Although surprising, not all countries have active armies. In this article, we will take a look at those countries in the world without armed forces. We’ll also find out why these nations refuse to have a military of their own, and how they protect themselves without these defenses.
DID YOU KNOW?
On the 23rd of May 2003, L. Paul Bremer III, the civilian head of the US-led occupation of post-war Iraq, issued a very controversial directive, which called for the dissolution of the 500,000-man-strong Iraqi military forces. Although plans to build a new Iraqi army would be announced soon after, for a short while, Iraq was without any armed forces to call its own.
When US Civil war General William Sherman was asked to address military cadets in 1879, he summed up his vast experience of war in just 3 words: ‘War is Hell’. His statement is greatly supported by statistics as well. In the 20th century alone, over 150 million people lost their lives to war. The world lost not just lives, but also finances. The world’s top military powers easily spend trillions of dollars each year on sustaining and improving their forces.
Despite these huge costs in money and human lives, most governments across the world consider spending on defense to be a major necessity. However, there also are a few countries that have opted not to have an army at all. Let’s see why they came to such a decision, and what sort of defense they have instead of a traditional armed force.
List of Countries Without an Army
The nation of Andorra does have a small volunteer army, but it is purely ceremonial in function. To protect itself from external threats, the country has signed treaties with both, France and Spain. NATO forces would also protect this country when necessary. Andorra also has a paramilitary force. However, it is part of the national police.
After the civil war in 1948, President Jose Figueres Ferrer disbanded the Costa Rican army. In 1949, he added the prohibition of the appointment of a standing army into the constitution of Costa Rica. This South American country does have a security force for the public, but its duties are completely domestic. Costa Rica also has a sizable, well-equipped paramilitary force, Civil and Rural Guard units, and a Border Security Police, which work domestically. The nation largely depends on the United Nations for its external security.
Since an attempted army coup in 1981, the government of Dominica has abolished its military forces. As of now, external security is the responsibility of the Regional Security System (RSS), a body made up by the nations of Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, St. Lucia, Barbados, Grenada, St.Vincent and the Grenadines, and Saint Kitts and Nevis.
Since an invasion of the United States in 1983, Grenada has not had a standing army in its service. The country maintains a paramilitary force as part of the Royal Grenada Police Force, which works on internal security. External security is the responsibility of the Regional Security System (RSS).
The Haitian military forces were demobilized in 1995. Since then, the Haitian National Police has taken care of the security of the nation. It consists of a few paramilitary and coast guard units. In 2012, the president of Haiti, Michel Martelly, demanded that the army be reestablished to stabilize the country. This means that Haiti may soon have to be knocked off this list.
Iceland had a standing army until 1869. After that, the country had defense agreements with the US to maintain an Iceland Defense Force, between 1951 to 2006. Since then, the US has announced that it will provide for Iceland’s defense without having any permanent units stationed there. Iceland does have a military expeditionary peacekeeping force, called the Iceland Crisis Response Unit, which it keeps as an active part of NATO. This also means that fellow NATO members take turns in guarding Iceland’s airspace. The country also has an air defense system, armed coast guard, and tactical police force, which means that, despite not having an army, Iceland is far from defenseless.
The constitution of Kiribati allows only for a police force, which includes a maritime surveillance unit used for internal security only. For external security, the nation has informal agreements with both, New Zealand and Australia.
Widely considered as one of the richest countries in the world, Liechtenstein surprisingly disbanded its army in 1868, because its maintenance was thought to be too costly. There is a provision for the formation of an army if the country is threatened by war. However, such a situation has never arisen. The country depends on its police and SWAT forces for internal security.
Since its foundation in 1979, the Marshall Islands are allowed to have only police forces inclusive of a Maritime Surveillance Unit for internal security. For external defense, it depends primarily on the US.
There has been no standing army in Mauritius since 1968. Any police, military, and security duties are performed by three groups – National Police Force for internal law enforcement, National Coast Guard for maritime surveillance, and a Special Mobile force, which is a paramilitary unit. All these forces are headed by the Commissioner of Police. The security of Mauritius receives counter-terrorism training from the United States, while its Coast Guard trains regularly with the Indian Navy.
Until World War 2, these islands in the Pacific Ocean were under the rule of Japan. However, since its independence and foundation, the Federated States of Micronesia has allowed only the formation of a police force. Like the Marshall Islands, the protection of Micronesia comes under the United States. With its small size and lack of foreign enemies, maintaining a military seems impractical.
The advances in artillery technology during the 17th century made Monaco virtually defenseless. Following this, the nation renounced its general armed forces. However, the country still has two small military forces, one of which protects the royalty and the judiciary, while the other works on fire fighting and internal civil security. A national police force also exists to aid both these units. France is responsible for Monaco’s military protection.
Nauru takes care of domestic security through a sizable, well-armed police force, which has plenty of men as reserve forces. This island nation also has an informal agreement with Australia for protection from external threats.
This country has a similar security system to the Marshall Islands and Micronesia. It has a small police force, a maritime surveillance unit, and relies on the United States for its safety.
After the United States invaded Panama to remove its military dictator Manuel Noreiga, the Panamanian army was abolished in 1990. The country has since focused most of its security systems towards controlling domestic matters. Panama has a National Police, National Border Service, Institutional Protection Service, and a National Aeronaval Service, which together come under the banner of the Panamanian Public Forces. Each of these units have limited warfare capabilities.
The internal security of this country is taken care of by the Royal Saint Lucia Police, the Special Service Unit, and the Coast Guard, of which, the last two are considered as paramilitary forces. External defense is taken care of by the Regional Security System.
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
This nation is also dependent on the Regional Security System for its defense. However, for domestic security, the Royal Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Police Force, and the paramilitary forces of a Special Service Unit and Coast Guard are deployed by the country. Most of the commanders of the Coast Guard are former officers of the United Kingdom’s Royal Navy.
Like Palau and the Marshal Islands, Samoa too has a small police force and marine surveillance unit for domestic security and border protection. Under the Treaty of Friendship, the defense of the Samoans is the responsibility of New Zealand.
San Marino has a very small military force, most of which is ceremonial in nature. It also has a small but well-equipped police force. The military aids the police in domestic security and law enforcement. This tiny country depends entirely on Italy for national defense.
The Solomon Islands had their own paramilitary force, which disintegrated during the ethnic conflict between the Guales and Malatian people of this country between 1998 and 2003. Law and order was restored with the help of a joint mission by Australia, New Zealand, and the Pacific nations (Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Tonga, Vanuatu, Tuvalu, Tonga, Samoa, Palau, Niue, Nauru, Kiribati, Micronesia, Cook Islands, and Marshall Islands). The Mission was named Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI). Today, the internal security is managed by a sizable police force and marine surveillance unit. External threats are still taken under the responsibility of RAMSI.
Since its foundation, Tuvalu has never had a military force. It only has a small but well-equipped police and maritime surveillance unit for domestic security. The country relies on informal partnerships with other Pacific nations to combat external threats, if any.
Despite never having a proper military, Vanuatu’s police force comprises a well-equipped paramilitary unit called the Vanuatu Mobile Force. This country also depends on other Pacific nations to deal with outside threats.
The two military units of the smallest country in the world, namely the Palantine Guard and the Noble Guard, were abolished by the Vatican in 1970. Since then, the Pontifical Swiss Guard and a Gendarmerie Corps has been responsible for internal security. Since the Vatican is a neutral state, it does not have any defense treaty with Italy. However, it is still protected informally by the Italian military.
The limited security forces of these countries are not meant for fighting wars. Their goals primarily include law enforcement, border protection, and stopping illegal activities such as drug smuggling. Expenditure on military resources in other countries is largely motivated by politics, economics, security, and the constant fear of uncertainty in today’s world. On the other hand, it is estimated that, by cutting back around half of the world’s armed forces, the money saved would be enough to stop not just climate change, but also global poverty. With such benefits, it would be a good thing for nations to pragmatically think about following the example of their neighbors mentioned above.