- US News & World Report ranked the world’s most powerful countries in 2023.
- The US remains No. 1, but some countries saw their positions rise or fall due to global instability.
- India and Saudi Arabia are among the countries that saw a jump in their rankings this year.
The US, China, and Russia remained unchallenged as the world’s most powerful countries in 2023, according to this year’s global power rankings, published by US News & World Report.
The rankings, part of the “Best Countries” study, polled 17,000 people about their thoughts on 87 different nations.
The ranking assesses a country’s influence based on respondents’ perceptions of factors like political, economic, and military power.
Here’s how the world’s 25 most powerful countries stack up:
US News noted that the Netherlands has been a policy trailblazer, including becoming the world’s first country to legalize same-sex marriage.
The headquarters of the International Criminal Court and the International Court of Justice are in The Hague, and the Netherlands was a founder-member of both the EU and NATO, and has been a very vociferous supporter of both organizations, it said.
The ranking highlighted the country’s strong international alliances, as well as its economic influence.
Even so, while the Dutch have established what is widely seen as a tolerant society, concerns about immigration are becoming more prevalent among some politicians, the ranking noted.
The country fell one spot compared to last year’s ranking, from 24th to 25th.
US News said Singapore, dubbed one of “Asia’s four economic giants,” has experienced rapid growth, including through the country’s thriving electronics and pharmaceutical industries.
It noted that Singapore is among the world’s richest nations due to its high GDP per capita and low unemployment rate. However, it said that constraints on available space and rapid population expansion add to worries about rising living expenses and income disparity.
The country failed to make the top 25 in 2022 but returned to the list this year. The country ranked particularly highly for its economic influence and strength of its exports, though far less so for its military might.
US News also pointed out that safety and security are key points of pride for the country, with Singaporeans subject to hefty penalties even for chewing gum and littering.
US News said Sweden’s commitments to human rights, public service, and sustainability have made it a respected leader in international affairs.
“Health care, as well as a college education, are free, and its people boast one of the longest life expectancies in the world,” it said.
It also noted Sweden’s strong international alliances and economic influence, and that it has one of the biggest landmasses in the EU.
The country rose one place compared to last year’s ranking.
US News said Qatar is one of the world’s wealthiest countries, thanks to its oil and natural gas reserves. As a result, Qataris, of which there are less than 3 million, enjoy a high standard of living.
The report noted that manufacturing, construction, and financial services account for slightly more than half of the country’s GDP, which has helped the economy weather the global decrease in oil prices.
Qatar has developed itself as a research center, with many prestigious American colleges establishing satellite campuses on the outskirts of Doha, it added.
The country’s power ranking benefited particularly from its strong economic influence, as well as its international alliances and political influence.
It rose one place compared to last year.
Switzerland is a small country but one of the world’s wealthiest, according to US News.
The country’s robust economy is driven by low corporate tax rates, a highly developed service sector dominated by financial services, and a high-tech manufacturing industry, it said.
Due to its long tradition of neutrality, Switzerland isn’t a member of the EU and it did not support a side in either of the two world wars. However, US News noted that its neutral stance means Switzerland is a popular headquarters location for organizations like the International Committee of the Red Cross and the UN.
The country has strong economic influence and international alliances, according to the ranking.
Even so, Switzerland dropped one spot from last year’s rankings.
US News noted Spain is a member of the EU, NATO, the UN, the OECD, and the World Trade Organization.
It added that a resilient export market, as well as EU-funded restructuring effort in 2014, have helped Spain recover from a severe economic recession in 2009.
But despite efforts to implement labor, pension, health, tax, and education reforms, about a quarter of Spain’s population remains unemployed.
Spain, which is seen as having strong international alliances, exports, and economic influence, fell one place compared to last year’s rankings.
US News said Brazil is “the giant of the continent – both in size and in population.”
It highlighted the fact that Brazil’s economic boom in the first decade of the 21st century made it one of the world’s largest economies in terms of GDP, according to the International Monetary Fund.
It also noted the country is one of the world’s top tourist destinations, that its Amazon River is the world’s second longest, and that its coastline stretches for more than 4,600 miles.
However, US News noted the country is battling persistent poverty and corruption, affecting Brazil’s social, economic, and political systems.
The country’s power ranking was boosted by its strong exports and economic influence.
Iran has one of the largest economies in the Middle East, according to US News.
The country has long attracted the attention of major world powers due to its strategic location, as well as its abundant oil and other natural resources, it said.
But Iran’s economy continues to be severely harmed by a legacy of isolation, according to US News, despite it sitting on 10% of the world’s known oil reserves and being a founding member of OPEC.
Its power ranking is heavily linked to its perceived military strength.
Australia is a prosperous country with a market-based economy and a relatively high GDP and per capita income, per US News.
It noted Australia’s involvement in international cooperation through institutions like the G20, the Commonwealth of Nations, and Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation.
The country is seen as having strong international alliances and economic influence.
US News noted Italy has the fourth-largest economy in the eurozone.
The country is well-known for its historical cities, world-renowned cuisine, and geographic beauty, which makes it an ideal tourist destination, it said.
But organized crime, corruption, slowing economic growth, and high young and female unemployment remain major problems, it added.
When it comes to its power ranking, those surveyed pointed to its international alliances, economic influence, and strong exports.
US News said Turkey is expected to be one of the OECD’s fastest-expanding members in the next years.
Turkey, as well as being a founding member of the UN and the OECD, is a NATO member, it noted.
But it also found the country faces regional fighting, terrorism, and political instability.
Turkey rose two places compared to last year, when it was ranked 17th, but is still down one place from 2021.
Ukraine, invaded by Russia last year, is a member of key international organizations such as the UN and the World Trade Organization, according to US News.
The country’s three largest economic sectors are services, industry, and agriculture, it said.
Ukraine has gained substantial political and military support from Western allies like the US, UK, and EU member states since the full-scale Russian invasion in February 2022, and has been praised globally for its resistance to Russia.
But Russia’s invasion has decimated its population, cities, and industry, causing significant losses that it will likely take decades to recover from.
Ukraine’s perceived strong military was a major factor in its power ranking. It occupies the same position as in 2022.
US News said Canada is the fourth-largest producer of oil in the world and has the third-largest proven oil reserves.
It noted the country is a “high-tech industrial society with a high standard of living.”
Dropping one place from 2022, those surveyed highlighted Canada’s economic influence and strong international alliances.
Rising one place from 2022, US News noted that India is the world’s largest democracy and has a fast-growing, diverse economy with a large, skilled workforce.
The country has become an important center of information technology services, corporate outsourcing services, and software employees thanks to its educated, English-speaking workforce, it noted.
It is also the second most populous country, behind China, it said.
India’s perceived power comes from its exports and economic influence.
Israel, despite its relatively small size, has played a significant role in global affairs, US News noted.
Indicators like life expectancy, education, and per capita income, also show that the nation is highly developed, it said.
However, its economy is among the most unequal in the Western world, with wide disparities between the rich and poor, it said.
According to US News, the country is accused of violating human rights and is involved in continuing border disputes surrounding the occupied Palestinian territories.
Israel dropped one place from last year’s power ranking, with its strong military and political influence being the key attributes highlighted.
US News noted that the United Arab Emirates’ discovery of oil in the mid-20th century has rapidly transformed its economy.
The UAE’s per capita GDP is now comparable to that of major Western European nations, it said.
The country has the most competitive economy in the Arab world, according to the World Economic Forum, US News noted.
But the UAE dropped one spot from last year’s ranking, overtaken by neighboring Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia is the world’s largest oil supplier, accounting for an estimated quarter of global oil supplies, US News noted.
It added that the country is an OPEC founding member and a member of the World Trade Organization, as well as other international bodies.
Every year, millions of faithful Muslims from all over the world make the pilgrimage to Mecca, which is believed to be the birthplace of the Muslim prophet Mohammed and the cradle of Islam, it noted.
Saudi Arabia moved up two spots compared to last year, when it ranked 11th, with particular attention paid to its economic and political influence.
US News described Japan as one of the world’s “most literate and technically advanced nations.”
It noted the country has the third-largest economy in the world, and is among the world’s largest producers of vehicles, electronic equipment, and steel.
Japan’s economic influence was the fourth highest in the world, according to those surveyed.
Its ranking hasn’t changed from last year.
US News noted France’s economy ranks among the strongest in the world, with tourism playing a key role.
It also said France is one of the most-visited countries on earth and is one of the world’s top exporters of weapons.
“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.
Its strong international alliances and economic influence were key to its power ranking, which was the same as in 2022.
US News pointed to South Korea’s strong military and strong exports for its position on the power ranking.
The country is part of many international organizations, including the UN, G20, World Trade Organization, and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Regional Forum.
South Korea has “one of the world’s largest gross national savings and reserves of foreign investment,” US News said, while also highlighting its huge exports of cars and technology, with the country being home to the headquarters of Samsung, Hyundai, and Kia.
US News described South Korea’s “high-tech, service-based economy” as “a foreign investment success story,” and said it now has one of the world’s biggest economies.
US News said the UK has strong global influence due in part to its past, when it controlled the British Empire.
It described the UK as “a highly developed nation that exerts considerable international economic, political, scientific and cultural influence.”
It also described London as “a major international financial center and one of the most visited cities in the world,” and noted how the UK has many of the world’s top universities.
The UK is also part of the World Trade Organization, the G20, NATO, and the World Bank, and is a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, but US News also said its “role on the global stage faces new questions” since it left the EU.
Germany’s strong international alliances and its strong economic influence were cited by US News for its high-ranking position, the same one it occupied in last year’s ranking.
It noted that Germany is “the most populous nation in the European Union” and “possesses one of the largest economies in the world,” with Germany being one of the biggest importers and exporters on the planet.
The country borders nine other countries, and it is part of major international organizations, including the UN, EU, NATO, and the OECD.
Germany has also produced “some of the world’s leading figures in the natural and social sciences, as well as the arts,” US News said, and it also has a “highly skilled, affluent workforce.”
But it noted the country has some issues like an aging population.
Russia retained its third-place spot in the US News power ranking despite struggling in its invasion of Ukraine, which it launched in February 2022.
Russia’s military has been grinding and has experienced some embarrassing setbacks, with the country also increasingly isolated.
US News said that some of Russia’s power comes from its huge size, which is “difficult to imagine,” with Russia being the largest country in the world by landmass.
Its standing is also boosted as it shares borders with so many countries, as well as sea borders with Japan and the US.
US News pointed to Russia’s big industries like oil and natural gas production, agriculture, fishing, and manufacturing, as well as the country’s history as a major weapons exporter.
It also pointed to Russia’s contributions to culture with its many celebrated authors, and to science with its history of space exploration.
Russia is also a member of major international organizations like the G20 and the World Trade Organization, as well as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, even though it has threatened to leave some of them.
US News noted how China is considered the second-largest country in the world by land mass and has the world’s second-biggest economy.
It said China has been one of the world’s fastest-growing major economies since reforms in 1978, and its rapid economic growth is recognized for lifting millions of people out of poverty.
But that growth has caused problems, US News noted, including growing inequality and pollution in the country and growing tensions with some other major countries like the US, which criticize its human rights record.
China has nuclear weapons and is a member of major international organizations like the World Trade Organization and the United Nations Security Council, boosting its power ranking.
US News called the US the “dominant global power” and kept the country in poll position in its power ranking.
It noted how the US has the world’s largest economy in terms of GDP (at $25.5 trillion) and how it is also the world’s “most technologically powerful” country.
The US being the world’s top producer of both oil and natural gas, as well as it having the world’s biggest coal reserves, was also cited by US News.
US News also mentioned the country’s huge media industry with “global influence,” its “significant exports” around the world, it being home to many of the world’s top universities, and its leading role in international organizations like the UN and NATO.
But it also noted some of the US’ “domestic struggles,” including polarized politics, firearm deaths, racial tensions, and income inequality.