Allies after the attack on Pearl Harbor
  Neutral countries

The neutral powers were countries that remained neutral during World War II. Some of these countries had large colonies abroad or had great economic power. Spain had just been through its civil war, which ended on 1 April 1939 (five months prior to the invasion of Poland)—a war that involved several countries that subsequently participated in World War II.

During World War II, the neutral powers took no official side, hoping to avoid attack. However, Portugal, Sweden, and Switzerland all helped the Allies by supplying "voluntary" brigades[1] to the United Kingdom,[2] while Spain avoided the Allies in favor of the Axis, supplying them with its own voluntary brigade, the Blue Division. Ireland generally favoured the Allied side, as with the United States. The United States remained officially neutral until 8 December 1941, a day following the attack by Japan on Pearl Harbor.

The Lateran Treaty between Italy and the Holy See, signed in 1929, required that the Pope maintain "perpetual neutrality in international relations". Accordingly, Vatican City was officially neutral throughout the war.

Several countries suffered invasions despite their efforts to be neutral. These included Nazi Germany's invasion of Denmark and Norway on 9 April 1940—then Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg on 10 May 1940. On the same day, 10 May 1940, the British, having already invaded the Faroe Islands in April, invaded Iceland and established an occupying force (subsequently replaced by the then-neutral United States). The Soviet Union invaded Lithuania on 15 June 1940 and Latvia and Estonia on 17 June. In the Balkans, the Italo-Greek War began on 28 October 1940 and Yugoslavia was invaded in April 1941. Iran was also attacked and occupied by Britain and the Soviet Union in August 1941 and later declared war on Nazi Germany.

See also the histories of Afghanistan, Andorra, Guatemala, Liechtenstein, Saudi Arabia and Yemen during this period.

By country


Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania

Main articles: Estonia in World War II, Military history of Latvia during World War II, and Resistance in Lithuania during World War II



Main article: Irish neutrality during World War II


Main article: Portugal during World War II

Colonies of Portugal:


Main article: Spain during World War II

Further information: Meeting at Hendaye and Blue Division

Meeting at Hendaye between Franco and Hitler in October 1940.
Operation Barbarossa shifted the main theater of war away from the Mediterranean, lessening Spain's interest in intervention. The less-relevant Serrano Suñer was still able to create the Blue Division,[7] made up of Spanish volunteers to fight for the Axis. With the conflict decidedly turning in favor of the Allies, Franco returned the status of Spain to one of "vigilant neutrality" on 1 October 1943.[8]
During most of the war, Spain had been a key provider of strategic tungsten ore to Nazi Germany. Amid heavy Allied diplomatic and economic pressure, Spain signed a secret deal with the United States and United Kingdom on 2 May 1944 to drastically limit tungsten exports to Germany and expel German spies from Spanish soil.[9]


Main article: Sweden during World War II

In 1943, the Swedish Armed Forces were much improved, and all such deals with Germany were terminated. Hitler considered invading Sweden, but when Göring protested, Hitler dropped the plan. The Swedish SKF company supplied the majority of ball-bearings used in Germany and was also important to Allied aircraft production.[10]
Swedish Intelligence cracked the German Geheimschreiber cipher and shared decrypted information with the Allies. Stalin was informed well in advance of Hitler's planned invasion of the Soviet Union but chose not to believe the information.
Danish resistance worked with Sweden to carry out the 1943 rescue of the Danish Jews by shipping them to Sweden. During the Liberation of Finnmark, Sweden sent Norwegian "police" troops over the border to link up with Allied forces. At the end of the war, Sweden was preparing to join the Allied invasion of Norway and Denmark if the occupying Wehrmacht forces rejected a general armistice.


Main article: Switzerland during the World Wars

Further information: Aerial incidents in Switzerland in World War II and Operation Tannenbaum


Main articles: Single-party period of the Republic of Turkey § 1938–1950: İnönü (National Chief), and History of the Republic of Turkey § World War II


San Marino

Further information: Battle of San Marino

Vatican City





Saudi Arabia


Main article: Tibet (1912-1951)




Main article: Argentina during World War II

United States

Main article: Neutrality Acts of the 1930s


Portugal, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland held to the concept of armed neutrality, and continuously amassed soldiers to defend their nation's sovereignty from potential invasion. Thus, they maintained the right to become belligerent if attacked while in a state of neutrality. The concept of neutrality in war is narrowly defined and puts specific constraints on the neutral party in return for the internationally recognized right to remain neutral. A wider concept is that of non-belligerence. The basic treaty covering Neutral states is Convention V of The Hague Respecting the Rights and Duties of Neutral Powers and Persons in Case of War on Land (1907). It is important to note that a neutral country takes no side in a war between other parties, and in return hopes to avoid being attacked by either of them. A neutralist policy aims at neutrality in case of an armed conflict that could involve the party in question. A neutralist is an advocate of neutrality in international affairs. The concept of neutrality in conflicts is distinct from non-alignment, i.e., the willful desistance from military alliances in order to preserve neutrality in case of war, and perhaps with the hope of preventing a war altogether.

In a study of Spain, Switzerland, and Sweden during the Second World War, Eric Golson found that they engaged in economic realpolitik, as they traded with both the Axis and the Allied Powers.[18]

See also


  1. ^ "The Countries That Remained Neutral In WWII". WorldAtlas. 4 July 2020. Retrieved 2 November 2022.
  2. ^ "Neutral Countries in World War II". Retrieved 2 November 2022.
  3. ^ Estonian Neutrality Law of December 1st, 1938
  4. ^ Neiburgs, Uldis. "Soviet occupation". Latvijas Okupācijas muzejs. Retrieved 17 December 2017.
  5. ^ Liekis, Šarūnas (2010). 1939: The Year that Changed Everything in Lithuania's History. New York: Rodopi. pp. 119–122. ISBN 978-9042027626.
  6. ^ Egido León, Ángeles (2005). "Franco y la Segunda Guerra Mundial". Ayer. 57 (1): 105. JSTOR 41325295.
  7. ^ Egido León 2005, p. 116.
  8. ^ Egido León 2005, p. 122.
  9. ^ Moradiellos, Enrique (2016). "España y la segunda guerra mundial, 1939-1945: entre resignaciones neutralistas y tentaciones beligerantes" (PDF). In Carlos Navajas Zubeldia & Diego Iturriaga Barco (ed.). Siglo. Actas del V Congreso Internacional de Historia de Nuestro Tiempo. Logroño: Universidad de la Rioja. pp. 72–73.
  10. ^ Did Swedish Ball Bearings Keep the Second World War Going? Re‐evaluating Neutral Sweden’s Role
  11. ^ Allied Relations and Negotiations With Turkey, US State Department, pp. 6-8
  12. ^ Jan Romein (1962). The Asian Century: A History of Modern Nationalism in Asia. University of California Press. p. 382.
  13. ^ "Inside Tibet". National Archives and Records Administration via Youtube. 1943. Archived from the original on 15 December 2021. Retrieved 12 July 2010.
  14. ^ Allén Lascano, Luís C. (1977). Argentina y la gran guerra, Cuaderno 12. «La Soberanía», Todo es Historia, Buenos Aires
  15. ^ a b Carlos Escudé: Un enigma: la "irracionalidad" argentina frente a la Segunda Guerra Mundial, Estudios Interdisciplinarios de América Latina y el Caribe, Vol. 6 Nº 2, jul-dic 1995, Universidad de Tel Aviv
  16. ^ a b c d e Galasso, Norberto (2006). Perón: Formación, ascenso y caída (1893-1955), Colihue, ISBN 950-581-399-6
  17. ^ "Wings of Thunder – Wartime RAF Veterans Flying in From Argentina". PR Newswire. 6 April 2005. Retrieved 8 January 2008.
  18. ^ Golson, Eric (2016). "Neutrality in War". Economic History of Warfare and State Formation. Studies in Economic History. Springer, Singapore. pp. 259–278. doi:10.1007/978-981-10-1605-9_11. ISBN 9789811016042.