- JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP via Getty Images
- US News and World Report ranked countries to determine which ones are the most powerful.
- The US stays in first place this year, but other countries have changed positions amid rising global instability and political changes.
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The US, Russia, and China remain the planet’s most powerful countries even as other countries have seen their positions fall, according to this year’s global power rankings.
The rankings, published by US News and World Report, look at how the influence of a nation, as well as its political, economic, and military power. The rankings are part of its annual “Best Countries” study, which evaluates 80 countries based on responses from 21,000 people.
These are the world’s 25 most powerful nations, according to the 2020 rankings:
US News calls Egypt “one of the world’s earliest and greatest civilizations” and notes that its geography, including the Nile River and the sea, make it “a cultural and trading center.”
Over history, “its location has also made it a prize to claim by empires and put it at the center of social and religious movements.”
Egypt rose four places compared to last year, when it was ranked 29th.
Brazil shot up this year’s rankings: in 2019, it was ranked 30th in the world.
US News noted the country’s huge size and draw as a tourist attraction, but also its upheaval, perhaps increased under the country’s controversial president Jair Bolsonaro.
“Occupying half of South America’s land mass, Brazil is the giant of the continent – both in size and in population. Brazil’s history is filled with economic turmoil, veering from boom to bust, and its culture is a melting pot that has traditionally welcomed the world.
“Brazil is one of the world’s top tourist destinations. However, the country in the 21st century confronts serious questions touching on poverty, inequality, governance and the environment.”
Norway is another riser in the 2020 rankings, moving from 27th place in 2019 to 23rd in 2020.
US News notes its history in building maritime culture, and the impact of the Vikings on nearby countries.
Singapore fell from 20th place last year.
“Founded as a British trading colony in the 19th century, Singapore is a bustling metropolis in Southeast Asia and home to one of the world’s busiest ports,” US News said, while also noting the country’s high GDP and low employment make it “one of the wealthiest nations in the world.”
21. The Netherlands
- Nisangha/Getty Images
The Netherlands also rose this year, having been ranked 26th in 2019.
US News notes that “Three major European rivers – the Rhine, Meuse and Schelde – run through neighbors Germany and Belgium into the nation’s busy ports.”
- Oleksiy Mark/Shutterstock
Sweden was ranked 21st in 2019, meaning it rose this year.
US News says it “is one of the largest countries in the European Union by land mass.”
- David Ramos/Getty Images
Spain was listed as 23rd last year.
US News notes its influence around the world after decades of colonialism.
Qatar is another big riser. It was listed as 24th last year.
US News notes its monetary wealth despite its small size: “Now rich in oil and natural gas, Qatar is one of the wealthiest countries in the world.”
Italy was ranked 18th last year.
US News notes that it attracts 40 million tourists every year.
Turkey was also ranked 16th in 2019.
US News says it is “home to a unique intersection of culture as the nation bridges Asia with Europe.”
“For more than a decade, power struggles between a military-backed secular government and an increasingly popular religious movement have raised concerns about government stability.”
- Taras Vyshnya/Shutterstock
Australia ranked the same position last year.
US News notes that the country is unique in that it takes up a whole continent.
India rose three places compared to last year, when it was ranked 17th.
Home to 1.4 billion people, India “is the world’s second most-populous nation after China, and has roughly one-sixth of the world’s population.”
Switzerland rose one place compared to last year, when it was 14th.
US News notes: “It’s one of the world’s wealthiest countries, and has been well-known for centuries for its neutrality.”
- REUTERS/Blair Gable
Canada is in the same position it was last year.
Canada is the second-largest country in the world by landmass, and US News says its “expansive wilderness to the north plays a large role in Canadian identity, as does the country’s reputation of welcoming immigrants.”
11. United Arab Emirates
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The UAE’s position is the same as it was in 2019.
“While conservative at heart, the UAE is one of the Gulf’s most liberal countries, with a constitution that allows for freedom of religion.”
10. Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia fell one place compared to last year, when it was ranked 9th.
US News calls it the “giant of the Middle East” because of its landmass, and notes its importance for Muslims.
“Millions of devout Muslims from around the world participate in a pilgrimage to Mecca each year.”
9. South Korea
- Flickr/Seoul Korea
South Korea was ranked 10th, one place lower, last year. US News noted the ongoing conflict with North Korea.
Israel was also ranked 8th last year.
“For its relatively small size, the country has played a large role in global affairs. The country has a strong economy, landmarks of significance to several religions and strained relationships with many of its Arab neighbors,” US News said.
- Getty Images/Sean Pavone
Japan was also ranked 7th last year.
US News calls it “one of the world’s most literate and technically advanced nations.”
France’s position is unchanged compared to last year.
US News said: “It is difficult to overstate the influence France has on the world, both in the past and today.
“Located in Western Europe, 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. Starting in the Middle Ages, France evolved through kingdom, empire and finally, into a republic. It was one of the first nations to champion the rights of the individual.”
5. United Kingdom
The UK was also ranked 5th last year.
US News calls it “a highly developed nation that exerts considerable international economic, political, scientific and cultural influence.”
It also noted the country’s vote to leave the European Union, and said this “ushered in anxiety about the country’s role on the global stage.”
- REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke
Germany was also ranked 4th in 2019.
“Germany, he most populous nation in the European Union, possesses one of the largest economies in the world and has seen its role in the international community grow steadily since reunification,” US News said.
China’s position has not changed since last year.
US News says it is “home to one of the world’s oldest civilizations” and says it is “the world’s most populous and is considered the second-largest by land mass.”
Russia was also ranked 2nd last year.
The scale of Russia is difficult to imagine,” US News said.
“It is the world’s largest country by land mass – nearly twice as big as Canada, the world’s second-largest nation – and covers all of northern Asia and much of Eastern Europe. It shares land borders with more than a dozen countries, and shares sea borders with Japan and the United States.”
1. United States
- SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Image
The US retains its position as the world’s most-powerful country.
US News calls it “the world’s most dominant economic and military power” and notes now its “cultural imprint spans the world” thanks to its production of movies, TV, and music.
It also noted that President Donald Trump’s positions on immigration and trade “have raised questions around the world, including from the country’s closest allies, about the nation’s future course on the global stage.”