In this top group, countries maintain well-equipped armies sufficient to their individual needs, face few if any direct external security threats and are well-integrated into national alliances.
New Zealand, Belgium, Luxembourg and Sweden are members of NATO, benefiting from the alliance’s deterrent effect. Sweden is formally neutral, however, and has reduced military spending substantially since the Cold War’s end.
Chile’s well-outfitted military is adequate to deter any threats from nearby neighbors, but institutional reforms have been slow and ineffective since the military regime’s end in 1989.
In this group, military institutions are typically being rethought or are comparatively underfunded. However, direct external security threats are minimal, and defense-focused relationships are strong.
Financial pressures have hampered modernization in Portugal, Spain, Australia and Italy. Austria’s forces are underfunded, and the country is poorly integrated into the European defense system. Ireland spends little on its military, and Iceland maintains no military at all, depending on agreements with the USA for security.
Germany is shifting to a more professional army, with conscription lengths reduced to six months during the period of review, and broader changes proposed. Security policy reform in Switzerland has been opposed by conservatives, who hold an unrealistic view of the country’s independent self-defense capacity.
Canada has raised defense spending and reorganized security to strengthen border controls. Greece’s past expenditure has been very high, but waning regional tensions and fiscal crisis have led to declines. Fiscal pressures in Hungary too resulted in defense cuts.
Popular opposition to Iraq and Afghan missions is forcing reassessment of defense policy in the UK. Mexico’s primary concern is keeping internal problems from spilling across the US border.
In this group, regional tensions have complicated national defense postures, or participation in external conflicts has dominated policy.
The USA, with the world’s highest military expenditures, is inevitably in a category by itself. Its role in Iraq diminished during the review period, but Afghanistan remains an expensive, intractable challenge.
Japan and South Korea are wary of a strengthening Chinese military, and North Korea’s nuclear capacity and erratic policy undermines regional stability. Both depend on the USA for security.
Slovakia tightened ties with Russia, irritating NATO allies. Poland improved relations with Germany and Russia while retaining its orientation to the USA. Turkey’s spending declined, but its military remains a powerful independent social force in a conflict-prone region.