Indicators focusing on hard power (army, economy)

One of the older respected indicators of state power is the Composite Indicator of National Capability (CINC)1, which was created in 1963 and measures hard power, i.e. military (along with demographic and economic potential). It was created under the leadership of US political scientist David Singer as part of the Correlates of War project, which was to collect as much data as possible about phenomena associated with war. This indicator’s data sets up to 2007 are publicly available2. The advantage of this indicator is certainly the massive available data, with some part reaching back to the early 19th century3. The focus on hard power without including soft power components should be seen as a disadvantage. Poland holds the 29th place in the CINC rating from 2007, Russia 5th place and Germany 7th.

The Global Firepower Index, published since 2012, measures the military sphere even more precisely. In 2016, Poland held a high 18th place among the 126 countries measured (Russia—2nd place, Germany—9th)4. This indicator rates countries based on its conventional military force (excluding nuclear arms) in the air, sea and land, also considering factors related to the military, such as natural resources, logistics, financial capacity and geographic conditions.

There are also military indicators prepared by think tanks, such as the ranking of military spending prepared by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute5, or Global Militarization Index, which has been created since 1990 by the Bonn International Center for Conversion, measuring a nation’s degree of militarisation (in 2015, in this ranking Poland placed 68/152)6.

World military expenditure, 1988-2016 (constant 2015 US$ billion)

Source: Own calculations based on SIPRI

Despite the proliferation of military data, if these indicators were treated as tests of real state power, they would have to be considered even more single dimensional than CINC.

Economist Witold Orłowski has created an interesting proposal for an indicator of hard power, which places different accents on various components7. His proposal is an economic and military indicator with emphasis on economic power: in additional to military, scientific/technical potential (which each have a weight of 22.5 per cent of the indicator), 50 per cent of the weight is placed on gross domestic product8. According to this indicator, in 2000, Poland held the 17th place in the world9. Compared to other indicators measuring hard power, Orłowski’s ideas sees power more widely, thanks to including scientific potential. This potential may be treated as unconnected exclusively with hard power (technical level affects military development), but also with soft power (because science is related to culture, affecting the country’s civilisational heritage and its image).

A similar index was also created by Mirosław Sułek. Gross national product represents an economic factor for him, while military expenditure and the number of soldiers in active service make up the military factor. The level of military spending indicates the weight a country places on security. In addition to this there is also a demographic factor (population) and geography (country’s surface area)10.

Another interesting attempt to capture new phenomena changing the modern definition of power is the Global Cybersecurity Index11 created by ITU, an agency under the auspices of the UN. It measures countries’ preparation for cyber-attacks and cyber war, or phenomena, which in the era of hybrid war will be gaining in strength. In the 2015 ranking, similarly prepared countries share common spots in the raking. Poland holds an unsatisfactory 11th place out of 29 possible ones, ex aequo with countries such as Azerbaijan and Rwanda.

  1. National Material Capabilities, Correlates of War 2016.
  2. The Correlates of War Project.
  3. J.D. Singer, Reconstructing the Correlates of War Dataset on Material Capabilities of States, 1816-1985, “International Interactions” 1987, Vol. 14, p. 115-132.
  4. Global Firepower Index (2016), Network 2016.
  5. SIPRI Military Expenditure Database, Stockholm International Peace Research Institute 2016.
  6. Global Militarization Index 2015, Bonn International Center for Conversion.
  7. W. Orłowski, op. cit.
  8. Ibid., p. 536-537.
  9. Ibid., p. 528.
  10. M. Sułek, Potęga państw. Modele i zastosowania, Warsaw 2013.
  11. Global Cybersecurity Index and Cyber Wellness Profiles, ITU, United Nations 2015.