November 2010, he described the host country as a good example of how a developing country can be democratic, taking into account the diversity within its borders and how a predominantly Muslim country can generally show tolerance for religious minorities. Obama also emphasized Indonesia’s increased international importance as a strong growth economy.

Relations with Washington were strained when Donald Trump was elected US President in November 2016. Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric during the election campaign and his decision to impose an entry ban on residents of a number of Muslim countries caused irritation and concern in Jakarta. Various high-ranking representatives of the United States have subsequently tried to pour oil on the waves by emphasizing Indonesia’s continued important role in US foreign policy.

Approaching China

Indonesia’s diplomatic relations with China were interrupted in connection with the 1965 coup and the purge campaign that was then directed against the country’s communists. In 1990, diplomatic relations were re-established but cooled again by the persecution and harassment of the Chinese minority in connection with Suharto’s 1998 fall. use and teach mandarin (Chinese dialect) in Indonesia.

But it was not until President Yudhoyono’s 2004 accession that contacts with China became warmer. In 2005, the two countries signed an agreement on increased cooperation in trade, investment and defense. The countries would, among other things, produce military vehicles together and carry out joint military exercises. An agreement on enhanced cooperation in politics, justice and security was signed in 2010 and China has made new investments in the Indonesian growth economy.

Indonesia has managed to stay quite a distance from the US Trump administration’s trade dispute with China in the 2010s. President Widodo has maintained a lower profile in international affairs than his representative Yudhoyono. Widodo’s foreign policy has mainly focused on increased trade, and exports to China have increased, as have Chinese investments in Indonesia. However, the two countries are in conflict over the island of Natuna in the South China Sea, as both Indonesia and China claim it.

Other important relationships

During Yudhoyono, Indonesia also formed closer ties with, among others, Russia, India and Japan through bilateral cooperation agreements. When President Widodo visited Tokyo in March 2015, the two countries decided to strengthen defense cooperation, particularly in the Navy. Widodo said Indonesia continued to decide to act as mediator in the regional conflict over the South China Sea.

Relations with Saudi Arabia deteriorated in the summer of 2011, when Indonesia imposed a temporary ban on citizens from hiring as Saudi Arabian maids. The decision was made after an Indonesian maid was executed without the Saudis first notifying the Jakarta government. The woman had been sentenced to death since she murdered her employer, who she reportedly had beaten her. Around 1.5 million Indonesians worked at this time in Saudi Arabia, many of them as domestic workers. The ban was preceded by reports of a number of cases where Indonesian maids had been treated poorly by Saudi employers.

The unrest in Papua has disturbed Indonesian relations with Papua New Guinea. Indonesia has tried to prevent members of the Papuan separatist movement OPM from taking refuge in Papua New Guinea, and Indonesian soldiers have made raids into the neighboring country. A friendship agreement between the countries was established in 1986 and renewed in 1990 in an attempt to prevent military conflicts. But the unrest at the border has continued.

Indonesia’s relations with a number of countries were negatively affected when on April 28, 2015, the country executed eight convicted drug traffickers in the smuggler network Bali Nine. Among the eight were seven foreign nationals: two Australians, three Nigerians, one Ghanaian and one Brazilian. The eighth was Indonesia. The Australian government called home its ambassador for consultations and Brazil said the executions would have consequences for bilateral relations between Brazil and Indonesia. A Filipino woman, who was also sentenced to death, had her execution postponed and Philippines President Aquino thanked Widodo and called the decision a “miracle”. Even a Frenchman had his execution postponed for legal reasons. Indonesia justified the executions of the country in ”


The defense is based on selective (not general, a selection is made) military service for at least two years. The military equipment is mainly of Western origin, but there are also domestic and Soviet defense equipment. (For information on the military’s political and economic influence in society, see Democracy and Rights.)


Army: 300 400 Men (2017)

The air Force: 30 100 men (2017)

The fleet: 65,000 men (2017)

Military expenditure’s share of GDP: 0.8 percent (2017)

Military spending’s share of the state budget: 4.8 percent (2017)



Two militant Islamist leaders are arrested

Two high-ranking leaders of militant Islamist network Jemaah Islamiah, Zarkasih and Abu Dujana, are arrested by police.

India Defense and Foreign Policy

India Defense and Foreign Policy

Foreign policy and defense

Based on geographical map from Digopaul, India is a nation in Southern Asia. Its capital city is New Delhi. In its immediate area, India is a great power. The country’s political and economic influence over several of the smaller neighboring states makes the relations periodically strained. India is also seeking a greater role internationally, including through the pursuit of a permanent place in the UN Security Council. The country’s power ambitions collide with China’s growing influence in Asia, not least in the Indian Ocean and in the Himalayas. India’s conflict with Pakistan over Kashmir concerns the outside world, especially as both countries have nuclear weapons.

india military spending and defense budget

Already in the 1970s, it was clear that India had the capability to manufacture nuclear weapons. In 1974, the country conducted its first nuclear test. The consequence was that Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), whose 48 members decide on global rules for international trade in nuclear energy technology, banned India from exporting nuclear technology, reactors and nuclear fuel for civilian use to 45 countries. The ban was first lifted in 2008 after India and the United States agreed to cooperate in the field of nuclear energy (see below).

  • Countryaah: Overview of business holidays and various national observances in India for years of 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023, 2024 and 2025.

India has not signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), a treaty signed in 1968 in New York to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons. Nor has the country acceded to the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), which came into being in 1996. In May 1998, India shocked the world by conducting five nuclear tests and could then declare itself a nuclear state.

The reasons why India carried out the nuclear weapons tests were in this way to create a balance with China which also has nuclear weapons, and partly a concern that the arch-enemy Pakistan with China’s help would get ahead of India in developing nuclear weapons. India also wanted to strengthen its own position internationally by being recognized as a nuclear power.

The test blasts had several consequences. Pakistan responded with a series of nuclear weapons tests. The United States and a number of other countries imposed sanctions on India and Pakistan. These were eventually repealed. India introduced a moratorium (temporary stop) for new test blasts, but since 2007 it has nevertheless tested nuclear missiles on several occasions.

India today belongs to the world’s recognized nuclear powers and strives to become a member of NSG. The United States supports this endeavor, while China has stopped Indian membership.

Hostile relationship with Pakistan

India’s relations with Pakistan have been problematic ever since the split of British India in 1947 (see Modern History). Three wars have been fought between the two states: 1947–1948, 1965 and 1971. The first two touched the area of ​​Kashmir, which both countries claim. Third was East Pakistan’s (now Bangladesh) liberation from West Pakistan (today’s Pakistan). India intervened on East Pakistan’s side and enabled the formation of the new state of Bangladesh.

Relations with Pakistan have been going up and down over the years. The countries have tried to keep a dialogue alive and conduct regular summits. In 1988, they entered into an agreement not to attack each other’s nuclear weapons arenas.

At the same time, the Kashmir conflict in the late 1980s was exacerbated by the fact that Muslim armed groups began to fight to break Kashmir out of India. India accused Pakistan of supporting these groups, but Pakistan only allowed “moral support”. These positions still apply today. However, there are many indications that groups within the Pakistani military and the ISI military service actively support separatists in Kashmir.

In the spring of 1999, a new war was imminent. Muslim guerrillas then crossed the border in Kashmir, probably backed by Pakistani government soldiers. The attackers withdrew following pressure from the United States and because of an overpowering Indian military presence in the area.

Later that year, India’s then Prime Minister Vajpayee traveled to Pakistan. There, the Lahore Declaration was signed, which included a series of confidence-building measures (new bus lines between the countries, joint cricket matches, etc.) aimed at peace.

A backlash came in December 2001 when the New Delhi Parliament building was attacked by terrorists (see Modern History). India once again accused Pakistan of supporting the perpetrators of the act. Pressures from the US and China, both wishing for stability in the region, led to the reestablishment of diplomatic relations in 2002 and in early 2004 a ceasefire was introduced in Kashmir.

During the 2000s and 2010s, Islamic guerrillas continued to carry out a series of attacks, both in Kashmir and inside India itself. The terrorist attacks in Bombay (Mumbai) in 2008 (see Modern History) strained India’s relationship with Pakistan to the utmost. In 2009, however, talks between the two countries resumed.

During Narendra Modi’s first year as India’s Prime Minister from 2014, there were some hopes for improved relations, but two major guerrilla attacks against Indian military bases in Kashmir in 2016 put a point to that. When a suicide bombing attack on a military column in Kashmir in January 2019 demanded the lives of some 40 Indian soldiers once again, relations ended in a bottomless state. India accused Pakistan of the killing, pledged to isolate the country internationally, removed trade benefits and raised import duties for the neighboring country. Indian fighter aircraft attacked guerrillas in Pakistan, causing the neighboring country to make flights over Indian-controlled territory.

For a detailed description of the conflict in Kashmir, read here.

Relations with the United States: from chilly to good

With the US, India has always had many cultural and commercial ties, but foreign policy contacts have long been quite chilly due to India’s close relations with the Soviet Union. Since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, India has in every way approached the United States and the rest of the Western world. A contributing factor to the improved relations is that India has gradually opened its market to foreign companies since the early 1990s.

India gave its support to the US-led global fight against terrorism following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. However, the country did not contribute soldiers to the US-led coalition that invaded Iraq in 2003.

A clear sign of India’s growing influence in the outside world came when the US and India in 2005 signed an agreement on closer defense cooperation. The following year, the United States invited India to take part in the US civil nuclear program (something not offered to Pakistan) in exchange for India allowing regular inspections of non-military nuclear facilities by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The civil nuclear energy program touches on nuclear power for peaceful use. In October 2008, a cooperation agreement was signed.

India’s strategic importance to the United States increased in the early 2010s, which was clearly reflected in the relations between US President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Modi. During Modi’s first two years in power, he met Obama seven times. The US investment in India should be seen in the light of the competition Americans face from an economically and strategically stronger China. The United States wants to see a larger Indian military presence in the Indian Ocean as a counterbalance to China’s growing influence there.

In January 2015, the two countries signed a pact, which meant that the cooperation agreement on nuclear energy for peaceful use from 2008 could begin to be implemented. The six-year delay was due to uncertainty over the debt issue in the event of a nuclear accident in India. During Modi’s mandate for 2014–2019, cooperation with the United States in trade, defense, climate policy and counter-terrorism was also strengthened.

The relationship between Modi and US President Donald Trump (2017–) appears to be good. In February 2020, Trump made a visit to India. Agreements were signed in defense, energy and telecom, but no comprehensive trade agreement was reached. Trade relations are strained; The US has a $ 25 billion deficit in trade with India.

Relations with Russia: from cordial to good

Despite Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru staking out an alliance-free foreign policy course for India after independence in 1947 – India was one of the founders of the alliance-free movement – the country had a warm relationship with the Soviet Union. The two countries entered into a friendship and cooperation agreement in 1971 and Nehru adopted the Soviet plan-economy model.

Relationships changed after the collapse of communism in 1989–1991. The same cordiality does not exist in India’s relationship with today’s Russia, though it is good. India, for example, buys Russian fighter planes and other military equipment, and the Russians help the Indians build nuclear power plants. Under Russian President Vladimir Putin from 2000, cooperation between the countries has been expanded in defense, trade and counter-terrorism. However, Russia is irritatingly looking at how India is approaching the US.

Clueless attitude to China

While India, like many other countries, would like to take part in China’s foreign investment and the huge Chinese market, competition between India and China on the political level has increased significantly in the 2000s and especially in the 2010s. The confrontation is most evident when China approaches the region that India sees as its own backyard: South Asia.

China’s long-standing and good relations with Pakistan have been an obstacle to a closer relationship between India and China. India, in particular, has turned to China to help Pakistan acquire nuclear weapons. More recently, China’s infrastructure investment in Pakistan, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, CPEC), has challenged India. The CPEC project will connect western China with Pakistani ports on the Bay of Bengal.

Another blockade was created by the short war with China in 1962 over the Arunachal Pradesh border area in the Himalayas. The war ended in a humiliating defeat for India. A visit by Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi to Beijing in 1988 can be said to have been a turning point. Then a trade agreement was concluded, and the two countries began to discuss the border disputes in the Himalayas.

In 1993, an agreement was signed to work to reduce tensions along the border, but India’s nuclear test in 1998 caused a major setback. In 2003, a thunderstorm occurred when India acknowledged China’s supremacy over Tibet, but the fact that India houses the Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama (and has given him political asylum) and a Tibetan exile government in Dharamsala is a continuing dispute.

However, China has abandoned all claims to Sikkim, an area between Bhutan and Nepal that is now part of India. A special commission has been set up to solve remaining border problems and in July 2006, a mountain pass was opened symbolically between India and China – part of the old trade route Silk Road. In October 2013, India and China signed an agreement on border defense cooperation with the aim of avoiding confrontations in the disputed joint border areas in the Himalayas. When a year later, Chinese President Xi Jinping visited India, a series of cooperation agreements were concluded, including on Chinese investment in India’s railways and on trade, space research and nuclear energy for peaceful use.

In June 2017, a crisis arose when China’s army began road works on the Doklam Plateau on the China-Bhutan border. India supports Bhutan’s claim on Doklam, which in practice is controlled by China. India sent soldiers to the area and a post war started which was first interrupted in August 2017 when India first withdrew its forces, and China then did the same. Road work now stands for the feet and the border conflict is unresolved.

In the spring of 2020 several hundred, according to some sources, several thousands of Chinese soldiers entered Indian Ladakh at the disputed border between India and China. Soldiers from both sides were involved in paratroopers at some point and both countries supplied heavy artillery and other military equipment to the border area. Tensions had increased between the countries in the area since India in August 2019 divided the state of Jammu and Kashmir into the federally controlled Union Territories Ladakh as well as Jammu and Kashmir. India believes that the China-controlled region of Aksai Chin is part of Ladakh. India’s construction of a new highway to a military base in the area worries Beijing, which has therefore moved troops there. Diplomatic talks are held between the countries to find a solution to the tense situation. In May, a border dispute also flared up between the two countries of the Indian state of Sikkim, causing Chinese and Indian soldiers to be injured after stone-throwing and fighting. In June, at least 20 Indian soldiers were killed in a confrontation with Chinese soldiers along the checkpoint between Ladakh and Aksai Chin. The collision was described as the deadliest since the 1960s. It should not have happened with firearms, but with the additions like stones and iron pipes.

During the 2010s, countries such as Sri Lanka, Maldives, Bangladesh and Seychelles became more closely linked to China through loans and credits. With the economic ties, China has strengthened its influence in the Indian Ocean, a strategically important sea for trade in oil, among other things. India is watching the development with concern and is increasingly surrounded by China-dependent countries in its own neighborhood. India, the United States, France and China build runways and end up in island nations that were previously of no political significance. In this way you try to get a better military insight there. The United States has highlighted its interest in the area through its policy called The Indo-Pacific Idea.

Assistance to Afghanistan

India has good relations with the government of Kabul and sees Afghanistan as a key partner in the region. India is one of the largest donors in the reconstruction of war-torn Afghanistan. India is training Afghan government soldiers but has not contributed troops to the international forces. The Taliban does not infrequently attack Indian and Indian interests in Afghanistan.

The Taliban regime that took power in Afghanistan in 1996 was close to Pakistan. After its fall in 2001, relations between India and Afghanistan were strengthened. Under Afghan President Hamid Karzai, the Kabul government received extensive Indian assistance.

In July 2008, the Indian Embassy in Kabul was subjected to a terrorist attack and at least 41 people were killed, including four Indian diplomats and officials. In Afghan government circles, the Pakistani military intelligence service ISI was suspected of involvement in the act, which India later claimed to have evidence of. The Indian government condemned the act and declared it did not deter India from pursuing its support for Afghanistan.

Complicated relations with Bangladesh

India played a pivotal role in Bangladesh’s creation in 1971 and provides extensive credit to neighboring countries. Despite this, the relationship between the two countries has often been strained. The contradictions have included the exploitation of water resources in the common rivers (where, however, an agreement was reached in 1996), illegal immigration (see Conflicts in Northeast India) and smuggling from poorer Bangladesh to comparatively more prosperous India.

The conflicts have also stirred up Indian accusations that Bangladesh is protecting insurgents from the troubled northeastern India, as well as the border crossing in the Bay of Bengal, where there is believed to be significant amounts of gas and oil. In July 2014, the Permanent Arbitration Tribunal in The Hague granted Bangladesh the right to just over two-thirds of the sea area that the countries have disputed for decades. Both parties declared themselves satisfied with the outcome and the Government of India hoped it would foster economic relations between the countries.

In June 2015, Bangladesh and India signed a border agreement which meant that around 50,000 stateless villagers living in a number of enclaves along the common border had to choose which nationality they wanted to belong to. In August of the same year, the two countries changed control of 162 small enclaves (111 in Bangladesh and 51 in India). Most residents chose to stay where they lived. The question of the enclaves had helped to strain relations between the countries.

Sri Lanka, in the firing line between India and China

In Sri Lanka, India was drawn into the conflict between Tamils ​​and Sinhalese in the 1980s, when Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi supported the Tamil LTTE guerrillas (“the Tamil Tigers”). Her son Rajiv tried to persuade the parties to reach a settlement and in 1987 India sent a peacekeeping force of over 50,000 men to Sri Lanka to enforce it. In the spring of 1990, the last Indian soldiers were withdrawn.

India has since been careful to stay out of neighboring ethnic conflict. The Indian state of Tamil Nadu has received large numbers of Tamil refugees, which it has tried to send back, which has proved to be a lengthy process. More recently, the economic relations between India and Sri Lanka have been strengthened.

In November 2013, India’s Prime Minister Singh boycotted the Commonwealth Annual Meeting in Colombo in protest at Sri Lanka’s failure to accept the outside world’s demands for an independent investigation into allegations of serious human rights violations committed by the military during the end of the civil war in 2009 (see Sri Lanka: Modern History).

During President Mahinda Rajapaksa 2009–2015, Sri Lanka was increasingly drawn to China through Chinese loans and infrastructure investments. Developments are worrying about India, so when Maithripala Sirisena triumphed over Rajapaksa in the Sri Lankan presidential elections in 2015, hopes of a closer ties with India rose. However, Sri Lanka is heavily indebted to China and its close relations with Beijing have continued.

“Buffer States” Nepal and Bhutan

India regards Nepal and Bhutan in the Himalayas as buffers between themselves and China. India has had great influence over the politics and economy of neighboring countries over the years.

In 1989, relations with Nepal deteriorated significantly due to a trade dispute. India then closed border crossings for coastal Nepal. It was not until the middle of the 1990s that the conflict was resolved. India has also later used this means of pressure, including in 2015 when Nepal would adopt a new constitution that Indian-friendly Madhasians in southern Nepal considered to be disadvantageous to them. Many felt that India gave unofficial support to the Madhesi people when in protest they blocked off roads into India. The conflict ended in February 2016 after an addition was made to the constitution.

The Maoist uprising in Nepal from the 1990s was a major concern for India, which is also drawn with Maoist insurgency (see Naxali uprising). After the peace agreement in 2006, when the Maoists prevailed in an election in Nepal, good relations could still be established.

In an attempt to balance China’s growing influence, Modi has become increasingly interested in Nepal. When he traveled to the country in 2014, it was the first time in 17 years that an Indian government chief visited Nepal. During a visit in 2018, Modi chose to travel to the city of Janakpur, central city of Nepal’s only province of Madhic rule.

India has a great influence over Bhutan through a 1949 agreement that gives India largely the supremacy of the small kingdom’s foreign policy. When the agreement was renegotiated in 2007, Bhutan had a bit more to say about it. In 2010, China has tried to forge stronger ties with Bhutan, which has caused concern in India. Exports of hydropower to India is one of Bhutan’s most important income. India supports Bhutan in its claim on Doklam on the border with China (see above).

Other relationships of importance

India and Japan have been approaching each other as China has grown in strength. India receives favorable loans from Japan, which has among other things delivered fast trains to India. Japan, along with Australia, participates in military exercises between the United States and India on the Indian Malabar Coast in the west. The countries also cooperate in the energy field.

India’s relations with Israel were complicated for a long time, but the contacts between the two countries became sealed during the 2010s when several bilateral cooperation agreements in trade and technology were concluded. India also buys weapons from Israel.

India buys around 80 percent of its oil from Iran. In 2018, India took over part of the port of Chabahar in Iran.

When Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited India in February 2018, it took a whole week before he could meet Prime Minister Modi or any other high-ranking government representative. The backdrop was India’s anger that Canada put a Sikh extremist on the invitation list for an official dinner with Trudeau in Bombay (Mumbai). The Sikh had previously been a member of a banned separatist group and sentenced to 20 years in prison in Canada for attempted murder of an Indian prime minister in Canada in 1986. The man was later removed from the invitation list by Canada. In India there is a widespread belief that Trudeau is too friendly towards Sikh separatists. About half a million Sikhs live in Canada.

Relations with France are good. When French President Macron visited India in March 2018, the two countries signed a comprehensive security agreement for the Indian Ocean region. The purpose was to counterbalance China’s growing influence in the region. The agreement means that India and France will open their naval bases in the region for each other’s naval battleships. The two countries also signed an agreement on French technical support for the construction of a nuclear power plant in Jaitapur, Maharashtra. Macron also promised increased aid for India’s ambitious investment in solar power.

India has had a strained relationship with Myanmar (formerly Burma) due to the fact that Indian rebels in the Northeast are crossing the border into the neighboring country and seeking refuge there. In recent years, however, India has approached Myanmar which is rich in minerals. India educates Myanmar judges and assists in upgrading the port of Sittwe in Rakhine.

Regional and international organizations

India belongs to the so-called Brics countries, which also include Russia, China, Brazil and South Africa. Brics has its own development bank (New Development Bank, NDB), which will be a competitor to the World Bank and the IMF.

An expression of India’s quest for cooperation with its neighbors is the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc), which was formed in 1985. Members include India, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Maldives, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. However, over the years, Saarc’s operations have been hampered by the India-Pakistan conflict.

Another regional cooperation organization is Bimstec (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation). Together with Pakistan, India 2017 joined the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) regional cooperation organization.


The Indian Army is one of the largest in the world, much because of the situation in Kashmir. In recent decades, India has been investing in a major upgrading of the armed forces, which is now relatively modern and has an increased focus on and equipment to fight terrorism. India is the world’s second largest arms importer after Saudi Arabia and accounts for close to a tenth of purchases.

The military service is voluntary, although the constitution says that all citizens have a duty to apply for military service if they are called.

In 2015, India and the United States signed a 10-year framework agreement for defense cooperation. The two countries will, among other things, be assisted in developing and manufacturing defense equipment and technology.

In November 2017, India had 1.2 million men in the army, just over 58,000 men in the Navy and just over 127,000 men in the Air Force. The coastguard was made up of almost 10,000 men. There were more than 1.1 million people in the reserve. The semi-military forces consisted of 1.6 million people, of which just over 250,000 were found in a Border Security Force in Jammu and Kashmir.

India has a military unit on the Andaman and Nicobar Islands to guard the country’s interests as far as the Strait of Malacca in Southeast Asia.

READING TIP – read more about India in UI’s web magazine The Foreign
Magazine: Old frontier behind increased tension India-China (2020-06-17)

About our sources


Army: 1 200 000 men (2017)

The air Force: 127,200 people (2017)

The fleet: 58 350 men (2017)

Military expenditure’s share of GDP: 2.5 percent (2017)

Military spending’s share of the state budget: 9.1 percent (2017)

East Timor Defense and Foreign Policy

East Timor Defense and Foreign Policy

Foreign policy and defense

Based on geographical map from Digopaul, East Timor is a nation in Southeastern Asia. Its capital city is Dili. East Timor has, since independence in May 2002, prioritized good relations with the former occupation power Indonesia. Already in July of that year, a plan for economic cooperation was established and Indonesia is now one of the country’s most important trading partners. Relations with Australia have been complicated, partly because of a dispute over the boundary line in the oil and gas-rich sea that separates the countries.

east timor military spending and defense budget

East Timor has agreed to agree with Indonesia on the border demarcation between the countries, among other things in order to gain access to the East Timorian exclave Oekussi in West Timor. A definitive border agreement was signed in 2005. The government of Dili has also been adversely affected by the demands of the outside world on Indonesia to legally probe citizens suspected of involvement in the 1999 wave of violence and the establishment of an international tribunal for East Timor.

  • Countryaah: Overview of business holidays and various national observances in East Timor for years of 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023, 2024 and 2025.

Relations with Australia are strained, partly because Australians acknowledged Indonesia’s supremacy over East Timor during the occupation. Hard negotiations have been going on between East Timor and Australia on the rights to oil and gas fields in Lake Timor, which separate the countries. East Timor demanded that the border go between the countries, which would mean that East Timor became the owner of almost all oil and gas deposits. However, Australia considered that an agreement with the Government of Indonesia from 1972 should apply. According to this, most of the mineral deposits are in Australian waters.

In 2006, the countries agreed to settle the border conflict for 50 years and until then divide equally the income from this part of Lake Timor. But when Australia, in leaked secret documents, was accused of eavesdropping East Timorese representatives during the negotiations, East Timor turned in 2013 to the United Nations International Court of Justice in The Hague (ICJ) to try to have the agreement annulled. In March 2019, the two countries signed an agreement on the border crossing at sea, where East Timor received most of the oil and gas fields.

Australia is also an important aid donor and has also led both the UN Interfet force 1999–2002 and participated in the UN operation Unmiset 2002-2005. Australia also led the international force that was deployed in East Timor 2006-2012.

East Timor has, since the 1999 wave of violence, received large sums in the form of aid from other countries. However, aid has declined as revenue from the country’s oil and gas industry has grown. A number of countries have completely phased out their bilateral assistance, including Sweden. For the financial year 2004/2005, East Timor managed for the first time to cover central government expenditure with its own assets.

East Timor has good relations with China, which already in 1975 acknowledged the independence of the territory. China was also the first country to establish diplomatic relations with the new nation in 2002.

The Dili governments have since been striving to strengthen East Timor’s regional relations. In 2011, the country applied for membership in ASEAN. The application was supported by several countries, including Indonesia, but Singapore hesitated because it feared that East Timor did not have sufficient resources to cope with membership. Asean commissioned an investigation into East Timor’s application and gave the country observer status.


The defense was built at the beginning of the 2000s under UN supervision and consists of about 2,200 soldiers, divided into an army and a small naval force.

In May 2004, the government assumed responsibility for the country’s security and the last UN peacekeeping troops left East Timor a year later. In connection with the 2006 unrest, an Australian-led peacekeeping UN force of around 1,000 men was reinstated. The force was taken home at the end of 2012, when security in East Timor was judged to be sufficiently good.

The defense has been trained by the Portuguese and Australian military. Several of the soldiers in the former Falintil guerrillas have been retrained and joined the new defense force. Many of them have received financial compensation from the state to facilitate their conversion to civilian life. Falintil was formally dissolved in 2011.


Army: 1 250 men (2017)

The fleet: 80 men (2017)

Military expenditure’s share of GDP: 0.9 percent (2017)

Military spending’s share of the state budget: 1.7 percent (2017)



Twenty-seven are indicted for the attempted murder

Twenty-seven people are indicted for involvement in the assassination attempts of President Ramos Horta and Prime Minister Gusmão.


“Peace in exchange for impunity”

On the anniversary of the assassination attempts, the International Crisis Group publishes a report in which the think tank states that security in East Timor has increased substantially during the past year, but that it was at the expense of a legal settlement with the perpetrators behind the attacks. The government has negotiated peace in exchange for impunity for the rebels. At the same time, the large refugee camps formed around Dili in connection with the 2006 unrest have largely disappeared since people dared to return home. The streets of Dili are calm and the soldiers deserted from the army in the spring of 2006 (see Modern History) have returned to duty. However, the UN police and foreign soldiers remain in the country.

Cyprus Defense and Foreign Policy

Cyprus Defense and Foreign Policy

Foreign policy and defense

Based on geographical map from Digopaul, Cyprus is a nation in Western Asia. Its capital city is Nicosia. Cyprus’s foreign policy is mainly shaped by the relationship between Greece and Turkey, which is complicated by the question of Turkey’s possible EU membership. The world’s interest in the oil and gas deposits that are believed to be in the sea around Cyprus has led to closer cooperation with countries in the Middle East. In Greek Cypriot southern Cyprus, Russia’s influence is growing.

cyprus military spending and defense budget

On the Greek side, there is now hardly any talk of enosis (Cyprus’s association with Greece), but the ties between Greece and the Greek Cypriots are strong.

  • Countryaah: Overview of business holidays and various national observances in Cyprus for years of 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023, 2024 and 2025.

Even stronger is the Turkish Cypriots’ ties to Turkey, the only country to recognize the self-proclaimed Turkish Cypriot state. After Cyprus became an EU member in 2004, cautious attempts by the Turkish Cypriot side to make a little greater independence towards Turkey were made. In the autumn of 2005, for example, the first military maneuver was held in northern Cyprus where no troops from Turkey participated.

The EU issue complicates the relationship between Turkey and Cyprus. Turkey does not recognize the Greek Cypriot government, although Turkey must do so if it wants to join the EU. The Greek Cypriots are trying to exploit Cyprus’ membership of the EU to force Turkey to recognize their government. The tendency seems to be that every round of negotiations between Turkey and the EU includes compromises with the Greek Cypriot government in order not to veto Turkey.

NATO and the United States

The NATO and US nations have their own military interests in Cyprus. The United States has a radar station in the Troodos massif in the south, and Britain has since the colonial period two military bases on the island. Many Greek Cypriots suspected that the US intelligence service CIA was involved in the 1974 coup d’état (see Modern History) and the subsequent Turkish invasion.

In order to encourage the Cypriots to reach a negotiated settlement, the United Kingdom has promised to return half of the land it owns in the event of a conflict resolution. The land shall be distributed among the parties. However, the bases should remain.

Agreement on sea borders

To enable sample drilling for oil under the seabed in the eastern Mediterranean, the Greek Cypriot government in 2006 signed an agreement with Egypt, and later with Lebanon, on how to delimit the Cyprus economic zone. Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots protested against being consulted, claiming that exploration is illegal as long as the island is divided.

In March 2018, tensions increased as Turkey for several weeks tried to stop an Italian company from searching for oil and natural gas in disputed waters outside Cyprus. The EU condemned Turkey’s actions, which led to Turkey-EU irritation. Cyprus paid tribute to the EU’s condemnation.

In the fall of 2019, the situation worsened again after Turkey sent a ship to drill for gas off the southern coast of Cyprus in areas of the economic sea zone where the Cypriot government has already granted rights to drill to French and Italian companies. Turkey has claimed that some of the areas in which Cyprus drills are either in the Turkish continental shelf or in areas where Turkish Cypriots have equal rights to deposits. In early 2020, the EU sanctioned Turkey for test drilling already done.

Cooperation with Israel

The Greek Cypriot government’s relations with Israel during the 21st century have gone from strained to good – in almost exactly the opposite of Turkish-Israeli relations. Not least, the cooperation is about Israeli interest in joint exploitation of gas and oil deposits under the sea between the countries. In 2010, protests came from Turkey against an agreement between Cyprus and Israel on economic zones at sea. The Turks did not claim to have their own claims in the sea area, their demands were that the Turkish Cypriots should be included in the negotiations. In 2012, Cyprus and Israel also signed an agreement on defense and intelligence work. In early 2020, Cyprus, Israel and Greece signed an agreement to build a 190-mile gas pipeline to transport natural gas from Israeli and Cypriot gas fields to Europe.

Loans from Russia

Russia’s influence over the Greek part of Cyprus grew in the early 2010s. In 2011, Russia came to the rescue with a crisis loan of EUR 2.5 billion as the island’s economy began to decline. Russia has made major investments in Cyprus, but there have been suspicions in the EU that a significant portion of this money came from organized crime and that they were “washed” through the Cypriot banking system and then reinvested in Russia. In the context of the 2012 economic crisis, the Cypriot banking sector was regulated and the country’s days in which tax havens seemed to be over.

The EU and the US also suspect Russia of using Cyprus as an intermediary for arms deliveries to the Middle East, mainly Syria and Iran. The Russian intelligence service is also believed to use Cyprus as a base for its operations in the Middle East.

Cyprus and the EU

In 1990, the Greek Cypriot government applied for EC membership (EU from November 1993). In 1995, Greece was promised by other EU countries that membership negotiations would begin with Cyprus. In exchange, Greece refrained from vetoing a customs union between the EU and Turkey. When in 1997 the EU invited Cyprus to negotiate, only the internationally recognized Greek Cypriot government was intended. However, the negotiations formally involved membership for the entire island.

Since the issue of reunification was unresolved when Cyprus joined the EU in May 2004, EU laws only applied to the southern Greek Cypriot part of the island.

At the same time, the European Commission proposed a package of measures to break the isolation of the Turkish Cypriots, without recognizing the Turkish Cypriot Republic. The package included assistance and proposals to allow direct trade between the EU and the Turkish Cypriots. However, the Greek Cypriot government raised objections with the argument that trade with Turkish Cypriots would mean acknowledging their state. By blocking the entire package of measures, the Greek Cypriots were able to freeze half of the proposed aid until 2006.

In July 2005, a few months before Turkey was given the go-ahead to start its own EU membership negotiations, Turkey pledged to open its ports and airports for Cypriot vessels and aircraft. However, the Turks have not yet fulfilled the promise, but they argue that the isolation of Northern Cyprus must first be broken.


Cyprus is one of the world’s most militarized areas. More than 30,000 soldiers from Turkey are estimated to be in northern Cyprus. The Turkish military on the island has also had a significant political influence. It does not obey the Turkish Cypriot authorities but is under the command of its own general staff. A formal defense pact exists between Turkey and the Turkish Cypriot “state”.

The Greek Cypriot government has a defense pact with Greece. At Paphos in the southwest, a military air base was inaugurated in 1998, which the Greek Air Force may also use. The previous recurring military exercises between Greeks and Greeks on the one hand (southern Cyprus) and Turks and Turkish Cypriots (on the north) on the other were down in 2001–2005, as they sought to facilitate UN reunification negotiations.

The Greek Cypriot Defense Force (National Guard) is a combination of ground, air and naval forces as well as special forces and consists of around 12,000 men. For men between the ages of 18 and 50 there is general military duty, which for most people lasts for 24 months.

Since 1964, the UN has a peacekeeping force in Cyprus, UNFICYP (UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus). UN troops patrol an 18-mile buffer zone between northern and southern Cyprus. The width of the zone varies between seven kilometers and a few meters. Since the division of the island in 1974, the task of the UN troops has been to prevent open war. However, in practice, the peace force would not have been an effective obstacle if either side really wanted to attack. In March 2016, the UN had 995 military, 68 police and 33 civilian foreign workers on the island. Until 1987, Sweden had a battalion in Unficyp.


Army: 15,000 men (2017)

Military expenditure’s share of GDP: 1.9 percent (2017)

Military spending’s share of the state budget: 5.0 percent (2017)

China Defense and Foreign Policy

China Defense and Foreign Policy

Foreign policy and defense

Based on geographical map from Digopaul, China is a nation in Eastern Asia. Its capital city Beijing. Having been low for over two decades as it built up its economic and military strength, China has seriously taken the step into the world arena as a leading player. Foreign policy has become more active and contentious and the country has strengthened its presence both regionally and globally. The reversal is portrayed by the Chinese leadership as part of realizing the dream of China’s national rebirth.

china military spending and defense budget

When Xi Jinping began his second term in power in 2017–2018, the new, changed foreign policy was presented. Now it was no longer the former leader Deng Xiaoping’s slogan to “hide their abilities and bide their time” and to “not try to take the lead” that applied but instead Xi’s guidelines that China should actively defend its interests and try to influence internationally with its approach. The goal was to make China even stronger, which would also happen by continuing the ongoing upgrading and modernization of the armed forces (see below) and by developing new partnerships and alliances. At the same time, it was considered important for China to act as a responsible superpower.

  • Countryaah: Overview of business holidays and various national observances in China for years of 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023, 2024 and 2025.

According to, China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) plays an important role in achieving the new goals. The giant investment on new “silk roads” is about connecting Chinese infrastructure and facilitating trade and transport between Asia, Europe and Africa. BRI consists of a land-based part that was launched in 2013 and partly by investments in extensive shipping routes, ports and other offshore infrastructure. The Silk Road Initiative is intended to generate thousands of billions of SEK in investment around the world. China has gladly presented it as a development project to help the outside world and developing countries increase their prosperity and build important infrastructure. However, it is mainly financed through Chinese loans to participating countries.

Increased rivalry with other major powers

China’s ongoing global expansion has been met by suspicions from the EU, US, Japan and India. Not least is it worrying that the Chinese leadership has said it wants to influence and change the global regime that rules the world and wants to emphasize its economic and political system as an alternative to liberal democracy in the Western world.

At the same time, it has also been seen from many parts of the world that China has taken a more active role internationally and, not least, participated more in UN contexts and been willing to take on greater responsibility in peacekeeping operations.

Despite the new focus, many foreign policy priorities remain, not least the emphasis on China’s territorial claims on Taiwan and island groups in the South and East China Seas (see below); these are still identified as “core interests”.

Relations with Russia

When the People’s Republic was born in 1949, the United States supported the rival Chinese regime in Taiwan and sought to isolate the new communist state on the mainland. China instead allied with the Soviet Union and became dependent on Soviet military and economic aid. But the ideological divide between Moscow and Beijing grew, and China accused the Russians of pursuing world domination. Short but bloody battles were fought in 1969 at the Amur (Heilongjiang) border.

A groundbreaking Beijing visit by President Richard Nixon in 1972 initiated a US-China approach. In 1979, the relationship was completely normalized since the US agreed to break with Taiwan. During the 1980s, China sought to have friendly ties to both the United States and the Soviet Union, but it was not until Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev’s China visit in 1989 that Chinese-Soviet relations were fully re-established. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, China recognized the independence of the former Soviet republics. Several old Russian-Chinese disputes over the 430-mile-long border in the east ended in the 1990s and in 2008, the countries could also file a dispute over two islands.

Relations with Russia are important to China today, not least because of the import of Russian oil and natural gas. When the West imposed sanctions on Russia following its conquest of the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine in 2014, Moscow intensified its cooperation with Beijing, not least when it came to trade. Under a 2014 agreement, China will buy large quantities of Russian gas over a 30-year period. Since then, China and Russia have also increased their coordination on security issues and their military cooperation through joint exercises and arms purchases.

The other Central Asian neighboring countries are also important from an energy point of view for China, which also cooperates with them and Russia within the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, where India and Pakistan have also been involved since 2017. In the framework of this regional cooperation, China and Russia have conducted joint military exercises.

Relations with the United States

The great economic exchange between the US and China has made the countries increasingly politically dependent on each other. Relations improved in the 1990s and the first decade of the 2000s, interrupting two political crises: NATO’s bombing of China’s embassy in Belgrade in 1999 during the Defense Alliance’s air war against Yugoslavia, and an incident in 2001 when a US signal plan was forced to land on Hainan Island after colliding in international airspace with a Chinese fighter plane. China’s support in the US global fight against terrorism and its initially active role as mediator in negotiations with North Korea on its nuclear weapons program helped to strengthen US-Chinese relations. At the same time, relations were complicated by many issues. For the US, it was China’s human rights violations, Foreign Trade).

During the global financial crisis of 2008, the weaknesses of the US economy became evident at the same time as China emerged as stronger than ever through its holdings of US securities for hundreds of billions of dollars and its gigantic foreign exchange reserves. After Xi Jinping’s accession as new Chinese president in 2013, relations became more strained. Beijing rejected US plans to increase its involvement in East Asia, which was seen as a way to prevent China from regaining its rightful superpower role in the region. The US, for its part, criticized China’s actions in the South and East China Seas (see below). The fact that China’s military was identified as being involved in cyberattacks and espionage against US companies and newspapers did not facilitate contacts between the countries.

Since Donald Trump’s inclusion as US President in 2017, tensions have gradually increased between countries. The US national security strategy from the same year marks a clear shift in the view of China, which is presented as a direct threat to US security and welfare. At the end of the 2010s, a trade war broke out between the two giants (see Foreign Trade). But it is not only China’s economic progress that is worrying the United States, but also the Chinese development of the high-tech industry: several Chinese companies today are world leaders in artificial intelligence and telecommunications, among others. In the late 2010s, the United States did everything it could to prevent Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei from building new mobile networks, 5G, in various countries and stopping its equipment from being used by US companies. Huawei has been behind the 5G rollout in a large number of countries, not least among those participating in the Silk Road Initiative. Washington has warned that the company could be used by Beijing for spying, which Huawei firmly denies, and the United States has pushed for US partner countries, not least in Europe, to stop the company.

The fact that the US continues to join behind Taiwan has contributed to the sometimes frosty relations (see below). China’s actions in relation to North Korea have also been a cause of US irritation. China has been criticized by the US for not doing enough to pressure North Korea to suspend its nuclear weapons program. North Korea has been a close ally of China since the end of the Cold War. Beijing has supported UN sanctions against North Korea, but Chinese leaders have not wanted to resort to overly harsh methods to avoid the collapse of the Pyongyang regime. Not least, in China, there is a strong concern about a refugee storm into the country across the common border. But the Chinese leadership is also worried about a scenario where a future reunited Korea, like South Korea today, is allied with the United States (see North Korea:Foreign Policy and Defense and South Korea respectively: Foreign Policy and Defense).

Taiwan issue

The Taiwan issue is central to China-US relations as well as to Chinese contacts with the rest of the world. China’s leaders have wanted to use the model that applied to Hong Kong’s incorporation into China, “one country, two systems” (see Hong Kong), also with regard to Taiwan. The Chinese leadership formally considers its counterpart in Taiwan as an illegal outbreak regime and seems reluctant to allow the island to be incorporated into China again. China has been a member of the UN with a permanent seat on the Security Council since the World Organization was founded in 1945. However, the country was long represented by the Taiwan regime. It was not until 1971 that the People’s Republic of China could take office in the UN at Taiwan’s expense.

In 1996, Chinese military maneuvers outside Taiwan were close to triggering an international crisis. Tensions increased again in 2004 after Taiwan’s president proposed a referendum on a new constitution. The following year, the National People’s Congress passed a law that allowed the use of military force “if Taiwan were to proclaim its independence”. Since Taiwan received a Beijing-friendly regime in 2008, contacts improved significantly. An agreement on fixed air services between China and Taiwan was reached in the same year and in 2010, the parties concluded a trade facilitation agreement. In 2014, the first official talks were held at the government level between China and Taiwan since 1949. The meeting agreed to establish a fixed direct channel for communication between the governments.

After the change of power in Taiwan 2016, the climate between China and Taiwan became icy cold. Beijing highlighted its dissatisfaction with the new Taiwanese leadership, which has clearly taken a stand for Taiwan’s independent position under President Tsai Ing-wen, by suspending official contacts with Taipei from the summer of 2016, while also beginning to counter Taiwan’s participation in international organizations and conferences. A successful diplomatic war, often with the help of economic lure, was also launched to persuade the few countries that had official relations with Taiwan to break with Taipei and instead cultivate relations with Beijing (see also Taiwan: Foreign Policy and Defense). At the beginning of 2018, President Xi Jinping reiterated that Beijing does not exclude the military force of Taiwan from uniting Taiwan with the People’s Republic. After the re-election of Tsai ing-wen as Taiwan’s president in January 2020, most of it indicated that relations would continue to be tense.

The US has long protected Taiwan from attempts at military takeovers from the mainland. US arms sales to Taiwan have caused tensions between China and the US. At the same time, the United States has made it clear that it does not support Taiwanese independence aspirations and opposes attempts to change the current security balance.

Southeast Asian neighbors

Contacts with the countries of the South East Asian cooperation organization Asean have improved since China began cooperation with the organization in the 1990s and from 2010, China and Asean have a common free trade area.

But there is concern among Southeast Asian neighbors that China will use its economic and military superiority to assert its right to disputed marine areas, islands and reefs in the oil and gas-rich South China Sea. The sea is also an important source of fish and it is also of great importance for international trade and shipping, as a significant proportion of world trade is transported by cargo vessels via these waters. During the 2010s, tensions in the sea area increased. China and Vietnam dispute the right to the Paracel Islands (which China conquered from Vietnam in 1974) and patrol boats and fishing vessels from both countries have been involved in various skirmishes. Chinese oil drilling off the archipelago during the 2010s has led to seafront confrontations,

The confrontations around the Spratly archipelago, which China claims to conflict with, among others, Vietnam, the Philippines and Indonesia, increased from the end of the 1990s and during the beginning of the 2010s as China increased activity in the area and the tone. In 2007, the Chinese military lowered a Vietnamese fishing boat that China considered to be in Chinese territorial waters near the archipelago. 2012 saw a confrontation between Philippine and Chinese military boats since Chinese fishermen were spotted at the Scarborough reef. China has also since 2013 collected sand from the seabed placed on the reefs in the archipelago to reinforce and expand them. Towards the end of the 2010s, it was discovered that China had built robot defenses, runways and military radar and communications facilities on some of the reefs in the Paracel and Sprat Islands.

China’s actions have partly resulted in the counterparties increasingly seeking support from the US. On the American side, there has been sharp criticism of Beijing’s militarization of the disputed areas. The United States has allowed US military ships to pass through the South China Sea in special operations to safeguard “freedom of navigation,” as a way to keep the sea open for international shipping.

The fact that China refused to deal with the border disputes through international dispute resolution and demanded that it all be resolved bilaterally has worsened the situation. The Philippines took the matter to the UN Permanent Arbitration Tribunal in The Hague in 2013, which 2016 stated that the Chinese claims “have no legal basis”. However, China announced that it did not accept the decision. Just a year after the verdict, the new President of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, agreed to discuss the issue bilaterally. Cooperation began in a number of areas and the Philippines was promised large loans by China. Towards the end of the 2010s, the conflict with Vietnam had also somewhat mitigated.

The Asian countries have for several years discussed introducing a so-called code of conduct in the South China Sea. By the end of the 2010s, it looked like a breakthrough had been reached in the negotiations and Beijing declared in 2019 ready to participate in the drafting of the code, which should not only contain guidelines for conduct but also for conflict management.

Relations with India and Japan

Competition between China and India has increased in recent years as countries grow in economic and military strength while increasing their influence in the region. In 2003, India and China succeeded in solving parts of the border conflict that has been going on since 1962, when India lost a brief border war. China has formally filed claims against the Indian state of Sikkim. The countries have extensive trade exchanges and have carried out joint military exercises, although some border issues are still unresolved. In 2013, India and China signed an agreement on border defense cooperation with the aim of avoiding confrontations in the disputed joint border regions in the Himalayas. In 2017, the border conflict flared up between the two countries again as India accused China of building roads in disputed territory. Since then, several meetings have been held between India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Xi Jinping, which has eased tensions. However, relations are disturbed by China’s cooperation with India’s arch-enemy Pakistan, including through the Silk Road Initiative, while a battle for influence in the Indian Ocean is underway. Beijing is also eagerly watching India allow Tibetan exile government and religious leader Dalai Lama to operate in the country.

Japan is one of China’s largest trading partners, but historical scars from the war in the 1930s and 1940s are difficult to heal. Popular protests against Japan have flared up at regular intervals, for example in 2005 when a newly published Japanese textbook was considered to neglect Japanese violations during the war years. Also, Japanese politicians’ visit to the Yasukunite Temple in Tokyo, which honors Japanese soldiers who died in World War II, has contributed to frosty relations between the countries during the early 2000s.

Japan and China have an unsolved conflict over the Diaoyu archipelago (Senkaku in Japanese). The eight uninhabited islands are controlled by Japan, but China and Taiwan also claim them. The sea border between Japan and China is also disputed. In 2010, diplomatic relations were temporarily suspended between the countries after a dispute arose after a Chinese fishing boat collided with two Japanese military vessels near the disputed islands. The conflict was renewed in 2012 after the Japanese government decided to buy some of the disputed islands by a private owner. In 2013, China introduced a Special Flight Zone (ADIZ) in the East China Sea, including the disputed archipelago, where aircraft were required to report their presence. Japan filed an official protest while South Korea and the United States criticized the zone. Tensions around the archipelago have continued as Beijing allows Chinese vessels to pass in the waters near the archipelago. At the same time, there was a thaw in relations between China and Japan towards the end of the 2010s and in October 2018, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe came to Beijing for the first bilateral summit in seven years.

Arms exports and defense

During the late 2010s, China has invested more defense resources than any other country in the world, close to the United States. Over the decade, the defense budget has increased by about 10 percent each year. The goal is for the country to be counted as a world-class military force in 2049, when the republic celebrates its centenary.

The military defense force, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), is an important force in China. The importance of retaining control of the armed forces has been highlighted by Xi Jinping, who has secured both the party and its own leadership over the PLA, including through reorganizations. The highest state defense body is the Central Military Commission. The Communist Party also has a military commission. Xi Jinping is chairman of both. In 2013, a national security commission, also under the leadership of Xi Jinping, was also appointed to develop security strategies for both internal and external security.

During the first decades of the People’s Republic, the military was an outspoken mass army whose sheer size, close to five million men, would deter attackers. Since then, the army has more than halved in a process where China’s defense is made more flexible, high-tech and mobile. A special rocket force has been formed as well as a space and cyber unit that is also responsible for electronic warfare. While the emphasis has been on the army, the fleet and the air force have been expanded. The fleet today has a large number of military vessels and submarines.

China detonated its first nuclear bomb in 1964 and a hydrogen bomb three years later. Today, the country is considered to have hundreds of nuclear weapons that can reach large parts of Asia, most of them land-based but also a number that can be fired from submarines. After a test explosion in 1996, China launched a voluntary stop for its nuclear weapons tests.

In 2010, China conducted a test of a missile defense system, demonstrating how far it has advanced in advanced weapons technology. This also includes the development of missile-powered submarines, warships, various unmanned robotic aircraft, so-called drones, and combat aircraft. Test flights in 2011 with a new fighter aircraft, the J20, the acquisition of a former Soviet aircraft carrier that was refurbished, as well as the development of a domestic aircraft carrier, were further signs of China’s growing military strength. The military is also said to invest in cyber warfare and cyber espionage.

During the 2000s, relations with many developing countries were guided by China’s growing energy and raw material needs. Chinese investment in and trade with African and Latin American countries has increased, as have China’s arms exports to these states.

China began participating in peacekeeping UN operations in the early 1990s. In the early 2000s, the country increased its participation in various UN operations, mainly involving non-military personnel. Towards the end of the 2010s, China was also increasingly contributing with the military to more UN operations.

In 2017, the military established its first military base outside China in Djibouti on the Horn of Africa. The intention was to facilitate Chinese troops to participate in operations against pirates off the Somali coast and in the Gulf of Aden.

Since 1989, the EU has been carrying an arms embargo on China since the shooting of Tiananmen Square in 1989. The United States also has a ban on arms sales to the country.

READING TIP – read more about China in UI’s web magazine Foreign magazine :
China wants to join and exploit the Arctic’s opportunities (2017-12-04)
Xi Jinping’s China wants to take the main stage in the world (2017-11-07)

DEVELOPING about China is also in World Politics Day Issues China’s New Silk Road – Century Project (No. 10 2018) About our sources


Army: 975 000 Man (2017)

The air Force: 395 000 men (2017)

The fleet: 240 000 men (2017)

Military expenditure’s share of GDP: 1.9 percent (2017)

Military spending’s share of the state budget: 6.1 percent (2017)

Cambodia Defense and Foreign Policy

Cambodia Defense and Foreign Policy

Foreign policy and defense

Based on geographical map from Digopaul, Cambodia is a nation in Southeastern Asia. Its capital city is Phnom Penh. Cambodia is sandwiched between two political and cultural superpowers in the region – Thailand and Vietnam – and has throughout history struggled to preserve their identity and self-government. Relations with neighboring countries have always been tense. Cambodia has also, in modern times, fallen victim to the war of global powers. In recent years, ties with China have strengthened as relations with the Western world deteriorate.

cambodia military spending and defense budget

Since 1999 Cambodia has been a member of the regional cooperation organization Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations). The country is believed to have been interested in membership not least as protection against Thailand and Vietnam, both of which are also members. At the same time, Cambodia has become increasingly dependent on China – which is not a member of ASEAN – and foreign policy is part of a balance between ASEAN and China.

  • Countryaah: Overview of business holidays and various national observances in Cambodia for years of 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023, 2024 and 2025.

There is a cultural boundary between Cambodia and Vietnam that Vietnam has tried to transcend for centuries by colonizing Cambodia and assimilating the Khmer population. After the 1979 invasion, when Vietnam expelled the Red Khmer, many Vietnamese immigrated to Cambodia to work. In addition, there were up to 200,000 Vietnamese soldiers in the country (see Modern History).

The Vietnamese occupation ended in 1989, but the suspicion against the neighboring country remains high and has been exploited by various political factions in Cambodia. The opposition often plays on anti-Vietnamese sentiments with threats of mass immigration, territorial claims and economic power. However, the government, dominated by the CPP party with roots in the Vietnam-backed regime after 1979, has a closer relationship with the neighbor. In 2005, Cambodia signed a border agreement with Vietnam. The agreement adjusted the border in six places and meant that Cambodia handed over smaller areas to the neighboring country.

Conflicts with Thailand

Thailand and Cambodia have much in common culturally, but political relations are obscured by several conflicts. Cambodia has difficulty forgetting Thailand’s support for weapons and transport to the Red Khmer during the 1975-1979 terror. How sensitive the relationship is when Cambodian crowds in 2003 set fire to the Thai embassy and vandalized Thai hotels, shops and restaurants in Phnom Penh after reports that a Thai movie star said Cambodia had stolen Angkor Vat Temple from Thailand.

Relations between Cambodia and Thailand reached a low-water mark in the fall of 2009 when the CPP government engaged Thailand’s exiled former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra as economic adviser. Thailand’s request to have Thaksin extradited was dismissed by Phnom Penh stating that the corruption verdict against him in his home country was “politically motivated”. However, Thaksin’s stay in Cambodia was short, only five days. In August 2010, Thaksin resigned from the disputed post and the diplomatic relations were restored.

With Thailand, Cambodia has also disagreed with an area around the temple ruins at Preah Vihear. Already in 1962, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled that the ruins belong to Cambodia, but the border demarcation in the area remained unclear. When the UN agency Unesco in 2008 included Preah Vihear on its World Heritage list, nationalist sentiments were swollen and troops were mobilized on both sides of the border. For a number of years, there were varied negotiations and screenings at the border. In 2011, the situation intensified with fighting in several places along the border, with dozens of dead soldiers as a result. Following international mediation, the parties agreed at the end of the year to withdraw their troops from the border. In November 2013, the ICJ decided that the disputed land areas around Preah Vihear belong to Cambodia, a decision that cannot be appealed and which both countries said they would accept.

Cambodia’s relations with Thailand were strained once again in May 2014 when Thaksin’s Shinawatra’s sister Yingluck Shinawatra was deposed as prime minister of Thailand in a military coup. The situation improved in December 2015 when Hun Sen visited Thailand for the first time in a decade and held talks with Thai colleague General Prayuth Chan-ocha.

China important partner

China supported the Red Khmer for a long time, but oscillated in the early 1990s and offered the Cambodian government military and financial support. Prime Minister Hun Sen has in recent years brought his country closer to China, which is now the main partner in aid, trade, investment and military support (see below). In particular, following the election victory contested by the Western world in 2013, the CPP government has become more closely associated with China, not least financially with support for primarily infrastructure and irrigation.

When Cambodia was Asean’s chairman in 2012, the country was accused of supporting China – and thereby safeguarding its own interests – instead of solidifying with other Asean members. The conflict involved disputed islands in the South China Sea.

With Laos, a dispute has arisen because of the neighboring country’s plans for a hydroelectric plant at Don Sahong in the Mekong River, very close to the border. Cambodians fear that construction can have devastating environmental consequences and disrupt important fishing. Cambodia, together with Thailand and Vietnam, is calling on the Laotians to stop the project.

Cool relationship with the west

Relations with the United States have long been strained. The countries’ opinions have been divided, among other things, on the fight against drugs and the establishment of the Red Khmer Tribunal, when the United States seems to have seen Cambodia acting too slowly. Nevertheless, the United States is among the most important donors.

As the CPP government from the 2013 elections acted increasingly repressively against opposition, independent media and civil society, relations with both the US and the EU deteriorated. The United States reacted strongly to the Supreme Court’s decision in November 2017 to dissolve Cambodia’s only significant opposition party, the CNRP, and demanded that the decision be revoked. Similar reactions came from the EU. Hun Sen responded by accusing the US of supporting the opposition’s attempt to “overthrow the CPP government” and he threatened to forge stronger ties with Russia and China.

The Washington government subsequently withdrew all financial support for the Cambodian election in July 2018 when it was considered that it was no longer capable of being free and fair. Hun Sen asked the United States to cease all forms of aid to Cambodia. In December, the United States decided to deport 70 Cambodians who resided illegally in the country and announced that it would be more difficult for Cambodian “individuals undermining Cambodian democracy” to obtain entry visas to the United States. In December, the EU also withdrew its support for the elections. In February 2018, the United States withdrew some assistance to state agencies such as the Tax Agency and the military. In June, the United States imposed sanctions on the head of Hun Sen’s bodyguard, which Washington accused of violating human rights.

Refugee agreement with Australia

With Australia, in the fall of 2014, the CPP government signed a contentious refugee agreement. This means that Cambodia can receive asylum seekers who have tried to get to Australia by boat. In return, Cambodia received a $ 40 million grant in Australian aid. The agreement received sharp criticism from, among other things, the UN and human rights organizations who believe that Cambodia does not have the capacity to accept asylum seekers and deficiencies in respect for human rights.

Despite the criticism, in May 2015, Cambodia accepted four refugees who agreed to be transferred from a detention camp in Nauru in the Pacific since being denied an asylum application in Australia. Already a year later, all four had chosen to return to their respective countries. At the beginning of 2018, only three new refugees had been transferred from Nauru to Cambodia.


The armed forces were severely lost during the 1990s and 2000s to adapt them to peacetime. With the help of aid, Cambodia is trying to collect and destroy the hundreds of thousands of weapons that have been in operation in the country since the conflict years. Since 2006, formal 18-month compulsory military service applies to men aged 18 to 30 years.

China and Cambodia have been conducting joint military exercises since 2016, while the United States and Cambodia canceled their military exercises in 2017 and 2018. The following year, China pledged around $ 100 million in support to modernize and train Cambodia’s defense.


Army: 75,000 men (2017)

The air Force: 1,500 men (2017)

The fleet: 2,800 men (2017)

Military expenditure’s share of GDP: 2.1 percent (2017)

Military spending’s share of the state budget: 9.0 percent (2017)

Burma Defense and Foreign Policy

Burma Defense and Foreign Policy

Foreign policy and defense

Based on geographical map from Digopaul, Burma is a nation in Southeastern Asia. Its capital city is Naypyidaw. Myanmar’s relations with China have long been central, but during the gradual democratization in the 2010s, power holders have tried to strike more balance in their foreign policy. Relations with the Western world, not least the United States, have been strengthened, but it received a severe thunderstorm from the military offensive in Rakhine from the fall of 2017, when hundreds of thousands of Muslim Rohingya were expelled from the country.

myanmar military spending and defense budget

During the 1950s, Myanmar (then called Burma) was one of the more prominent third world countries and one of the initiators of the Alliance Free States movement. After the 1962 military coup, the generals chose to completely shield the country from all foreign influence for 26 years. Officially, however, the government in Rangoon maintained “friendly relations” with both east and west.

  • Countryaah: Overview of business holidays and various national observances in Burma for years of 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023, 2024 and 2025.

The military coup in 1988 and the failed election two years later (see Modern history) dramatically changed this. Most of the aid donors, including the countries in the West, were severely interrupted by the military’s gross violations of human rights.

Tight relations with the West and the UN

In 1996, EU countries banned arms exports to Myanmar and military junta representatives were barred from entering the Union. The penalties were then sharply tightened with restrictive investment and trade rules.

In 1997, American companies were banned from making new investments in Myanmar. Following the attacks against the 2003 opposition, the US tightened the sanctions with a total import ban and blockade of Myanmar assets in the US. Further sanctions were introduced since the junta injured mass demonstrations in 2007.

The relative democratization that began in 2011 was welcomed by the Western world, and since Aung San Suu Kyi and other NLD politicians could be elected to Parliament in 2012, the Western countries abolished most financial sanctions against Myanmar. Among other things, however, arms embargo remained.

The military offensive and the mass escape from Rakhine, as well as the stagnated peace process with the ethnic resistance groups in the north and east (read more here) have again weakened Myanmar’s relations with the West and the UN (see Current Politics and Calendar). As a result, in the spring of 2018, the EU decided to extend the remaining sanctions and tighten the arms embargo to include exports of certain goods and technologies, military training and cooperation with Myanmar’s defense forces, as well as exports of equipment for monitoring and intercepting the Internet and telecommunications. In the spring of 2019, the EU extended the sanctions for one year.

In the fall of 2016, the United States lifted all economic and financial sanctions against Myanmar. In December 2017, Washington imposed new sanctions on the general who led the Rakhine offensive that fall. The United States has also imposed sanctions on Myanmar’s army chief as ultimately responsible for the military’s actions.

China’s closest ally

Myanmar has received both material and political support from China ever since the diplomatic relations between the two countries were resumed in 1978. China is Myanmar’s most important arms supplier and expanded aid, trade and investment in the 21st century. China also saved Myanmar from sharp statements by the UN Security Council. It was not until autumn 2007 that the Council agreed for the first time to condemn the junta’s actions against peaceful protesters.

When Suu Kyi was invited to China in June 2015, despite the fact that she and the NLD were still in opposition, it was interpreted by observers as the beginning of a course change in Beijing. China is likely to secure access to Myanmar’s natural resources and will also end up following a possible shift in power later that year. When the NLD government took office in April 2016, Suu Kyi’s first trip as a new foreign minister went to China. This underlined China’s continued importance for Myanmar.

However, the ethnic conflicts in the border region with China (read more here) have periodically made the relations between the two countries strained. In the summer of 2011, thousands of people in northern Myanmar fled into China from rioting fighting between Kachin guerrillas and government soldiers, partly caused by Kachin resistance to a Chinese-funded dam construction in the Kachin area. The dam construction was interrupted in September 2011 by Myanmar’s new government, which further annoyed China. The following summer, Human Rights Watch accused China of forcing cachin refugees back to Myanmar. In February 2015, tens of thousands of civilian Myanmar flew to China escaping fighting between the military and rebels in the Kokang region of Shan State (see further Calendar). The scenario repeated in March 2017.

Other neighboring countries

Otherwise, Myanmar’s isolation first began to be broken by India and Thailand after 1992. The reasons were mainly the countries’ common interests: to crush separatist groups in the border regions, to control drug trafficking and to improve roads and other communications. In addition, the neighboring countries’ desire to balance China’s increasingly close contacts with Myanmar.

India also cooperates with Myanmar in oil and gas extraction, defense and trade. The two countries are jointly patrolling the waters of the Bay of Bengal and Lake Andaman. In August 2016, newly elected President Htin Kyaw’s first trip to India went to India, where he and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi agreed to increase security along the land border and speed up construction of a highway connecting India, Myanmar and Thailand.

Thailand is the country within the Southeast Asian cooperation organization Asean that has closest contacts with Myanmar, although relations during the 1990s and 2000s were at times tense when the Myanmarian army violated the border in the pursuit of guerrillas or drug dealers. The flow of illegal labor and drugs from Myanmar are other problems, as are Myanmar’s who are fleeing the border. At the beginning of 2017, more than 50,300 registered refugees lived and just over 52,200 were registered in nine temporary camps along the border. Virtually all of them were Myanmarians belonging to some ethnic minority, mainly Kayin. However, in parallel with the border and refugee problems, both countries have cooperated in the economy and trade as well as on road and bridge construction.

In 1997, Asean broke the isolation of Myanmar by giving the country membership. Some of the member states considered that so-called constructive commitment and “silent diplomacy” were the best way to get democratic development started. Democratization in the 2010s has strengthened Myanmar’s position within the organization. In 2014, Myanmar was considered for the first time to be able to hold the presidency of Asean.

The relationship with Bangladesh has long been poor because of Myanmar’s persecution of the Muslim Rohingya, whom they consider to be “Bengali” (ie Bangladeshi). The severe discrimination against the Rakhine people group has caused refugee waves to flush in Bangladesh from time to time, which also does not recognize them as citizens. When around 750,000 refugees in the autumn of 2017 crossed the border and gathered in huge camps in the neighboring country, the situation became almost untenable. An agreement to return the refugees to Myanmar was signed in November 2017 between the two countries, but it soon stalled as security situation in Rakhine was poor with continued military presence.


The Myanmar defense force, called Tatmadaw, is one of the largest and most combatable in Southeast Asia. In addition, there are special militia forces and border troops. The size of the armed forces, including the police, increased sharply during the 1990s. Much of the arms imports, especially from China, are believed to have been financed by drug incomes.

The military service is compulsory for men between 18 years and 45 years and for women between 18 and 35. The military service is usually two or three years long, but can be extended to five years in a national crisis.

In the mid-2010s, 3.5 percent of GDP went to defense, but military spending is expected to be much greater than the budget allocation. This is because the army owns many industries and uses billion-dollar revenue from it for arms purchases.

For more information on the military offensive and the refugee crisis in Rakhine, as well as the reactions of the outside world to the events, read here, here and here.


Army: 375 000 men (2017)

The air Force: 15,000 men (2017)

The fleet: 16,000 men (2017)

Military expenditure’s share of GDP: 2.5 percent (2017)

Military spending’s share of the state budget: 12.4 percent (2017)