How many countries?

I just read a news story that said the State Department has sent video tapes of last year’s embassy bombing “to every U.S. embassy, more than 250…” Now I thought I understood that the embassy is the official residence of the ambassador and you establish one per country. If there’s a need to represent your citizens elsewhere in a country you establish a local consulate. So I guess I’m wending my way toward two questions here:

I realize that this decade has seen a lot of independent soveriegnties pop up out of what had been one larger one, but are we really up to 250 countries in the world? My only handy source lists 205, (including Peurto Rico and Hong Kong listed as countries) and may be out of date.

Do I misunderstand the deal w/embassies and consulates; i.e., do we have multiple embassies in some countries?

I realize an alternate explanation would be that the news story was sloppy with details.

You also have to count ambassadors to the UN and other extragovernmental organizations.

You’re probably both right; besides, remember that there are some countries with which the United States does * not * have diplomatic relations with: Iran, North Korea, Liechtenstein (why not Liechtenstein??) I would count the UN, the other agencies you mentioned, and the individual countries named in the * World Almanac * as having diplomatic relations with the United States; but that still probbaly doesn’t come to 250!

According a list on the UN website :

The page was apparently updated about a week ago.

Also there are two “Non-Member States Maintaining Permanent Observer Missions at UN Headquarters”: Holy See and Switzerland.

There are also some non-countries that have embassies. For example, prior to the breakup of the Soviet Union, there were already recognized embassies for the republics of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. The United States had never recognized the Soviet annexation of these countries in the 1930’s.

My guess would be that they meant embassies and consulates. The ISO-3166 list has only 238 entries, and that includes territories (PR, Guam, Virgin Islands, etc. for the U.S., St. Pierre & Miquelon, etc. for France, and dozens of little islands for Great Britain).

If you counted consulates, you might get the number of offices in the 180+ countries up to 250.


Uh oh. We’re on the outs with Liechtenstein? I’ve got to work harder at keeping up with current affairs. What’s the story on this? Are we imposing sactions? Are THEY imposing sactions?

I believe Liechtenstein is represented by Switzerland. Many nations do this to avoid costs. A lot of countries use only their UN ambassadors to save costs. Makes sense.