RANKED: The most powerful countries on earth

Russia's President Vladimir Putin and Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman attend the G20 Leaders' Summit in Buenos Aires in November 2018.

caption
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman attend the G20 Leaders’ Summit in Buenos Aires in November 2018.
source
LUDOVIC MARIN/AFP/Getty Images

The US has retained its spot as the most powerful country in the world in 2019 according to an annual ranking, followed closely by some of its closet allies and traditional adversaries.

The US News and World Report rankings look at a country’s political and financial influences, as well as its international and alliances, the strength its military and how it acts as an international leader.

The rankings come as part of US News and World Report’s “2019 Best Countries” ranking in collaboration with the University of Pennsylvania, which surveyed more than 20,000 people on their opinions of 80 countries.

Here are the most powerful countries on earth, according to this year’s rankings.


25: Belgium

source
Greg Sandoval/Business Insider

Belgium was not ranked in the world’s 80 most powerful countries in 2018, but it was ranked 25th in 2019. The small, highly developed country is one of the six EU founding nations, and hosts international organizations like NATO and the European Council.


24: Qatar

Qatar is rich in oil and gas, making it one of the world’s richest countries. Education and healthcare are free, and the country is scheduled to host the 2022 World Cup, though it has been criticized for its treatment of migrant workers.

Four of Qartar’s neigbors have put an economic embargo on Qatar and boycotted its imports since 2017. But Qatar says that the blockade has actually boosted its economy as it entered new markets instead.

Qatar was ranked 20th in 2018, four places higher than in 2019.


23: Spain

source
gary718/Shutterstock

Spain recovered from the financial crisis though its resilient export market and a European Union-funded restructuring effort, US News noted.

Spain has a large cultural influence through its achievements in arts and dance, though growing separatist movements in the Basque region and Catalonia threaten its unity.


22: Pakistan

source
Syed Zargahm/Getty Images

Pakistan is one of the world’s most populous countries and has one of the world’s youngest populations, though conflicts with extremist groups and rising tensions with India over the disputed Kashmir region have hindered its development.


21: Sweden

source
Oleksiy Mark/Shutterstock

Sweden has fallen two places in the ranking compared to 2018, when it was ranked 19th.

One of the largest countries in the EU, Sweden is a respected world leader in human rights.

“Health care, as well as a college education, are free, and its people boast one of the longest life expectancies in the world. Almost all of Sweden’s trash is recycled,” US News noted.


20: Singapore

source
Shutterstock/Kanuman

Singapore is one of the world’s wealthiest nations, with high employment.

It faces concerns about the rising cost of living, but US News noted that, as “one of Asia’s four economic tigers, Singapore has seen impressive growth in recent years as efficient manufacturing and production practices have made way for free-market innovation in the booming electronics and pharmaceutical industries.”

It rose four places compared to the 2018 ranking.


19: Iraq

source
SABAH ARAR/AFP/Getty Images

Iraq was not ranked in the world’s 80 most powerful countries in 2018, but was listed as 19th in 2019.

The World Bank notes that the country’s economy is unstable, even as it sits one of the world’s largest reserves of crude oil.

Iraq is a member of international and regional organizations like the IMF, the Arab League, and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.


18: Italy

source
Shutterstock

Italy’s economy is one of the largest in the Eurozone, though it did slip into a recession at the end of 2018.

Italy has a large cultural influence, from its famous artists to its fashion houses.


17: India

source
Flickr / Ming Tong

India is the world’s largest democracy, and it plays an important role in the global technology industry.

India also has huge cultural influence. “The film industry based in Mumbai, nicknamed Bollywood, makes more feature-length films than any other nation in the world,” US News noted.

It was ranked two places lower in 2019 compared to 2018.


16: Turkey

source
Luciano Mortula/iStock

Turkey bridges Europe and the Middle East, meaning that it has faced regional fighting, and it has faced internal challenges like a failed military coup in 2016.

But the OECD expects it to be one of its fastest growing members in the next few years. It is a founding member of the UN and the OECD, and is active in NATO.

It was ranked 14th in 2018, two places higher.


15: Australia

source
Hai Linh Truong/Flickr

Australia is a wealthy nation with a high quality of life and is a member of many leading international organizations.

The country has risen one place compared to 2018. It was then ranked 16th.


14: Switzerland

source
Fatschnaus/Shutterstock

Switzerland has risen three places compared to 2018, when it was ranked 17th.

Switzerland is one of the world’s wealthiest countries and has one of the highest GDPs in the world.

It is also notable for its banking sector, which privileges clients’ privacy more than many other nations.

Some of the world’s biggest international organizations, like the United Nations, have their international headquarters in Geneva.


13: Iran

source
Matjaz Krivic/Getty Images

According to US News, Iran “has long been of interest to global powers because of its strategic location within the Middle East and its abundant supply of oil and other natural resources.”


12: Canada

source
Claus Andersen/Getty Images

Canada is the world’s second-largest country and has the world’s fifth-largest oil reserves.


11: United Arab Emirates

source
Shutterstock

The UAE has fallen one place in the rankings compared to last year.

The World Economic Forum named it the most competitive economy in the Arab world, while the CIA’s World Factbook said that its GDP per capita “is on par with those of leading western European nations” thanks to its oil reserves.

It is one of the most liberal countries in the region, and it avoided the unrest many of its neighbors faced during the Arab Spring in 2011.


10: South Korea

source
501room/Shutterstock

South Korea has entered the world’s top 10 most powerful countries, having been listed as 11th in 2018.

It is the world’s seventh-largest exporter and 11th-largest economy overall, US News noted. It is a major technology and car exporter, and is a member of many international organizations like the G20 and WTO.


9: Saudi Arabia

source
Thomson Reuters

Saudi Arabia is a large and wealthy country, with US News describing it as “the giant of the Middle East.”

Saudi Arabia is also the home of Mecca, to which millions of Muslims travel every year, and has vast oil reserves which it exports around the world.

The kingdom is facing increased international scrutiny following the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, and for its limits on freedom of expression.


8: Israel

source
Getty Images

US News notes that “For its relatively small size, the country has played a large role in global affairs.”

Israel has a strong economy but its boundaries are seriously disputed and it faces ongoing conflict with Palestine.


7: Japan

caption
View from Mount Fuji of Chureito Pagoda, outside of Tokyo.
source
Flickr / Giuseppe Milo

Japan is “one of the world’s most literate and technically advanced nations,” US News notes. It has the world’s third-largest economy.


6: France

source
orpheus26/iStock

France is one of the world’s oldest countries, and its reach “extends around the globe through science, politics, economics and perhaps above all, culture,” US News said.

The French economy is one of the world’s largest, though US News noted that it faces domestic challenges including how it deals with terrorism and attitudes to Islam.


5: United Kingdom

source
Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

US News notes that the UK “exerts considerable international economic, political, scientific and cultural influence” on the world despite “new questions and anxieties about the country’s role on the global stage” after it voted to leave the EU.

The UK’s colonial past continues to boost the country’s influence, and London is one of the most-visited cities in the world.


4: Germany

source
Sebastian Widmann/Getty Images

Germany has the biggest population of all EU countries, and has a highly skilled workforce. Chancellor Angela Merkel faced challenges to her power, and resigned as the leader of her party, but Germany continues to play a leading role in the EU and other international organizations.


3. China

source
Reuters

China has the world’s largest population and the world’s second-largest economy. It has seen rapid economic development, but millions still live below the country’s poverty line, The World Bank notes.


2. Russia

caption
Vladimir Putin.
source
Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Russia is the world’s largest country by landmass, and shares a border with more than a dozen countries. The lasting influence of the Soviet Union, the economic boost that come from its oil and coal reserves, and its emphasis on military might explain the country’s power.


1. United States

source
Alex Wong/Getty Images

US News describes the US as the “world’s most dominant economic and military power.” The country also has a large cultural impact on the world due to how its popular culture is expressed in books, movies, music and TV shows.

US News also notes that the policy decisions by President Donald Trump have “have raised questions around the world, including from the country’s closest allies, about the nation’s future course on the global stage.”