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In the past years, the world has witnessed a deterioration in international relations, a rise in aggressive nationalism and religious fanaticism, sluggish economic growth, an increasing economic inequality, unemployment rates, poverty rates, a collapse of a number of states, which are currently plagued in civil unrest, and a fall in law and order that is gradually crawling into even the most stable societies. Our world is an interconnected political-economic system and a disturbance in a point can affect the whole system and take it into a state of crisis. Look at how what started as a protest of a few hundred against the government in Syria, or a local dispute in Ukraine, ended up putting the two world most powerful militaries in a serious standoff.

If human against human violence is destined to rise because of this perceived world direction towards crisis, it is important to be acquainted with the current most advanced killing capabilities humans possess.

Almost all sovereign states (206 members of the United Nations) in the world have military forces. It is estimated that there are approximately 65 million individuals serving in militaries worldwide. In this article, I will list the military capabilities of the top 4 countries in the world starting with the strongest. The ranking is according to the 2017 list prepared by “Global Firepower” (GFP).

  1. The United States

United States Armed Forces are the strongest in the world according to almost all military rankings. It is a military that is the most experienced in modern warfare. The US has gone through major 12 wars  and tens of side wars since its establishment in 1776. The US military is spread through military bases in all world continents. The US military’s main branches are: US Army, US Navy, US Air Force and US Marine Corps. T

Annual Defense Budget: USD 587,800,000,000 (Almost 1/3 of total world military expenditure)

Capabilities
Active Military Personnel: 1,477,896
Total Aircraft: 13762
Total Naval Strength: 415

Total Tank Strength: 5884
Submarines: 70
Aircraft Carriers: 19

Nuclear Warheads: 6800
Biological Weapons: No
Chemical Weapons: Yes

  1. Russia

The Armed Forces of the Russian Federation is ranked 2nd worldwide in terms of strength. The Russian military consists of the Ground Forces, Aerospace Forces, the Navy, Strategic Missile Troops, Airborne Troops and the Rear of the Armed Forces. Russia has military bases in a number of countries of Eastern Europe, Central Asia and has military existence in the Middle East through its bases in Syria.

Annual Defense Budget: USD 44,600,000,000.

Capabilities
Active Military Personnel: 766,055
Total Aircraft: 3794
Total Naval Strength: 352

Total Tank Strength: 20,216
Submarines: 63
Aircraft Carriers: 1

Nuclear Warheads: 7000
Biological Weapons: Likely
Chemical Weapons: Yes

  1. China

People Liberation Army (PLA) is the largest in the world in terms of manpower and is ranked the 3rd in terms of strengh. The PLA consists of five professional service branches: the Ground Force, Navy, Air Force, Rocket Force, and the Strategic Support Force.

Annual Defense Budget:  USD 161,700,000,000

Capabilities:

Active Military Personnel: 2,335,000
Total Aircraft: 2955
Total Naval Strength: 714

Total Tank Strength: 6,457
Submarines: 68
Aircraft carriers: 1

Nuclear Warheads: 260
Biological Weapons: Maybe
Chemical Weapons: Suspected

  1. India

The Indian Armed Forces consists of the Indian Army, Indian Navy and Indian Air forces. Additionally, the Indian Armed Forces are supported by Indian Coast Guard and paramilitary organizations.

Annual Defense Budget: USD 51,000,000,000

Capabilities

Active Military Personnel: 1,325,000
Total Aircraft: 2102
Total Naval Strength: 295

Total Tank Strength: 4426
Submarines: 15
Aircraft carriers: 3
Nuclear Warheads: 110
Biological Weapons: No
Chemical Weapons: Maybe

Other countries in the world top 10 in terms of military strength are: France (nuclear, 300 warheads), UK (nuclear, 215 warheads), Turkey, Japan, Germany and Italy. Countries with weapons of mass destruction but are not in the top 10 list are: North Korea (10 nuclear warheads and has chemical weapons), Israel (80-100 nuclear warheads and has chemical weapons), and Pakistan (140 warheads and likely to have chemical weapons).

With the current tensions in East Asia between the US and North Korea, a nuclear warfare probability isn’t excluded. In April 2017, North Korea has warned that a “nuclear war could break out at any moment”, as US warships move into the Korean Peninsula. It is noteworthy to know what damage nuclear weapons can inflict.

How destructive existing nuclear weapons can be?

There are approximately 15,000 nuclear warheads that are officially declared. However, since information on weapons of mass destruction possession by nations is kept as a secret of national security, the number is estimated to be more. One nuclear bomb can devastate a city. There are roughly 500 large cities with more than 1 million residents worldwide, so the current amount of existing nuclear weapons can cause a worldwide catastrophe.

The following image shows the radius of impact of dropping the Russian “Tsar Bomba 50 mt”, the most powerful nuclear weapon in the world, on Amsterdam.

Google features a tool that you can use to see how much damage specified nuclear weapons can cause in a given city. You can go to Ground Zero and nuke any city of your choice.
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