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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. Click Songaah to find songs associated with Jordan and printable song lyrics.

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. Click Songaah to find songs associated with Japan and printable song lyrics.

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. Click Songaah to find songs associated with Israel and printable song lyrics.

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. Click Songaah to find songs associated with Iraq and printable song lyrics.

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. Click Songaah to find songs associated with India and printable song lyrics.

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. Click Songaah to find songs associated with East Timor and printable song lyrics.

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. Click Songaah to find songs associated with China and printable song lyrics.

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. Click Songaah to find songs associated with Cambodia and printable song lyrics.

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. Click Songaah to find songs associated with Burma and printable song lyrics.

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)

Brunei Defense and Foreign Policy

Brunei Defense and Foreign Policy

Foreign policy and defense

Based on geographical map from Digopaul, Brunei is a nation in Southeastern Asia. Its capital city is Bandar Seri Begawan. Since the independence of the British in 1984, Brunei has prioritized good relations with the nearest neighbors. The country joined Asean already a week after independence. The Sultanate’s closest ally is Singapore. Relations with the US and the UK are also central.

brunei military spending and defense budget

Brunei is also a member of Asean’s free trade area Afta (Asean Free Trade Area) and the organization’s defense cooperation Arf (Asean Regional Forum). Brunei is also part of the larger cooperation organization for economic cooperation in Asia and the Pacific, Apec.

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

With Malaysia, Brunei has long had a conflict-filled relationship, mainly because of disputes over the boundary between the countries. Relations began to improve at the end of the first decade of the 21st century. In 2007, the countries could agree on a document that facilitates cross-border travel. At the same time, air traffic between the two countries was increased in order to promote tourism. In 2009, they resolved the conflict over the border offshore and around the Limbang River, which divides Brunei in two halves.

Relations with Malaysia were further strengthened in 2010 through a cooperation agreement on higher education, and one on joint oil and gas extraction off the coast of Borneo. In 2013, a bridge was opened across the Pandaruan border, which promotes trade and tourism.

Brunei claims the uninhabited Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, where there is oil and natural gas under the seabed. This creates tension in the region, as the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, China and Taiwan also claim all or part of the area around the archipelago. However, Brunei maintains a low profile on the issue, not least in order to avoid conflict with the major power China.

Alongside Singapore, the old colonial power of Britain is Britain’s closest ally. The contacts are strongest at the military and commercial level.

Since the middle of the 2010s, Brunei’s economic cooperation with China has increased rapidly. These are mainly Chinese investments in infrastructure in Brunei, including a new oil refinery and a bridge.

Brunei has during the 2000s and 2010s also expanded its cooperation with other Muslim countries.


Brunei has a regular defense with army, navy and air force. In addition, there is a semi-military force responsible for the safety of the Sultan.

Singapore’s army regularly trains jungle warfare in eastern Brunei, while a battalion of British so-called Cucumber soldiers are also placed in the Sultanate.

Brunei has conducted joint naval exercises with, for example, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines and Pakistan. Annual marine exercises are held with the United States and Asia.

Bhutan Defense and Foreign Policy

Bhutan Defense and Foreign Policy

Foreign policy and defense

Based on geographical map from Digopaul, Bhutan is a nation in Southern Asia. Its capital city is Thimphu. Bhutan has very close relations with India, while contacts with China are strained. India and China can be seen as competitors for the influence over Bhutan, sandwiched between the two neighboring giants. Relations with Nepal have long been hampered by a conflict over Nepalese-displaced refugees in two camps in eastern Nepal.

Bhutan Defense and Foreign Policy

Bhutan’s contacts with the outside world have long been very limited. Throughout the 20th century, foreign affairs were handled first by Britain and then India. But in the 1960s, the country began to gently open itself up to the outside world. Bhutan joined the UN in 1971.

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

Nowadays, Bhutan has formal diplomatic relations with more than 50 countries, including Sweden, which are also part of a group of European nations that account for a significant portion of aid to the country. Diplomatic relations have also been established with the EU. Bhutan, on the other hand, lacks formal relations with all the permanent members of the UN Security Council, including China and the United States.

In February 2015, as the first US Secretary of State, John Kerry held a meeting with Bhutanese government representatives, including the then Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay, in connection with a visit to India.

India is by far the most important trading and cooperation partner. Two thirds of foreign aid comes from neighboring countries. India’s position as a protective power was removed without obligation when the two countries’ special friendship agreements were updated in 2007. Bhutan gained greater self-determination on international and military issues, and further strengthened economic cooperation. Among other things, there is free trade and passport freedom between the countries. India and Bhutan are also cooperating on security issues along the border.

At the end of the 1990s, Bhutan encountered problems with Indian resistance groups from Assam establishing strongholds in the country’s southeastern part. After a series of failed negotiation attempts, the Bhutanese army in 2003 went on offensive against the rebel forces. The effort was successful. The rebels were driven out and quantities of weapons seized. A number of rebel leaders were sentenced to prison. During the 2010s, there has been occasional reports that rebels from Assam have occasionally returned to Bhutan.

Relations with China deteriorated drastically in connection with the turmoil in Tibet in 1959, when several thousand Tibetans fled to Bhutan. In the 1980s, the two countries began discussions about the boundary between them. They signed an agreement on peace in the border area in 1998, but since then more than 20 rounds of talks have been held without the border issue completely resolved. Bhutan believes that the Chinese have built roads into Bhutanese territory and that the Chinese military has crossed the border on several occasions. In 2017, the situation worsened when Bhutan was supported by Indian military after Chinese soldiers crossed the border at the disputed Doklam Plateau in north-west Bhutan. For two months, the armies of China and India faced each other in a post war in the mountain area before the emergency situation was resolved.

During the 2010s, China and Bhutan have to some extent approached each other, especially under the DPT government that ruled Bhutan between 2013 and 2018. Bhutan can be said to have become a tile in the game between the two Asian giants India and China competing for influence in South Asia. During the same period, India has increased its aid and trade with Bhutan. In April 2019, Bhutan rejected an invitation from China to participate in a forum on Beijing’s major infrastructure initiative BRI (Belt and Road Initiative, or New Silk Road), which extends from East Asia via Central and South Asia to Europe.

Contact with Nepal has been tense since the late 1980s, when tens of thousands of people fled from southern Bhutan to Nepal (see Population and Languages and Modern History). However, in the 2010s, countries began to negotiate trade and possibly establish diplomatic relations. Trade with Nepal has increased steadily in recent years.

Bhutan is a member of the regional cooperation bodies Saarc (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) and Bimstec (Bay of Bengal Initiative for MultiSectoral Technical Cooperation). When the country hosted a summit in Saarc in 2010, it was seen as a clear sign that the previously isolated country now has a more active role in regional and global contexts.

The army consists mostly of volunteers, but a certain degree of military service also exists. The education is run by India. A home defense force protects important facilities. In addition, there is also a royal bodyguard force, a semi-military police force and an armed forestry force. A total of about 8,000 people.

Bangladesh Defense and Foreign Policy

Bangladesh Defense and Foreign Policy

Foreign policy and defense

Based on geographical map from Digopaul, Bangladesh is a nation in Southern Asia. Its capital city is Dhaka. The most important foreign policy relationship for Bangladesh is the one with India. However, contacts with China have increased substantially, especially in the last decade. Bangladesh has an active role in international organizations such as the United Nations and the Commonwealth (United Kingdom and former British colonies).

bangladesh military spending and defense budget

Bangladesh is largely surrounded by and shares a great deal of history with India. During and after the war for independence from Pakistan in 1971 (see Older History), Bangladesh received support from India, but the relationship has often been strained. One reason is concern for the large neighboring country to dominate financially. The countries are disputing the availability of vital water flows, the sale and transport of natural gas, and the flow of people across borders. India also fears that Islamist groups will grow too strong in Bangladesh, which has traditionally been a moderate force among Muslim countries. The relationship tends to be particularly chilly when the Islamist-oriented BNP party sits in power, and better when the more India-friendly Awami League rules.

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

A low-intensity conflict over the population flow across the border has been going on for a long time. In the late 1990s, India began to build a barbed wire fence along the 400-mile-long common border to exclude illegal Bangladeshi immigrants. Bangladesh has not opposed the fence, but the border demarcation was in some places a matter of dispute. However, those conflicts were largely settled through an agreement in 2011. In June 2015, Bangladesh and India agreed that the tens of thousands of stateless villagers living in a large number of enclaves along the border should be able to choose which nationality they wanted. In August of the same year, both countries formally changed control of 162 enclaves: 111 in Bangladesh and 51 in India. Most residents chose to stay where they live, and instead changed their nationality.

China on the move

Contacts with China have increased sharply since the turn of the millennium, primarily in infrastructure, communications, energy and trade. In 2005, China passed India as Bangladesh’s largest importing country. Bangladesh is the second largest importer of Chinese weapons in the world, after Pakistan. In May 2014, the armed forces of both countries signed an agreement that provides the Chinese military with training and support for the Bangladesh military. Click Songaah to find songs associated with Bangladesh and printable song lyrics.

During a visit to Bangladesh in 2016, Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged just over $ 24 billion in bilateral infrastructure assistance. In combination with extensive investments, China is the country in the world that promised the largest development aid to Bangladesh. For the money, among other things, a coal power plant, a railway line between Dhaka and Jessore and a tunnel under the Karnaphuli river will be built.

Deteriorated relationship with Pakistan

Relations with Pakistan improved gradually after the civil war and in 1974 the countries recognized each other. Gradually, normal connections were established. However, a tough dispute has been the question of the status of the bihar (see Population and language). The relationship has also become more strained during the Awami-led government that took office in 2009 (see Current Policy). Dhaka has made a formal apology for the war, without success. The situation deteriorated significantly when a large part of the leadership of the Islamist opposition party Jamaat-e-Islami was imprisoned or sentenced to death from 2013 by the national war crimes tribunal ICT (see Political system). They were convicted of war crimes, crimes against humanity and / or genocide during the 1971 war when they stood on Pakistan’s side.

Refugee streams from Myanmar

Refugee problems have also affected relations with the neighbor in the southeast, Myanmar (formerly Burma). At the center of the conflict is the Muslim ethnic minority Rohingy, which is not recognized by either of the two countries. Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya have since the 1970s moved in waves from Myanmar to Bangladesh away from persecution in their homeland. Some have returned home, while hundreds of thousands have remained in refugee camps near the city of Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh.

In a few months from the fall of 2017, when a military offensive targeted militant Rohingy in western Myanmar, another 750,000 Rohingy flew across the border. There the refugees live in large camps, usually without clean water and functioning sanitation and with a lack of food.

The wave of refugees means that Bangladesh faces the threat of a humanitarian crisis. In a speech to the UN General Assembly in September 2017, Prime Minister Hasina proposed the establishment of “UN-supervised security zones” for Rohingya in Myanmar. She accused Myanmar’s military of putting out mines along the border to prevent refugees from coming back.

In November 2017, Bangladesh entered into an agreement with Myanmar to cooperate to return the refugees to their homeland, but this work has yet to commence as the security situation in western Myanmar is still so poor that no refugees want to return.

Screensavers sometimes occur along the Myanmar-Bangladesh border. Disagreement over the border crossing in the Gulf of Bengal was resolved in 2012 by the UN Maritime Tribunal, which gave Bangladesh the right to large areas where there are believed to be oil and gas resources.

Regional cooperation

At the regional level, Bangladesh is active in the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc), which was formed in the 1980s on the initiative of Bangladeshi President Ziaur Rahman. The organization includes eight countries. It is partly the same countries that are part of another regional cooperation body that Bangladesh has also joined from the start: Bimstec (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation).

Bangladesh also attaches great importance to cooperation with other Muslim countries and is part of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). In 1997, eight of the world’s most important Muslim states, including Bangladesh, formed a new group called the Developing Eight (D8) to counterbalance the G8 of the rich states (now G7 when Russia is no longer included). In February 2018, Bangladesh announced that the country is sending 1,800 troops to Saudi Arabia to clear mines at the border with Yemen.

USA and Israel

In March 2000, Bill Clinton as the first US President made a state visit to Bangladesh. Following the terrorist attacks against the United States on September 11, 2001, Bangladesh gave the United States the opportunity to use its airspace and land in a military attack on the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. However, the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 caused strong US hostile protests in Dhaka and in June 2004 the Bangladeshi Foreign Minister said that the country would not send troops to Iraq without a UN mandate.

In May 2012, both countries entered into a comprehensive strategic partnership agreement, but a little over a year later, relations were adversely affected when the United States abolished Bangladesh’s trade benefits after a racial accident in a textile factory outside Dhaka, with more than 1,100 dead as a result, was due careless with building and safety rules. In January 2014, the United States criticized the Bangladeshi election held earlier that month without any real opposition to the ruling Awami League. Washington demanded a free and fair election. In June 2016, the two countries agreed to step up their cooperation to defeat the threat posed by violent Islamist groups in South Asia.

Bangladesh has no diplomatic relations with Israel and it is forbidden for Bangladeshi citizens to visit Israel.


The military has long played a role as an instrument of domestic political power and no government has been able to govern without the support of the military. Through extensive involvement in UN peacekeeping operations, the military has also become an important source of income. In 2017, around 7,200 Bangladeshis participated in various UN peacekeeping operations, the second largest troop contribution among the world’s countries.


Army: 126 150 men (2017)

The air Force: 14,000 men (2017)

The fleet: 16 900 men (2017)

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

Military spending’s share of the state budget: 9.6 percent (2017)

Bahrain Defense and Foreign Policy

Bahrain Defense and Foreign Policy

Foreign policy and defense

Based on geographical map from Digopaul, Bahrain is a nation in Western Asia. Its capital city is Manama. Bahrain has been Western friendly ever since independence in 1971. That year a friendship treaty was signed with the UK. Nowadays, however, relations with neighboring Saudi Arabia are the most important. The Saudis, like Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, provide financial support to Bahrain. Iran has often been seen as a threat.

bahrain military spending and defense budget

The war that broke out between Iran and Iraq in 1980, and a coup attempt in the country, contributed to Bahrain’s founding in 1981 to establish a cooperation council for the states around the Persian Gulf (Gulf Cooperation Council, GCC, where also the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia included). Several of the GCC countries agreed in 2009 to create a single currency union, but plans have since been postponed for the future. In connection with the street protests against the government in Bahrain in February 2011, military GCC forces, under Saudi leadership, came to assist Bahrain security forces (see Modern History). It was the first time GCCthe Peninsula Shield Force was deployed in one of the member states. It was also considered to strengthen Saudi Arabia’s influence in the region as well as in Bahrain.

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

During the 1980s, Bahrain strengthened its defense with foreign aid. Iran, which has long claimed Bahrain, was seen as a threat. In the 1990s, diplomatic relations with Iran were restored. When Conservative Mahmoud Ahmadinejad became President of Iran in 2005, relations deteriorated and they have remained frosty because of Bahrain’s allegations that Iran supports insurgents in the country (see Modern History and Current Politics).

US ally

During Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990, Bahrain, like other GCC states, stood on the side of the Westerners. After the war, the United States and Bahrain signed an agreement on defense cooperation; The United States’ fifth fleet now has its base in Bahrain. The United States sees the country as one of its closest allies outside NATO cooperation. However, the United States, like several Western countries, has expressed concern for a lack of respect for human rights in Bahrain, including through oppression of oppositionists. There is also a defense cooperation with the UK. The British opened a new naval base in the country in 2018 and had previously warships stationed there.

Following the terrorist attacks in the United States on September 11, 2001, Bahrain joined the US-led war on terrorism as well as the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. By contrast, Bahrain did not support the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Bahrain did, however, establish diplomatic relations with the Iraqi regime that continued after Saddam Hussein’s overthrow. The country also joined forces behind the United States to fight the Islamic State (IS) jihadist movement and participated in air strikes against targets in Syria from autumn 2014.

Dispute within GCC

With neighboring Qatar, Bahrain has had several border disputes, but conditions have improved since they both accepted a ruling in the International Court of Justice in The Hague in 2001. Ferry traffic has been established and plans are underway to build a road and rail link between the countries. In 2014, the relationship was re-strained, as Bahrain, like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, took home its Doha ambassador following allegations that Qatar had become involved in other countries’ domestic policies. The criticism was about Qatar’s connection with the Muslim Brotherhood. The ambassadors were sent back after six months after the conflict was annexed at a meeting in Saudi Arabia, but the conflict was seen as the most serious so far within the GCC.

Bahrain has strengthened its cooperation with Russia. In 2014, the countries signed several agreements to expand trade and initiate military cooperation, including through Russian arms exports to Bahrain. The agreements received criticism from the United States and several human rights organizations that expressed concern that it could contribute negatively to Bahrain’s internal political contradictions.


Army: 6,000 men (2017)

The air Force: 1,500 men (2017)

The fleet: 700 men (2017)

Military expenditure’s share of GDP: 4.1 percent (2017)

Military spending’s share of the state budget: 11.8 percent (2017)

Azerbaijan Defense and Foreign Policy

Azerbaijan Defense and Foreign Policy

Foreign policy and defense

Based on geographical map from Digopaul, Azerbaijan is a nation in Western Asia. Its capital city is Baku. Foreign policy is shaped by the proximity to the big neighbor in the north, Russia, and to Iran with which Azerbaijan shares a long cultural and religious history. At the same time, Azerbaijan is trying to strike a balance between east and west and has developed good relations with the United States, Israel and China. The ties to Turkey are also strong.

azerbaijan military spending and defense budget

The objectives of foreign policy are to preserve the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan, to prevent other countries from interfering in domestic politics and to promote the image abroad of Azerbaijan as a successful country, partly by financing oil projects in other countries with oil revenues.

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

The single most important foreign policy issue is the conflict with Armenia over the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave located in Azerbaijan but which has been occupied by Armenian forces since the early 1990s (read more in Modern history). The situation at the border with Nagorno-Karabakh in Azerbaijan is sometimes tense with occasional clashes between the countries’ respective forces.

The government of Azerbaijan caused outrage in the outside world in 2012, when an Azerbaijani soldier who murdered an Armenian colleague in Hungary was received as a hero on his return. He was sentenced to life imprisonment in Hungary but would be transferred to Azerbaijan to serve the rest of the sentence there. Instead of being imprisoned, he was received by the president, pardoned, promoted and assigned a home.

In the spring of 2016, the hardest fighting broke out at the border of at least 20 years and at least 100 people were killed, most soldiers. The situation stabilized after a ceasefire in April, but violence has occurred since then.

Negotiations for an end to the conflict are being conducted within the so-called Minsk group with eleven members led by Russia, the United States and France. At a meeting in Madrid in 2007, Armenia and Azerbaijan agreed on some basic and universal principles of peace, but so far all more concrete attempts to create peace have failed.

Relations with Russia

Azerbaijan has a split relationship with Russia. It is believed that the Russians contributed significantly to the development of Azerbaijan, but that it was done at the expense of the Azerbaijani national identity. Russia, for its part, has been alarmed by increased US influence in Azerbaijan.

When Heidar Aliyev took over power in Azerbaijan in 1993, he tried to improve relations with Moscow, but they remained ambivalent. Following Vladimir Putin’s accession as Russian President from 2000, Russia handled Azerbaijan more cautiously, and relations improved.

Baku has not joined the Western countries’ sanctions against Russia after the Russian conquest of the Crimean Peninsula in 2014, and the cooperation is ongoing on energy issues. For example, the countries’ largest oil companies have decided to jointly develop deposits in Azerbaijan.

Both countries are concerned about the Islamist uprising against the central power in the Republic of Dagestan, which borders Azerbaijan. To avoid the conflict spilling over to Azerbaijan, Azerbaijani and Russian forces are monitoring the border together.

However, the question of Nagorno-Karabakh is a stumbling block. Russia is closely associated with Armenia. When Russia and Armenia signed a defense agreement in 2012, Russia assured that the country remained neutral on the issue of Nagorno-Karabakh, and Russia has continued to try to mediate the conflict. Russia supplies arms to Armenia on favorable terms, but also sells weapons to Azerbaijan.

In late 2012, Azerbaijan raised the fee for the radar base Russia had in northeastern Azerbaijan and in 2013 the base was closed.

Close ties to Turkey

Turkey has been Azerbaijan’s most important ally in the conflict with Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh, although Turkish support has only included diplomacy and economic sanctions, but not arms operations. Turks and Azerians feel closely related and understand each other’s languages. Turkey was the first country to recognize Azerbaijan in November 1991, and ties have been strengthened since independence. The export of Caspian oil from Baku via Turkey has helped to confirm the close relationship between the countries. Azerbaijan is also a member of the Turkish-speaking Cooperation Council for Turkic-Speaking Countries, which also includes Turkey, War of Afghanistan and Kazakhstan.

The oil in the Caspian Sea helps make Azerbaijan interesting for the United States. Relations were disturbed earlier by Washington indirectly supporting Armenia in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. In 2002, however, US President George W Bush lifted a ban on state aid to Azerbaijan, and the United States had to help modernize airports and strengthen border defense. The United States thus hoped to prevent illegal arms and drug traffic throughout the country. The Americans also promised to pay as much in military aid to Azerbaijan as to Armenia.

After 2008, relations were strained as the US actively supported a rapprochement between Turkey and Armenia. The United States has also had strong objections to the human rights violations that are ongoing in Azerbaijan.

Relaxation with Iran

Relations with Iran have long been strained. At least 20 million Azeris live in Iran. On both sides of the border, voices have been raised to unite all Azeris in one state, but the majority of Azeris do not seem to perceive these plans as attractive or realistic, and therefore have not seriously disrupted contacts.

In contrast, Azerbaijan has accused Iran of supporting militant Islamist groups in the country. A number of people have been sentenced to prison for collaborating with Iran on planning terrorist attacks in Azerbaijan. Iran has also accused Azerbaijan of assisting Israeli agents in operations against Iranian targets in Azerbaijan. In 2014, clashes occurred at the border and an Azerbaijani soldier was killed. Since then, the relationship has improved after Turkish mediation. State visits have been exchanged and the countries have signed a number of cooperation agreements.

Another source of conflict between Azerbaijan and Iran is the border problems in the Caspian Sea, with its many oil deposits on the seabed. These problems have also led to conflict with the former Soviet Republic of Turkmenistan. The problems arose when the Soviet Union disintegrated. Iran and Turkmenistan oppose that deposits in disputed parts of the seabed are exploited before the boundary problems are resolved. In 2018, the countries concerned concluded an agreement on the Caspian Sea, but all important question marks were not rectified (see Calendar).

For the European countries, Azerbaijan has been given an important role as an alternative to Russia in terms of oil and gas supplies and new transport pipelines from the Caspian Sea to Europe are planned. Azerbaijan is part of the EU’s Eastern Partnership, that is, the EU’s cooperation with the countries of the Caucasus, Moldova, Ukraine and Belarus, but has not signed any association agreement with the EU.


After independence in 1991, a national defense was built up with army, navy and air force. A special force and border troops were created under the Ministry of the Interior. With the help of the oil money, the defense budget has grown, and the conflict with Armenia over Nagorno-Karabach keeps the upgrading. In the period between 2009 and 2018, Azerbaijan spent six times as much as Armenia on military spending, according to the Peace Research Institute Sipri.

The staffing of the defense branches is based on general military duty which covers up to 18 months of service.

Azerbaijan is engaged in military cooperation with Turkey and Israel and buys weapons from Russia.

Azerbaijan is not a member of the Military Alliance Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) led by Russia. With the Western Defense Alliance NATO, Azerbaijan cooperates in the Partnership for Peace (PFF). Under a 1997 agreement on military cooperation between Azerbaijan and the United States, the defense ministries of both countries regularly consult each other.

Azerbaijan has a smaller peacekeeping force in Afghanistan.


Army: 66 950 male (2017)

The air Force: 7 900 men (2017)

The fleet: 2,200 men (2017)

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

Military spending’s share of the state budget: 10.4 percent (2017)

Armenia Defense and Foreign Policy

Armenia Defense and Foreign Policy

Foreign policy and defense

Based on geographical map from Digopaul, Armenia is a nation in Western Asia. Its capital city is Yerevan. Armenia is in a state of war with neighboring Azerbaijan on the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave. With Turkey, the country is in conflict over the Turks’ massacre of Armenians in 1915. The attempts of normalizing relations in recent years have not succeeded. Armenia’s great and powerful ally is Russia.

armenia military spending and defense budget

For centuries, the Armenians lived as a Christian minority under Muslim rule. They saw themselves as an outpost of the West and Christianity in the Muslim East. It created feelings of belonging with other peoples of Eastern Christian background, such as Russians and Serbs, and such feelings gained greater leeway with the fall of Soviet communism (1989-1991).

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

Armenian nationalism is characterized by the general political climate in the Caucasus, with the exception of the Soviet era, there was no strong central power. Throughout the centuries, the area’s many small groups of people – both Muslim and Christian – have struggled to preserve their particularity towards their neighbors. History then becomes important in the struggle to assert the rights of the own people. Another factor affecting Armenia’s relations with the outside world is large groups of exile Armenians in the US and Europe, mainly France.

A pivotal role in Armenian history writing plays the 1915 genocide and massacre of Armenians living in Turkey (see Older history). This national tragedy is celebrated with a special holiday, and it is for many Armenians the proof that “the Turks” – the residents of today’s Turkey as well as in Azerbaijan – are the Armenian’s heir enemies. Some groups of extremist nationalists – mainly among Armenians in exile and within the Dashnak Party – still, in principle, still have the dream of restoring a conceived Great Armenia and “retaking” parts of Turkey. From the mid-1970s to around 1990, two Armenian terrorist organizations, the Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia (Asala) and the Armenian Genocide Justice Command (JCAG), carried out a long series of attacks around the world against mainly Turkish diplomats. The terror also affected many civilians, including non-Turks. JCAG was described as the armed branch of the Dashnak Party.

Nagorny Karabakh

Relations with Azerbaijan are poisoned by the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict – a conflict that has completely dominated Armenia’s foreign policy since independence in 1991 (see Modern History and Conflicts: Nagorno-Karabakh). Nagorno-Karabakh formally belongs to Azerbaijan but is inhabited by ethnic Armenians and occupied by Armenian troops. Click Songaah to find songs associated with Armenia and printable song lyrics.

Since the ceasefire was reached in 1994, the countries have occasionally negotiated a peace agreement with the help of the Minsk Group, which is led by the USA, Russia and France. In 1999, the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan made direct talks on Nagorno-Karabakh. Before the assassination of the Armenian Parliament that year (see Modern history), it seemed for a while that the countries, under strong US encouragement, were preparing an agreement on the enclave. But the agreement never came to an end, and the direct talks were canceled.

After Russian mediation, Armenia and Azerbaijan signed the Moscow Declaration in 2008, with promises to seek a peaceful solution to the conflict. The declaration did not really contain any news. Attempts to create peace continued to fail and the situation at the border of the enclave remained tense with occasional clashes.

In 2012, tensions rose again between the countries when several soldiers were killed in skirmishes at the border (see Calendar). The conflict was further intensified when the President of Azerbaijan pardoned an officer who had murdered an Armenian colleague in 2004 during a NATO course in Hungary. The officer had been sentenced to life imprisonment in Hungary but was handed over to Azerbaijan after promising that he would serve the rest of the sentence there. On his return, as a hero, he aroused upset feelings in Armenia, whose government severed its diplomatic relations with Hungary.

In 2016, the hardest border war broke out in over 20 years and at least 100 people were killed, most soldiers. The situation stabilized after a ceasefire, but violence still exists at the border at regular intervals.

Azerbaijani and Turkish blockade

Since 1993, both Azerbaijan and Turkey have maintained a blockade against Armenia, although some trade with both countries has taken place via Georgia. Turkey wants an expert commission to review the events in 1915 and at least earlier demanded that the issue of Nagorno-Karabakh be resolved before diplomatic relations could be established with Armenia.

After the turn of the millennium, cautious peacekeepers began between Armenia and Turkey. In September 2008, the President of Turkey took a football match as a pretext to visit his colleague in Yerevan, whereupon the two presidents invited their foreign ministers to enter into a dialogue with the goal of normalizing relations. In November, Armenia expressed a desire for the border to be opened and diplomatic relations opened, but at the same time it was stated that Armenia would never urge Armenians in exile to stop working to have the events in 1915 internationally recognized as a genocide.

On October 10, 2009, the Foreign Ministers of Armenia and Turkey, in the presence of their US counterpart Hillary Clinton, signed an agreement to normalize relations and open the border within two months. First, however, both countries’ parliaments must approve the agreement. Before it was concluded, President Serzh Sargsyan had visited France, the United States, Lebanon and southern Russia to persuade influential exilarmenic groups on the need for an iceberg with Turkey, while at the same time Dashnak party at home organized a hunger strike in protest outside the Foreign Ministry in Yerevan. As the Turkish government also faced opposition at home, the normalization went slow, and in January 2010 it seemed to stop completely when the Armenian Constitutional Court made a critical statement about the agreement. In April, President Sargsyan said that Armenia has until now suspended the ratification of the agreement with Turkey. In 2018, the president stopped the process via decree.

Because of the Azerbaijani-Turkish blockade, Armenia has land links with the outside world only through Iran and Georgia. Without the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Armenia would have been a natural transit country for Caspian oil on its way to Western Europe. Armenia thus pays a high economic price for the conflict to remain unresolved.

Iran, Georgia and Russia

Relations with Iran and Georgia are good. The 35-kilometer border with Iran is the only border section open in the south, and Armenia’s trade with Iran has grown sharply since independence. In the north, Georgia is an important transit country for Armenian goods. Along the border on the Georgian side, a minority of Armenians live, and among them sometimes votes have been raised to allow them to become independent or join Armenia. However, Armenia has refrained from encouraging such efforts.

Against Russia, Armenia has always shown strong loyalty, and Russia protects its influence in the troubled South Caucasus with the transit of oil and gas from Central Asia and the Caspian Sea to Europe. During the first difficult years after independence in 1991, Armenia received financial support and fuel from Russia. In 1997 it was revealed that Russia had secretly supplied Armenia with military equipment for three years. Russia has remained the country’s most important ally, with significant military and economic presence in Armenia.

The ties with Russia were strengthened in 2010 through an agreement on continued Russian military presence on a military base in Armenia until 2044.

In 2013, President Sargsyan announced that Armenia would join a Russian-led Customs Union, which also included Kazakhstan and Belarus. The decision was seen as a diplomatic triumph for Moscow. At the end of 2015, the Customs Union was replaced by the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), to which Kyrgyzstan also joined. The EEU is partly built on the same model as the EU with free movement of goods, services and people and coordinated economic policies. Russia also has great influence over Armenia’s energy sector (see also Economic overview and Natural Resources, Energy and Environment).

USA, Europe and Israel

In the United States, The Armenian Assembly of America and other Armenian lobby groups are working to influence Congress in Armenian favor. Armenia has been one of the largest recipients per capita of US aid since the late 1990s, with it having been cut sharply since 2015 when the EEU entered into force (see above). In the US congress, resolutions were passed in both 2010 and 2019 describing the killing of Armenians during the First World War as genocide.

In Western Europe there is the largest group of exile alarm menus in France. Lobbying on their part helped the European Parliament in 2000 adopt a non-binding resolution calling on Turkey to recognize the genocide of the Armenians during the First World War. The following year, the French Parliament passed a resolution that marked the death of Armenians in 1915 as genocide. In March 2010, the Swedish Parliament adopted a resolution with the same meaning. Similar decisions have been made in Italy and the Netherlands, among others.

Armenian nationalists previously wanted to compare the events in Turkey with the Nazis’ extermination of Jews during the Second World War. In February 2002, however, Israel’s ambassador to Yerevan said that the events of 1915 were a tragedy for the Armenians but that they should not be equated with the Holocaust or referred to as genocide. Armenia protested, and an incident in Jerusalem’s Armenian Quarter helped to further cool the relationship. In the political rhetoric of Armenia, anti-Semitic renditions are not infrequent.


Armenia became a member of the European Security and Cooperation Conference (then the ESC, now the OSCE) in 1992. Since Armenia and Azerbaijan after the Nagorno-Karabakh War entered into a ceasefire in 1994, the countries have occasionally negotiated a peace agreement with the help of the so-called Minsk Group, appointed by ESC / OSCE, as mediator. (The Minsk group is led by the United States, Russia and France.)

In 1996, Armenia, together with Azerbaijan and Georgia, signed a cooperation agreement with the EU. In January 2001, Armenia joined the Council of Europe. However, the country has on several occasions been criticized for deficiencies in democracy and respect for human rights. The Council of Europe’s parliamentarians approved a report on Nagorno-Karabakh in 2005 that both Armenia and Azerbaijan tried to stop. The report, in particular, branded Armenia to occupy the territory of another Council member.


Armenia’s defense consists of an army and security forces linked to the Interior Ministry. Since 1995, there is a Russian military base in Gjumri with about 5,000 soldiers, MiG-29 aircraft and the S-300 air defense system. The contract for the base is valid until 2044. It is seen as a defense in a possible new conflict with Azerbaijan. The base is close to the border with Turkey, and Russian soldiers help guard Armenian borders. Selected recruits from Nagorno-Karabakh are trained at the Yerevan Military College.

In the period between 2009 and 2018, Azerbaijan spent six times as much as Armenia on military spending, according to the Peace Research Institute Sipri.


Army: 41 850 men (2017)

The air Force: 1 100 Men (2017)

Military expenditure’s share of GDP: 4.0 percent (2017)

Military spending’s share of the state budget: 15.5 percent (2017)

Afghanistan Defense and Foreign Policy

Afghanistan Defense and Foreign Policy

Foreign policy and defense

Based on geographical map from Digopaul, Afghanistan is a nation in Southern Asia. Its capital city is Kabul. Since the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001, Afghanistan has been firmly attached to the United States and the rest of the Western world for its defense. His own army and police have failed to gain control of the entire country. Cooperation with neighboring countries in South Asia has become increasingly important.

afghanistan military spending and defense budget

During the 19th century, Afghanistan was threatened from the north by the Russian tsar and from the southeast by British India. The decades around the turn of the century, the British had a strong influence on Afghan foreign policy but never gained control of the country. The British presence helped to reduce the threat from Russia.

The most important legacy of the British era was the border line with what became Pakistan in 1947, the so-called Durand line that cuts straight through traditional Pashtunian territory. The line has never been recognized by Afghanistan as an official border.

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

During the 1950s, the United States and the Soviet Union competed for influence over Afghanistan through a series of development projects. US interest declined soon enough, as Afghanistan did not want any military cooperation, but Soviet contacts persisted. Following the communist takeover of the country in 1978, Soviet influence increased rapidly and by the end of 1979 Afghanistan was invaded by Soviet soldiers.

During the 1979-92 war, the Islamic resistance movement in Afghanistan received extensive support from Pakistan and the United States. Above all, Islamist movements favored Pakistani military dictator Mohammad Zia ul-Haq were favored.

Isolation under the Taliban regime

The guerrillas were also supported by Saudi Arabia, Iran and other Muslim states. The war against the Soviet Union placed Afghanistan at the center of the pretended struggle between Islam and the non-Islamic world and volunteers from many Muslim countries participated in the fighting on the guerrilla side.

During the Taliban regime 1996–2001, Afghanistan was isolated. Only three countries – Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – maintained diplomatic relations with the Taliban. Pakistan supported them organizationally and equipped the infrastructure in Taliban controlled areas. Both Arab states helped financially and Saudi Arabia also had a great ideological influence. Through Saudi influence, the Wahhabitic form of Islam gained some widespread use in Afghanistan (see Religion).

The United States contributed indirectly to the emergence of the Taliban through its large and uncontrolled supply of weapons and money to them through the Pakistani security service in the 1980s. The United States hoped that a Taliban regime would create stability that could benefit US companies’ oil and gas trade from Central Asia. For the United States, the Sunni extremist Taliban also emerged as a counterweight to Shiite Iran. The United States only renounced the Taliban when their human rights violations, in particular the abuses of women, became too obvious at the same time as the Taliban gained a stronger connection with the terrorist Usama bin Laden.

Depending on the outside world

After the fall of the Taliban regime, Afghanistan has become close to the Western powers. President Hamid Karzai and his government (2001–2014) depended on their existence by the NATO-led international force Isaf (see Modern History). From 2015, Afghanistan has largely been referred to its own forces, since the international presence was severely cut. However, the ability of the Afghan army and the police force to resist Taliban and other extremist groups has proved to be weak and the Taliban have gained ground. Economically, Afghanistan has remained dependent on foreign aid and its dependence appears to continue for the foreseeable future.

Since the beginning of the 2010s, the United States has held a series of talks with the Taliban to try to reach a solution to the conflict in Afghanistan. The host country is Qatar, where the Taliban have also set up a kind of diplomatic office. The United States calls for direct talks between the Kabul government and the Taliban, as the Afghan government does. However, the Taliban refuse to sit at the same table as the government, which they call “illegitimate”. The Taliban are only negotiating directly with the “occupying power”, that is, the United States.

In February 2020, success was achieved when the US and the Taliban signed a treaty in Qatar, which was to lay the groundwork for regular peace talks. The agreement means that the US will withdraw its forces from Afghanistan in exchange for the Taliban pledging not to make the country a haven for radical Islamist groups and terrorist networks such as al-Qaeda and IS. The government in Kabul was placed outside the agreement.

Distrust of Pakistan

Afghanistan has, for historical reasons, always regarded Pakistan with some suspicion. Pakistan has an interest in influence in the neighboring country to prevent India from affecting the Afghans. Former President Karzai repeatedly accused Pakistan of supporting the Taliban in order to undermine the Kabul government, and to shut down how extremist groups moved freely across the border between the countries.

From 2009, the governments of both countries began to take steps to create better relations and to cooperate with terrorist groups, partly as a result of Islamic extremists having begun to pose a fatal threat to the Pakistani state as well. In 2011, a trade agreement entered into force that gives Afghanistan access to the ports of the Pakistani cities of Karachi and Gwadar, as well as Pakistan the right to pass through Afghanistan to trade with the states of Central Asia.

When Pakistan launched a military offensive in the clan-controlled border areas where the Taliban and other resistance groups found a refuge in the summer of 2014, relations improved further as the Taliban’s opportunities to hide there diminished.

From 2015, relations with Pakistan deteriorated again, after Afghanistan accused the neighboring country of having contact with the perpetrators behind a series of attacks in Kabul and Ghazni. In 2017, Pakistan began to build a barrier along the border to prevent adversaries from entering the country, and gunfire between government soldiers on both sides of the border has repeatedly occurred.

Good relations with India

Relations with India have traditionally been good. Delhi sees a stable Afghanistan as a prerequisite in the fight against extremism and terrorism throughout the region. India also wants peaceful Afghanistan to be a link between the energy-consuming South Asia and the oil and gas-rich Central Asia. For Delhi, limiting Pakistani influence over Afghanistan is also central.

Contacts with India were strengthened following the fall of the Taliban regime. India supported the Northern Alliance (see Modern History) prior to the 2001 war as a counterbalance to Pakistan’s influence over the Taliban. However, India has not contributed soldiers to the international forces. Afghanistan has received extensive Indian assistance and the two countries have cooperated in trade, counter-terrorism and military education. India has provided financial support to the development of the port of Chabahar in Iran for Indian trade with Afghanistan to go through it rather than via ports in Pakistan.

Following Ghani’s assumption as president in 2014, relations with India cooled, which saw Ghani approach Pakistan. However, other members of the government, such as senior executive officer Abdullah Abdullah and Dostum (vice president until 2017), were close to India. Delhi has reacted negatively to the Ghani government’s attempt to start talks with the Taliban.

Since 2005, Afghanistan has been a member of the South Asian Cooperation Organization South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc).

Tight relationship with Russia

In 2010, almost two decades after the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, the Russians made a comeback. Then Russia entered into an agreement with NATO on Russian assistance in building up the Afghan army and fighting drug smuggling. However, US sanctions against Russia following the 2014 annexation of Crimea put a stop to Russian support for the military.

Russia has also initiated a number of cooperation projects between Afghanistan and the five Central Asian republics, especially in energy and infrastructure. Among other things, a gas pipeline (Tapi) is being built from Turkmenistan to India via Afghanistan and Pakistan. The management is supposed to provide Afghanistan with much needed revenue in the form of transfer fees.

Since the withdrawal of the NATO-led ISA forces in Russia, Russia has worked to play a greater role in the events in Afghanistan. Moscow has since December 2016 invited China and Pakistan to several conferences on how to resolve the Afghan conflict. In 2017, India, Iran and the Afghan government also participated – but not the US.

When the Ghani government took office in 2014, relations with Russia deteriorated, accused of approaching both the Taliban and Ghani’s political opponents, President Karzai.

Relations with China and Iran

China’s interest in Afghanistan was small before President Karzai opened for foreign investment in the country’s energy and commodity resources. In the 2000s and 2010s, China has invested in infrastructure and energy in Afghanistan, including in the extraction of copper and oil. From 2015, China has also invested in transport routes linking Afghanistan to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) infrastructure project in Pakistan, for example a cross-border railway.

China, which has close relations with Pakistan, has pushed to get the Pakistani government to in turn push the Taliban to come to the negotiating table. A stable Afghanistan is important for Chinese investment in energy and infrastructure.

Shi’ite Muslim Iran is a major aid donor, trading partner and investor in Sunni Afghanistan. The US and NATO have accused Iran of supporting resistance groups to hamper Western countries’ efforts in the country, which the Tehran government rejects. Iran and Afghanistan cooperate in the fight against the Sunni extremist group Islamic State (IS).


In the winter of 2002, work began on creating a new Afghan defense force following the fall of the Taliban. In September 2014, it was estimated to have reached the planned size of a total of 352,000 men, including 195,000 in the Army and Air Force and 157,000 in police. By 2018, the armed forces had decreased to 174,300 men (167,000 in the army and 7,300 in the air force) and 148,700 men in the police force. The reasons for the reduction are large losses and many deserts after the foreign troop withdrawal.

A few years after Afghanistan took over responsibility for its own defense, it can be stated that the level of education and capacity of the Afghan security forces is low. There are major problems with desertification. This is particularly bad for the police. According to a study from Brown University in the United States in 2018, around 30,000 Afghan soldiers had been killed in combat since the foreign troop retreat.

Since July 2003, a slow UN-backed effort has been underway to dissolve private militias, which are estimated to have had a total of 100,000 members.

The foreign troops in Afghanistan totaled around 145,000 soldiers (autumn 2010). The NATO-led ISA force then consisted of about 130,000 soldiers from some 40 countries. About 90,000 of these came from the United States, which also had about 15,000 soldiers in the terrorist-fighting United States-led force Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF). There were also a few thousand soldiers from other nations. The OEF’s main task was anti-terrorism missions, air support and training of Afghan army soldiers. Sweden contributed about 500 people to Isaf.

Less US force left

From 2012, the foreign troops began to withdraw and at the end of December 2014 NATO formally ended its efforts in the country. Following an agreement with the new Afghan government, the United States retained about 10,000 men in Afghanistan and other countries retained a total of about 3,000 men. It was intended that the remaining Americans would have advisory and educational functions, but the situation in the conflict was considered so serious that they were also given conflicting tasks. The US also retained the opportunity to deploy combat aircraft against Taliban and other insurgency movements. The reason was the doubt that the Afghan forces would be able to resist the pressure from the Taliban. At the end of 2019, the American force (Operation Freedom’s Sentinel) amounted to 8,000 men.

A smaller NATO mission (Operation Resolute Support) was also left to provide training and counseling. At the end of 2018, it amounted to 13,877 soldiers, including 7,000 from the United States. Larger squad contributions also came from Germany, Italy and Georgia. Sweden contributed 50 people.

The conflict in Afghanistan costs the US about $ 45 billion annually. At the end of 2018, US President Donald Trump announced that a larger number of US soldiers might be taken home from Afghanistan. According to an anonymous source within the US State Administration, this would amount to about 7,000 people. NATO announced that its support efforts in the country are not affected by Trump’s decision. In the spring of 2020, the United States had not yet taken home any soldiers.


Army: 167 000 men (2017)

The air Force: 7,300 men (2017)

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

Military spending’s share of the state budget: 3.6 percent (2017)



Two Swedes are killed

The first in a long line of suicide attacks by Taliban occurs in Kabul. Outside of Mazar-i-Sharif, the Swedish Isaf squad is hit by its first losses when two soldiers are killed in an explosive attack.


Parliamentary elections are held

Parliamentary elections without party lists are carried out. The official result will not be clear until November after criticism of cheating and irregularities.


Cooperation agreement with the United States

US and Afghanistan enter into strategic partnership agreement; The United States gets free hands to continue the “war on terror” on Afghan soil. At the same time, data on brutal treatment of prisoners in the US detention center are starting to emerge.