Global Firepower in the Caspian: A Comparative Analysis

The following compilation, piggy-backing on the overwhelming positive response given from the last edition of the Caspian Project where Caspian littorals were compared within various cross-indexes covering corruption, utilizes the hard work done by to analyze and rank the world’s militaries today.

Using unique databases that allow for comparison and stand-alone analyses, Global Firepower tried to ascertain a country’s potential conventional war-making capabilities across the traditional tri-ad of land, air, and sea. Nuclear capability was wisely taken out of the accounting as it would clearly skew any opportunity for real comparison and objective war-making analysis. Peripheral, but no less important, factors like financial stability, natural resources, foreign debt, oil reserves, and geography were also taken into account. In all, over fifty factors were compiled and measured in order to arrive at a final ‘Power Index’ in which a specific nation would receive its overall ranking. As the below data will show, the Caspian region holds quite a diversity in terms of military power and war-making capacity. A baseline rival is given for comparison by using the United States:


Overall Firepower Rankings Index (out of 126 countries total):

1. United States (0.1661)

2. Russia (0.1865)

23. Iran (0.7619)

63. Azerbaijan (1.5211)

66. Kazakhstan (1.6197)

90. Turkmenistan (2.3069)

Active Military Manpower (out of 126 countries total): Manpower ‘Fit’ for Military Service (out of 126 countries total):
Active military personnel are those units that are ‘ready-to-fight.’ These forces will naturally be the first to be committed to an actual combat situation. Wars come down to manpower, a population’s ability to be ‘fit for duty’ and actually assist in the warmaking effort. This statistic is used to further refine a country’s ability to do battle.

2. United States (1,400,000)

4. Russia (766,055)

8. Iran (545,000)

49. Kazakhstan (49,000)

61. Azerbaijan (67,000)

89. Turkmenistan (22,000)

3. United States (120,022,084)

9. Russia (46,812,553)

14. Iran (39,566,497)

58. Kazakhstan (6,438,168)

76. Azerbaijan (3, 740,000)

100. Turkmenistan (2,252,187)

Active Reserve Military Personnel (out of 126 countries total):  
War time resources dictate the need for reserve personnel. These numbers often favor countries that have a large base population, large defense budget, and fairly ‘adventurist’ approach to foreign policy.  

4. Russia (2,485,000)

8. Iran (1,800,000)

11. United States (1,100,000)

24. Kazakhstan (378,000)

27. Azerbaijan (300,000)

72. Turkmenistan (35,000)

Tanks Armored Fighting Vehicles

1. Russia (15,398)

3. United States (8,848)

17. Iran (1658)

27. Turkmenistan (712)

47. Azerbaijan (314)

48. Kazakhstan (300)

1. United States (41,062)

2. Russia (31,298)

40. Turkmenistan (1,941)

44. Kazakhstan (1,613)

45. Azerbaijan (1,590)

53. Iran (1,315)

Multiple Launch Rocket Systems

The MLRS is a tracked or wheeled vehicle mounting a rocket launching system atop its hull. The MLRS offers a devastating physical and psychological effect on the enemy in a war-time situation.


1. Russia (3,793)

5. Iran (1,474)

6. United States (1,331)

12. Kazakhstan (393)

18. Azerbaijan (191)

30. Turkmenistan (110)

Total Aircraft Strength Fighter/Interceptor Strength

1. United States (13,892)

2. Russia (3,429)

24. Iran (471)

41. Kazakhstan (233)

63. Azerbaijan (121)

82. Turkmenistan (72)

1. United States (2,207)

3. Russia (769)

18. Iran (137)

25. Kazakhstan (96)

59. Turkmenistan (24)

63. Azerbaijan (18)

Serviceable Airports/Infrastructure  

1. United States (13,513)

5. Russia (1,218)

21. Iran (319)

56. Kazakhstan (96)

97. Azerbaijan (37)

108. Turkmenistan (26)


Total Naval Power

The listing below includes battleforce ships made up of aircraft carriers, frigates, destroyers, corvettes, torpedo boats, patrol boats, amphibious support craft, landing craft. Auxiliary vessels are included, but landlocked nations were not penalized and excluded from the listing overall.

3. United States (473)

4. Iran (397)

5. Russia (352)

55. Azerbaijan (47)

87. Kazakhstan (15)

102. Turkmenistan (4)

Destroyers Submarines

1. United States (62)

4. Russia (12)

Iran (0)

Kazakhstan (0)

Azerbaijan (0)

Turkmenistan (0)

1. United States (72)

4. Russia (55)

5. Iran (32)

27. Azerbaijan (4)

Turkmeinsta (0)

Kazakhstan (0)

Mine Warfare  

1. Russia (34)

13. United States (11)

22. Iran (7)

23. Azerbaijan (7)

Turkmenistan (0)

Kazakhstan (0)

Annual Defense Budget External Debt (weighted as a negative factor on the Power Index)

1. United States ($577,100,000,000)

3. Russia ($60,400,000,000)

33. Iran ($6,300,000,000)

54. Azerbaijan ($3,185,000,000)

59. Kazakhstan ($2,435,000,000)

103. Turkmenistan ($200,000,000)

1. United States ($15,680,000,000,000)

17. Russia ($714,200,000,000)

24. Turkmenistan ($428,900,000,000)

39. Kazakhstan ($131,300,000,000)

77. Iran ($15,640,000,000)

88. Azerbaijan ($9,552,000,000)

Reserves of Foreign Exchange and Gold Proven Oil Reserves (Barrels per Day)

5. Russia ($515,600,000,000)

17. United States ($150,200,000,000)

30. Iran ($68,060,000,000)

51. Kazakhstan ($29,340,000,000)

54. Turkmenistan ($22,350,000,000)

67. Azerbaijan ($13,080,000,000)

4. Iran (154,600,000,000)

8. Russia (80,000,000,000)

12. United States (20,680,000,000)

19. Azerbaijan (7,000,000,000)

41. Turkmenistan (600,000,000)

75. Kazakhstan (30,000,000)


What the above compilations show is both anticipated and surprising: Russia and the United States regularly compete with each other for supremacy at the top of many indexes. However, the United States does not capture the top spot in every category and of course has the damning praise of having far more external debt than any other global rival. While it will be a very long time before anyone can even hope to challenge America in air power, there was far greater competition seen in this Caspian analysis than one would expect within both land and naval systems for war-making. Also an interesting side-statistic, the financial strength indicators of foreign currency/gold and oil reserves clearly show far more global competition than most people would probably expect. Iran hits both high and low across the indexes and it will be most fascinating to see how the impact of the JCPOA nuclear accord alters those rankings for the Islamic Republic in the coming future. The fact that Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan regularly occupied the lower third of the Global Firepower indexes is not a surprise, all things considered. But what should be noteworthy to researchers and analysts alike is how much their respective positions changed and altered within that bottom third across all categories. There is clearly no one Caspian ‘lesser leader’ once you get past Russia and Iran. Given the ancient and profound adage that ‘all politics are local’ the above rankings show that the internal dynamics and competition between the smaller Caspian littorals should remain hotly contested and ever-changing for a long time into the future. This analysis covering the Caspian in specific shows just how multi-faceted, multi-layered, and highly complex war will always be. Consequently, it will also always be unpredictable. Perhaps that alone is the greatest reason to avoid it.

Dr. Matthew Crosston
Dr. Matthew Crosston
Dr. Matthew Crosston is Executive Vice Chairman of and chief analytical strategist of I3, a strategic intelligence consulting company. All inquiries regarding speaking engagements and consulting needs can be referred to his website: