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Global Firepower in the Caspian: A Comparative Analysis

Dr. Matthew Crosston



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 is Executive Vice Chairman of He is Senior Doctoral Faculty in the School of Security and Global Studies at the American Military University and was just named the future Co-Editor of the seminal International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence. His work is catalogued at:

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Agni-V Canister Launch: Facts and Implications



Three main nuclear players of Asia: China, India and Pakistan have established “triangular” dilemma due to their security concerns. This is manifested through the development of advanced  conventional and nuclear weapon forces.  China is pursuing military modernization program to counter US in Asia-Pacific region, whereas India’s development of sophisticated strategic forces is aimed towards China and Pakistan.  India’s acquisition and development of such deterrent of conventional and nuclear forces is a matter of concern for Pakistan and Chinese security planners. In response, it is inevitable for Pakistan to take measures for its security and safety.

Such dynamics has established multifaceted security trilemma between three Asian nuclear weapon states due to which induction and introduction of any technology in conventional and strategic forces of one state is matter of security concern for other state. This is expressed through the India’s offensive policies and strategies in pursuit of global power projection, and such dynamics has ability to disturb the deterrence equilibrium and strategic stability of the region. In this regard, recent launch test of Agni V demonstrates that India aims to establish credible strategic forces against China, which would not justify its claim of remaining “minimum’ against Pakistan.

Trends in India’s missile testing and acquisition in nuclear technologies demonstrates that India is largely supported in its quest of strategic forces modernization by the states including United States, France, Russia and other European states.  In SIPRI report of 2018, India is ranked as largest arms importer of the world and its technological transfer and foreign acquisitions are running in parallel with its motivation to increase the range, payload, reliability and accuracy of missiles, ICBMs, MIRVs, SLBMs and development of space program.

The United States is supporting the India’s military developments for its own strategic, economic, political and military goals in strategic landscape of Asia. Since US is supporting the India as a Great power in South Asia, the India has been attempting to prove its conventional and nuclear credentials. Therefore, such aspirations demand from India to obtain more resilient and disastrous military muscles. Therefore India’s missile inventory especially canister launch of Indian ICBM Agni-V has played key role in soothing the India’s self-image of a regional power and strategic objective of US.  Moreover, its operational launch has ability to increase security dilemma in South Asia as well as in the whole region as its range makes its capable to hit neighboring states Pakistan, China, and whole continent of Asia: and also parts of other continents such as Europe and Africa.

On January 18, 2018 first “Pre-induction” successful test of Agni-V was conducted.  Agni V is three stages, solid fueled, intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). The range of the Agni V is 5,500-5,800 KM, it is capable to carry warhead of 1,500 Kg.  Later in June 2018, canister-launch test of Agni V was carried out.  The canister-launch version of the missile enables the quick transport of the missile and provides the capability to launch it anywhere. Canister launch of the Agni-V will lower the nuclear threshold in the region and increase the crisis instability. Consequently, according to the report, India is working to incorporate MIRVs technology with Agni V for its credible second-strike capability.

The objective of first three nuclear missiles (Agni-I, Agni II, Agni III) was to counter Pakistan, whereas the other missiles of the series (Agni-IV, Agni-V) are capable to hit the China due to the longer ranges. The successful canister launch test of Agni V demonstrates that the soon nuclear capable missile will be inducted into Indian Strategic nuclear command. The Canister-launch of the Agni-V will reduce the launch time and pairing it with MIRV technology will have destabilizing effect on the deterrence and strategic balance of Asia. The induction and introduction of operation ready Agni-V will have serious repercussions for geostrategic landscape of region.

India’s latest developments and missile proliferation indicates the India’s shift to acquire more offensive capabilities. Presently, India’s focus to increase the range of its missiles and shift from liquid to solid fueled missiles to enhance the level of readiness  and tri-service operation of nuclear-tipped missile. These developments are providing pre-emptive capabilities to the India that is inconsistent with the India’s nuclear posture of “Credible Minimum Deterrence”.  India’s offensive conventional and missile capabilities deterrence stability negatively influence the security architecture of region. Therefore, canister launch of Agni-V; marked by advance range, accuracy, payload and higher level of readiness has not only increased the security dilemma and instability in the region but it is also threatening its’ neighboring states with its military buildup.

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U.S. divorces Europe



Europe is in the anticipation of NATO summit which will take place on June, 11-12 in Brussels. Before this meeting the Pentagon thoroughly analyzed all allies’ expenses on collective defence. It turned out that NATO members’ defence budgets don’t reflect real needs of the Alliance. Among the twenty-nine members, only the United States is really serious about its obligations, spending approximately $700 billion or 3.5 percent of its GDP on defense. No other NATO member comes close to this proportion, and the vast majority fail even to meet the self-imposed requirement to devote at least 2 percent of GDP to defense.

Donald Trump repeatedly warned the member states that America is not going to carry the main burden any more. It is time for Europe to pay for itself. “I’ll tell NATO, you got to start paying your bills,” Trump told a wildly cheering crowd in Montana on July, 5. And he is ready to begin with Germany. The president pondered aloud about the value for the US in paying for the collective defence of Germany. Now the US is analyzing the cost and impact of a large-scale withdrawal or transfer of American troops stationed in Germany. No doubt, the Baltic States are the next.

It is clear that Trump begins the process of limiting America’s role in NATO. For a long time NATO members have been promising, but did nothing to increase defense spending. Weak attempts of some countries to meet requirements did not save the situation.

If NATO reduces its huge financial injections in Alliance’s budget, the whole system of European defence, and the Baltic States’ defence in particular, will become illusive and unattainable. The Baltic States’ worst nightmares become true. It is not a secret that keeping a large army abroad is already draining the nation’s treasury, stationing many soldiers in numerous strategic foreign nations costs huge sum of money. While the Baltic States and Poland ask for more and more US and NATO troops and bases, the US is not about to satisfy their every whim. It is enough, patience is over, and pragmatism defeated compassion.

Being highly dependent on US financial support, NATO turns to be on the verge of collapse.
It became quite obvious that Trump behaves more as a businessman than a politician. He has received success in his business and transfers his behavior model to politics. The more so, Donald Trump keeps his word and the major theme of his administration “America first” at least really works. The US does not want any more to throw out money, doesn’t want to believe in Europe’s “sincere will” to be on equal footing in NATO. Trump-businessman prevails over Trump-politician. We are on the eve of global political change. Like “it’s every man for himself in business”, America will not pay for weak partners. Trump: “Dear Baltics, nothing personal, it’s just business.”

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The Islamic Republic of Iran and Security Discourse

Sajad Abedi



The fact of security discourse has entered a new era in the next Cold War has a general consensus. Accordingly, security studies, in order to continue to maintain their position, have been compelled to avoid the traditional focus on threats, use and management of the military, by experiencing some fundamental changes, with new dimensions and considerations. Define security. At the same time, we are witnessing security issues and the emergence of new issues such as acid rain, AIDS, ozone depletion, drug trafficking, destruction of natural resources, warmth of the earth, population explosion, pollution of the air and so on.

Although the security image presented seems fresh, it is believed that there is no fundamental change beyond the scope of the topic, and the essence of security remains the same. Nevertheless, there have been positive and significant developments in this period. ; Such as the release of the “militaristic” one-dimensional approach, and the turning of attention to the sinister category of “conflict” and “conflict,” and ultimately to the fact that security has a multidimensional face and cannot be restricted to the next military unit. The rule of this new insight is that it produces a significant amount of texts related to national security studies, in which economics, the environment, cultural and intellectual, political, geographic and etc. issues are considered as new dimensions of national security.

The national security considerations of the Islamic Republic of Iran have undergone many changes during the years after the Islamic Revolution. The country’s security considerations are divided into three “axis expansion”, “axis retention” and “growth-driven” discourses. In each discourse, four basic variables, namely, the goals and principles of national security, national strength, threats and vulnerabilities of national security, and ultimately national security policies, have been considered.

The expansionist discourse; in the national security considerations of the country, the “expansion-oriented discourse” in the early years had a new military discourse. In these years, despite the fact that the religious revolutionaries did not have all the formal political structures, they gradually managed to dominate all the declared and effective policies of the system, and in fact their ideas were the main guide to domestic and foreign policy. In the eyes of the revolutionists, the concept of national security did not enjoy intrinsic credibility, even in the face of any national burden, such as national identity, national interests, and national security, a kind of hatred and pessimism. Accordingly, the concept of security in the form of a macro was worthy of value and instead of national security, such as the security of the system, the security of the Islamic Ummah was considered. Such a definition of security also meant that it would spur the nature of the expansion of the revolution. Accordingly, revolutionaries, in addition to focusing on the improvement of the individual and social life of the nation, felt the expansion of Islamic values beyond national boundaries as part of their primary duties. On the one hand, they wanted Iran for Islam, and on the other hand, they considered the role of Islamic Iran as a pole and axis for the Islamic world.

From the results of the national security considerations in the expansionist discourse, one can mention the following: “the boundaries and frontiers of nationalism were abandoned”, “followed by a revolutionary pattern”, “national security considerations did not follow the pattern of civilization,” “various dimensions in considerations The security of the country, including its goals and principles, national achievements, threats and vulnerabilities and national security policies, began at a zero point “,” the security objectives were subject to revolutionary macro policies, following the ideals and principles of human and Islamic, which reflected the nature of the software of national security ” “Revolution and the system were vulnerable to threats,” “Raid.” Political militancy was the priority of other dimensions, such as social, cultural, economic and security. ”

Conservative Discourse; the occurrence of war was a turning point in national security considerations. In a situation where many of the concepts of the revolution were still being defined, and yet the pivot of the revolution was unfolding, the imposed war began. In fact, existing political forces had not yet reached a consensus in many areas, and political transformations could be expanded. That is why, even in the first year of the war, the revolutionary community was involved with issues that were not so in tune with the conflicting communities. Only after the decline of political inflammation after the dismissal of Bani-Sadr and the summer of 1981 and the achievement of a political unity between revolutionary officials, the war was at the forefront of national security. From the beginning of the second year of the war to the end, it was dominated by national security considerations. Obviously, the fundamental distinction of this period with the previous period was the limitation of the circle of fundamental security problems of the system in a fundamental factor, namely war and its affairs. Therefore, preserving the territorial integrity of the country and securing the system against the Iraqi objective threat is at the core of the system’s attention. Nevertheless, the new era is in line with the ideological aspects of the past period. The evolution of war and the type of resistance created by the armed forces even increased the ideological impact at some time on the security considerations of the country. However, the realities of warfare were decisive in controlling many ideological and ideological goals of the past.

According to the results of this study, the results of the national security considerations in the persistent discourse include: “national security considerations were centered around national boundaries”, “greater use was made of elements of spiritual power”, “the continuation of the revolution through war Was insured “,” the ability of the Iranian community to mobilize and integrate to face the crisis of extermination was proven “,” the necessity of military empowerment “,” the economic backwardness of the country was reduced as the main negative changes “,” to prevent unrealistic considerations in foreign policy “,” Aspects of pragmatism in outside politics ” was imposed. ”

Growth-focused discourse; The war focused on security considerations at the edge of the national borders, but the end of it and the beginning of widespread developments in the country, above all else, centered on these considerations into national borders. The end of the war was accompanied by other changes at the national, regional and international levels. At the internal level, by reforming the constitution and centralizing power in the presidency, the areas of possible controversy in the executive branch of the country were resolved but this did not mean the end to political rivalries in the great collection of politicians in the country. During this time, one can see three important points in relation to the supreme elite of the country regarding national security. First, a view based on economic growth. Second, an ideological perspective and third, a view based on political cultural development.

In addition to these internal changes, regional and international changes have also been effective in shaping new national security considerations. The decline of the role of ideology in the international system after the collapse of communism and the establishment of a new order in this system that led to the growth of the monopolistic behaviors of the powers, and especially the United States, have had a decisive impact on the national security of the country. In addition to these developments, trends such as the escalation of internationalization and the evolution of the globalization process have also been effective factors. At the regional level, the effects of the collapse of the Soviet Union and the emergence of new states in the northern region, as well as the continuation and progression of the regional Middle East crises, created many engagements for the statesmen.

In the context of the country’s national security considerations, the following results can be reached in the growth-driven discourse: “Inflammation of the past two periods and relative introversion in the security considerations” was reduced, “there is still a vacancy in a systematic and all-rounder vision in the country’s security considerations,” ” National welfare is becoming more and more emphasis on national security “,” The creation of a strong and prestigious Iran instead of the physical exodus of the revolution “,” Elements of national power have been given a more objective quality “,” The threats have become more widespread “,” Necessity Multilateral vision is felt in politics “,” a tangible change in the amount of attention to the public L environment has been found. ”

On this basis, in general, it can be said that “security policy” has a different meaning from whatever has been, including two fundamental principles. On the one hand, political planners, diplomats, such as jurists and intellectuals, have to come up with a collective agenda in order to find a place for small and ultra-national actors in politics and the administration of society. On the other hand, the global arena represents new areas where governments alone are not “non-governmental”. So, while identifying the realm of government influence, a particular kind of problem arises that the government does not necessarily find the right solution for them. The understanding and accepting this separation is an important consideration in the security equations. Accordingly, a new study program is being developed, the nature of which is not only the elimination of threats, but also the creation of opportunities and the realization of requirements that are in keeping with the capabilities of a political system. In this framework, new thinkers in the field of security studies are divided into two state-oriented and non-government-oriented approaches, thus defining and identifying new actors in the national security equations, which were not so important for analysts before. At the same time as developing national security studies, the category of “threats” has also evolved, and we are witnessing the emergence of new threats that are largely nongovernmental and, in contrast to the Cold War, are in the two “national” and “supreme” spaces of the national government.

In addition, Iran’s national security considerations have been varied in various ways; in summary, the evolution of “outsourcing to introspection” from the “ideological approach and pure commitment to more realism”, from “universality to Iran”, from “simplicity to complexity”, and from the “Threat of Thought as an Intentional Threat in the International System.” In these developments, we are paying more attention to the need for a balance between the limits and limits of national security considerations.

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