The 23 most powerful nations on earth

11:40   19 March 2017    1123

The US has retained its position as the world's most powerful nation, despite declining respect for its leadership.

That's according to US News and World Report, which has released the latest edition of its annual "Best Countries" study.

The media organisation evaluated 80 countries across a range of criteria, including cultural history, citizenship, and quality of life.

Another key measure was "power," which determined how economically and politically influential a country was and weighed the strength of its international alliances and military.

More than 21,000 business leaders, informed elites, and general citizens were surveyed with the goal of discovering how nations are perceived on a global scale.

The US was perceived as the most powerful, followed closely by Russia, with the UK coming in fourth. Other countries included Pakistan, Turkey, and Israel.

Scroll down to see the 23 nations seen as most powerful.

23. Qatar — One of several Middle Eastern nations on the list, Qatar is the wealthiest country in the world in terms of gross domestic product per capita thanks to its oil-rich surroundings. Falling oil prices have hit its economy, however, and income slowed in the past year.


Qatari army special forces take part in a military parade (Getty)

22. Spain — "Ascension into the European Union in 1986 was a jump-start to the modernisation of Spain's infrastructure, industry, and economic policy," according to US News.

21. Netherlands — Home to the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court in The Hague, the Netherlands plays an important role on the world stage.

20. Pakistan — Political instability, corruption, and struggles with extremism have hindered Pakistan's standing in the power ranking. In turn, the nation's growth has been stunted as its export-driven economy "falls short in attracting foreign investment," according to US News.

19. Sweden — Despite militaristic roots, Sweden has decided against heavily investing in its armed forces in favour of a commitment to human rights and sustainability. Its approach to the well-being of its citizens has earned it respect on the global stage but could contribute to its lack of power.


View of the city centre and the port of Helsingborg in Sweden (Getty/iStock)

18. Italy — Though Italy faced a tumultuous political year with the shock resignation of Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and the rebuilding of its government, the country remains on the list while boasting the third-largest economy in the eurozone.

17. Australia — Though it placed relatively low for its power and global influence, Australia came in fourth in the quality-of-life category.

16. India — The world's largest democracy, India was also home to the world's fastest-growing major economy for most of 2016. But its recent cash crisis has been a blow to its economy, causing the country to lose 11 billionaires and 86% of its circulated cash.

15. Switzerland — The small European nation was named the best place in the world to live. It's the 11th-wealthiest nation in terms of GDP per capita, and it is extremely attractive to businesses thanks to its low corporate tax rates. The United Nations also has one of its main offices in the city of Geneva.

14. Iran — 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," according to US News. The nation holds a whopping 9% of the world's oil reserves.


Iran's elite Revolutionary Guard special forces participate in military manoeuvers at an undisclosed location near the Gulf. (AFP/Getty Images)

13. Turkey — Turkey is the gateway between the Middle East and the European Union, and the relationship between the two bodies is increasingly important as conflict rages in nearby countries. In September, British Secretary of State Boris Johnson said Britain would support Turkey's long-fought bid to join the EU, but an increasingly tense relationship between Turkey and several EU nations could hinder its progress.

12. Canada — Canada was named the second-best country to live in by US News, but its power didn't quite match, even though it is the US's largest trade partner.

11. South Korea — A contentious relationship with its isolated neighbour in the north means South Korea often receives military and political support from the world's superpowers. It is one of the world's largest reserves of foreign investment and is also the world's sixth-largest exporter.

10. United Arab Emirates — The UAE is one of the world's largest importers of arms and, after Saudi Arabia, has the second-largest defence budget of any of the Arab states.

9. Saudi Arabia — Saudi Arabia's oil reserves have allowed the country to become one of the wealthiest and most powerful nations in the Middle East. The gulf state has long been viewed as a close ally of the US, the UK, and other Western nations.


Saudi Arabia's Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (Charles Platiau/Reuters)

8. Israel — For a country with a population of just over 8 million, Israel has an outsize influence on the world stage. Despite its ongoing Palestinian conflict, the Jewish nation has a strong economy and a high level of education and per capita income for its citizens.

7. Japan — One of the most technologically advanced nations, Japan boasts the world's third-largest economy, having recovered from the 2011 tsunami that shattered its infrastructure and manufacturing.

6. France — With a GDP per capita of $42,384 (£34,581), France boasts one of the largest economies in Europe and is one of the world's top exporters of weapons. Its influence extends around the world "through its science, politics, economics and perhaps above all, culture," US News writes.

5. Germany — Often seen as the economic powerhouse of Europe, the continent's most populous nation has seen its role on the world stage become increasingly important since reunification in 1990.

4. United Kingdom — "The United Kingdom is a highly developed nation that exerts considerable international economic, political, scientific and cultural influence," US News writes. While it isn't known how its expected exit from the European Union would affect the country's standing, the nation seems to have so far withstood the shock of the referendum result.


Union flags fly near the Houses of Parliament (Getty)

3. China — The rise of China is quite remarkable. Home to 1.4 billion people, the country already has the world's largest military, and experts predict it will be the world's largest economy by 2050.

2. Russia — Russia capitalised on its natural resources to become one of the world's wealthiest nations. Its military spending as a percentage of its GDP continues to outstrip that of countries within NATO by a considerable distance. It currently spends 5.4% of its annual GDP on defence — the closest a NATO country comes by comparison is the US, which spends 3.3%.

1. United States — Nearly 75% of respondents said they lost "some respect" for US leadership after the 2016 presidential election, but the country is still ranked the most powerful. Its economic, political, cultural, and artistic influence shapes the world, and a mammoth defence budget of about $600 billion (£494bn) and its leading economy put it at the top.


US President Donald Trump (AP)


/The Independent/

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