How we describe state power

At the beginning, we wanted to approach the index from the quantitative level by creating a long list of indicators that could describe a country’s strength, but an analysis of the factors did not allow us to create a satisfactory list of measures and, especially, an index whose results could be rationally explained. Instead, we prepared an indicator based on expert separation of data and dimensions, which partially resulted from the experiences of other researchers, but also from the recognition of deficiencies that we noticed in the course of our research. These deficiencies included the lack of satisfying way to include the effect of culture1, as well as a lack of attempts to describe with numbers the effects of diplomacy or effect of ambitious individuals. In our indicator, we approximate this dimension giving weight to the country’s membership in the UN Security Council and the leadership position of citizens of given countries in the world’s most important international organisations.

We qualified 17 variables in seven dimensions to the final list of indicators that may describe state power.

Dimensions and indicators of the State Power Index

Economic capital



Human resources


Natural resources


State power for us is the total of economic capital (and its perception by the financial markets), army and military capabilities, land, human capital, culture, natural resources, as well as diplomatic strength of a given country. The State Power Index assumes values between 0 and 100 points, where the most powerful country has the biggest “piece of the pie”.

Economic capital by itself (size of the economy) is an important resource of every country, but other factors are also important: the ease with which individuals or associated entities may accumulate significant property, as well as the perception of the country as a stable and trustworthy among potential investors.

Militarisation (military potential), is understood quite literally: it is both budgetary spending on the army (or its nominal value2), as well as the sale of weapons on the international market, the number of uniformed officers in the country (for example Iceland does not have an army, but has a well-developed coast guard) and the possession of nuclear weapons (which the overall results of some countries, such as North Korea).

We assume that state power is also affected by its surface area because very large countries (African states, Russia) take up so much land that taking all of their territories in a short time would be just as difficult as an introduction of new administrative oversight or control of the logistical system. The larger the country, the more likely it will have access to diverse natural resources. Certainly, a country with massive territory requires massive financial expenditure to maintain the organisational complexity on its territory, but large land mass may be seen as their advantage3.

Human resources are another important dimension — we consider the population of a given country, as well as its age as factors important to this indicator. A demographic change occurs in some societies quicker than in others, while the number of the elderly can affect a country’s actions during a necessary sudden mobilisation, also to the state of the economy.

The popularity of a country’s culture is an important factor reflecting its power. We estimate it with the help of the best global universities that are located in each country. Including of factors associated with science as a reflection of culture has its disadvantages, along with advantages, as well. We assume that strong and international academic centres promote a country’s positive image around the world, not only because of scientific achievements alone, but also thanks to cultural experience of foreigners in a given country and good cooperation practices.

Natural resources and energy security and participation in the energy sector (or whether a given country exports or imports energy) are also important. In an increasingly networked international system a country’s diplomatic effectiveness, which we capture looking at the nationality of people playing key roles in the most important international organisations, are also important. We especially focus on the UN Security Council, where Poland and other countries also seeking a seat (permanent members of the Council gain extra points).

Although another power factor, which has become even more important in recent years, is the ability to achieve strategic goals in cyberspace, because of the incompleteness of available data in our timeframe, the indicator does not include this factor. In our report, we do look into the relationship between this power index and the ITU cybersecurity index. It turns out that the potential success in cyberspace, seen as the fifth battlefield4, it is not closely related to overall military and economic might of a given country (the linear correlation index stands at 37 per cent, which means that a change of this index would explain 37 per cent of the change in the CSI index). The dependency is apparently weak—“apparently” because measuring of cyber power is still a relatively new and underdeveloped trend. The indices that will be created in the future will likely consider the effect of cyber potential on the other power dimensions, such as diplomacy and the military sphere5.

In the ITU ranking Poland holds the 11/29 place in the world (along with other countries because the ranking allows ex aequo places). Is this a good outcome? Considering the fact that the 11th place in the ranking, Poland finds itself below the top 30 per cent of the spots, and in our ranking, it is in the top 16 per cent, in the field of cyber security it is well below than in the area of widely understood power. Considering the number of countries in the ranking, Poland’s spot is equal to 38th-40th place among the 196 measured (top 20 per cent). Even here Poland’s cyber power turns out to be weaker than Poland’s more widely understood power.

  1. Cf. A. Wojciuk, Kultura w teoriach stosunków międzynarodowych: podejścia, trendy, korzenie, “Społeczeństwo i Polityka” 2012, nr 4 (33).
  2. However, it is worth noting that according to media reports, such measure may become increasingly unreliable because some states are cutting the spending from their state budgets and are moving them to state companies in order to conceal the real investments (Russia does this, for example). So, there is a risk of receiving faulty information. Cf. P.R. Gregory, 2016, Russia cooks its defense books, Politico, 11.17.2015.
  3. For example J. Tainter, The Collapse of Complex Societies, Cambridge 1988.
  4. The other four battlefields are, according the traditional conceptualisation: land, sea, air, space.
  5. Effective actions in cyberspace are able to replace military actions (for example, diversion of strategic objects) or diplomatic ones (for example, Russia’s cyber intervention by Russia in the WikiLeaks leaks already mentioned in this report, affecting the US presidential election). The challenge for the future remains the formal link between cyberpower and other power dimensions for econometric use.