Singapore: The Most Militarized Country in the World?



in the 5th century bc during the invasion of Thermopylae, 300 spartan soldiers stoically withstood the onslaught of some two hundred thousand Persian soldiers for days on end today two and a half thousand years later we can find a small country with the same philosophy of resistance determination and popular mobilization and no as surprising as it may seem we're not talking about Israel and not just the Singapore we all know and love but the least known Singapore the most military intimidating and fiercely strong almost you could say the very Sparta of the century.Singapore is a small country very small practically tiny however despite having fewer than 6 million inhabitants and an area of just 280 square miles or 730 square kilometers an area roughly equivalent to that of New York city and half the size of others such as London or Mexico City Singapore is a military power yes, yes you heard correctly we are talking about a first-rate military power that by itself would be able to stand up to almost any country in the world because it turns out that Singapore has one of the best-equipped armed forces on the planet specifically, Singapore's armed forces have just over 70 000 full-time professional personnel some 400 000 part-time personnel and more than 1.2 million military-trained reservists because yes in Singapore there is compulsory military service for all men for two years it's called ns and so the regular armed forces whether full-time or part-time account for eight percent of the country's entire population at the same time the military trained and available population represents almost a quarter of all inhabitants of this city-state and that's not all since 2015 this country has also had a volunteer army known as the Singapore armed forces volunteer corps which is also open to women and which allows membership up to the age of 45 years in probably no other country in the world is the population so involved in the armed forces and we're just getting started as you probably already know in modern warfare the number of available soldiers is not the most important element in achieving victory above and beyond the number of troops is the available technology and military equipment Singapore being one of the world's wealthiest countries has not skimped on this over the past few decades either for example, Singapore has more fighter aircraft than the air forces of countries such as Canada Sweden or the Netherlands in terms of capacity they even rank above the air forces of countries such as Spain and we're talking about advanced equipment acquired from the military industry of the United States Israel and Europe in fact Singapore was the first country in all of southeast Asia to get its hands on the 5th generation f-35 fighter obviously, as you can imagine the military budget of this country is not exactly small especially considering that it is a city-state well in 2021 this city's military spending exceeded 11.5 billion dollars which is almost three times the military budget of neighboring Malaysia and 25 more than the military spending of Indonesia a country with 46 times the population to put this in perspective we're talking about a budget similar to that of a territory as under threat as Taiwan pretty amazing right Singapore is a very prosperous territory with a lot of legal security, it's one of the enclaves where the capital of millions of investors and companies from all over the world end up and that's the status that needs protection and with the data in hand it seems that they are very very clear about this since gaining its independence in 1965 this small Asian country has had three major military strategies three major military strategies that explain their perception of the world and that have shaped their relatively large and well-equipped armed forces over the years because anttake viewers nothing of what we have told you is by chance listen up the poison shrimp the first military strategy Singapore great defense strategy came shortly after its independence under the celebrated Lee Kuan yew the historic first prime minister who designed today's Singapore and ruled for 20 years the fact is that after separating from the United Kingdom integrating into Malaysia and then being expelled in just two years lee Kuan yew was very clear that in order to survive Singapore had to become a place that no one would want to invade an idea that he expressed very clearly in 1966 in one of his best known quotations in a world where the big fish eats small fish and the small fish eat shrimp Singapore must become a poisonous shrimp if you eat them, you'll get digestive upsets Lee Kuan yew when lee Kuan yew uttered these words Singapore situation was radically different from its current status at that time Singapore was a poor country with hardly any allies surrounded by somewhat hostile neighbors and having to survive in a world torn in two Singapore had to be able to defend itself the goal was that invading this enclave would become such a costly operation in terms of money lives and military resources that no country would be tempted to do so Singapore's defense had to be able to inflict as much damage as possible on the enemy even if it did succeed in overrunning the city if that happened Singapore would become the poisoned shrimp this strategy by the way is very similar to the one that many analysts advocate Taiwan should adapt to defend itself against China now the question is how to achieve all this in practice how does a country become a poisoned shrimp well basically, in three ways by arming themselves to the teeth preparing for combat and making powerful friends the fact is that when Singapore became independent and began to go its own way the city-state barely had two infantry battalions one old cannon and no fighter planes an army had to be built practically from scratch to achieve this lee Kuan yew gave his minister for the interior and defense going sui a secret order Singapore needed to strengthen ties with Israel Egypt and India and guess what of the three countries the most effusive response came precisely from Israel a country desperate for friends abroad so not only was Israel one of the first states to recognize Singapore but in October 1965 barely two months after proclaiming full independence the Hebrew army was already at work helping to design the armed forces of this new country of course, it was not that simple the collaboration between these two countries had to be as discreet as possible so discreet that no one would know about it why well think for a moment about the two countries surrounding the city-state Malaysia and Indonesia two large Muslim countries that at the time like virtually all Muslim countries had Israel in their sights so if Singapore did not want to be seen as a hostile element and run the risk of justifying an invasion it had to be inventive take a look at this the first military advisers sent from Israel to Singapore were called Mexicans in order to be discreet and take note because in order to make it credible Israel selected members of its armed forces for the operation whose features would allow them to pass as Mexicans so no blonde or extremely white-skinned soldiers and officers this particular anecdote is told by lee Kuan yew himself in his memoirs published in 1998 [Applause] the fact is that out of his collaboration came the so-called brown book a master plan captained by the then Israel IDF deputy director of operations I want you to remember several things one we are not going to turn Singapore into an Israeli colony, your task is to teach them the military profession to put them on their legs so that they can run their own army second, you're not going there in order to command them but to advise them and third, you are not arms merchants when you recommend items to procure use the purest professional military judgment Yitzhak Rabin former chief of the general staff and prime Minister of Israel and so, in just three months the Israelis created an entire military strategy and doctrine whose central axis was to build a citizen army of conscripts to be trained and led by a small highly professional and well-equipped regular force does this structure remind you of anything exactly, it is exactly the same model that is still in force today the fact is that to achieve this goal and to get the country to have 12 battalions ready to defend the city in less than a decade was why compulsory military service was established the idea basically was to ensure that the entire nation could be mobilized if necessary and that this enormous capacity would be the great bastion of the city's defense but of course as the country became richer and the armed forces became better equipped and better trained it became clear that the military strategy needed to be updated well, that moment came in the 1980s from that moment on Singapore's military vision helped it evolve into a major military power listen up porcupines and dolphins Singapore is here a decade and a half that was all the time it took Singapore to go from being an impoverished fishing colony without an army to being in a position to act militarily beyond its own territorial limits and this was precisely the basis for Singapore's second military strategy known as the porcupine strategy which began to be implemented in the early 1980s and brought about a huge change Singapore no longer had the need to assume to accept that it could end up as being invaded even if at a high cost which was basically what the idea of being the poisoned shrimp was all about they now had sufficient training and equipment to convert their passive defense model into a much more active one this doctrine was in force until the arrival of the new century and was the necessary step to finish building a modern army and so, following the porcupine doctrine Singapore not only became an important customer of the us Israeli and European military industries which in itself gave it enormous influence but it also developed its own local military equipment industry an industry that has allowed Singapore to become one of the 30 largest arms exporters by volume worldwide among its most successful equipment we can highlight the SAR-21 assault rifle the bronco military all-terrain vehicle and the terrex armored transport vehicle as well as a host of drones and howitzers of all kinds but that's not the end of it Singapore is currently applying its third major strategy known as the dolphin doctrine shrimp porcupine and dolphin this is just like a nature documentary but why the dolphin well you see the dolphin is a tremendously agile animal that is able to use this agility to even attack sharks despite not being as strong as them and that is precisely the idea under this doctrine Singapore is building an impressive air force very strong and very agile capable of anticipating any threat in other words to achieve total air superiority in the region to achieve this enormous power of response and anticipation the current prime minister li Sien lung has launched an ambitious plan to adapt the entire military structure to this new mission among the key aspects of the new strategy is the replacement of the aging f-16 fleet with fifth-generation f-35bs as well as the renewal and expansion of its navy fleet which currently operates six multi-mission frigates based on the French Lafayette class it also highlights the acquisition of key weapons such as German second generation leopard tanks indigenous hunter combat vehicles in service since 2019 and the u's Lockheed Martin m142 high marks missile launcher of which Singapore already has two dozen units this is how Singapore first became a militarized city and then a fortress and now a military player capable of applying la matim that the best defense can be a good offense but wait a minute because not everything rests on their arsenal Singapore has been enhancing military synergies with its allies for many years especially through military training Singaporean soldiers currently training countries as disparate as the United States Australia Thailand Taiwan and South Africa and frequently participate in large-scale defensive military exercises in addition Singapore has also sealed important defense agreements with uncle Sam agreements that include access to Singaporean military bases for u's soldiers Singapore renews military base is packed with u's amid deepening defense ties with China, Washington renews pact granting u's forces access to lions cities bases until 2035 underlining the city-state's importance to America's Asia strategy navies of 21 countries kick off u's lead drills in southeast Asia Seacat exercises underway in Singapore and virtually as Beijing and Moscow also hold drills in China's Ningxia of course all this does not mean that Singapore is a belligerent actor not at all it is one thing to get along well with the united states and quite another to get along badly with China and here, Singapore has shall we say a certain advantage 69 of the Chinese have a positive image of the city-state whose model Deng Xiaoping himself took as an example for implementing the reforms that have built the China of today Singapore is something like a combination of Sparta's military vocation and Switzerland's historical neutrality this visual politic community is a great financial marketplace a haven for capital and business from all over the world for this both strength and neutrality play a key role be that as it may this is the less familiar face of Singapore its role as a military power despite having fewer than 6 million inhabitants and less than half the area of the city of London.