From Aruba to Iceland, these 36 nations have no standing military

Key Points
  • Three-dozen nations do not have a standing military, according to the CIA World Factbook.
  • While several of these states do not have armed forces, their national police act as de facto military forces.
Department of Defense photo

WASHINGTON — In the United States, which has 1.3 million active-duty troops and spends more on defense than the next seven countries combined, it's hard to imagine that there are countries without a standing military. But there are, in fact, three dozen such countries and regions.

The CIA World Factbook lists 36 nations and territories without armed forces, many of which rely on other countries and international groups to provide their defense. Switzerland and Austria have agreed to provide a collective defense of Liechtenstein, for instance, while Spain and France protect Andorra.

Although several of these states do not have a "regular military force," per the CIA's definition, their national police forces act as de facto military forces. For example, Vanuatu's Mobile Force or the Public Forces of Costa Rica are responsible for protecting their nations' borders.

One state that is notably absent from this list is the Vatican City, which is home to the famed Swiss Guard. While largely ceremonial, they are tasked with preserving the territorial integrity of the city-state and, of course, for protecting the pope. The CIA World Factbook considers them as a regular force since they fulfill much of the duties that a traditional standing army would — even though Italian Armed Forces also guarantee the territorial integrity of the Holy See.

  1. Andorra
  2. Aruba
  3. Cayman Islands
  4. Cook Islands
  5. Costa Rica
  6. Curacao
  7. Dominica
  8. Falkland Islands
  9. Faroe Islands
  10. French Polynesia
  11. Greenland
  12. Grenada
  13. Iceland
  14. Kiribati
  15. Kosovo
  16. Liechtenstein
  17. Macau (autonomous territory of China)
  18. Marshall Islands
  19. Mauritius
  20. Federated States of Micronesia
  21. Monaco
  22. Montserrat
  23. Nauru
  24. New Caledonia
  25. Niue
  26. Palau
  27. Panama
  28. St. Lucia
  29. St. Vincent and the Grenadines
  30. Samoa
  31. San Marino
  32. Sint Maarten
  33. Solomon Islands
  34. Svalbard (unincorporated region of Norway)
  35. Tuvalu
  36. Vanuatu