When a country gains independence or regime change, one of the first things the new government is going to need is recognition from other countries. It's a funny little aspect of being a country: part of being one is getting everyone else to call you one, or admit you're one.
So with that, today I feel like doing a little statkeeping. What follows is a list of countries, arranged alphabetically. Aside each country is the first other country to recognize that country's existence or independence. (By this, we're talking the kind of recognition that would cause the recognizing country to sponsor the recognized country for a seat of their own at the United Nations, as opposed to simply changing the people occupying an existing seat. For that reason, we limit ourselves to countries that are actually in the UN now.)
As one might expect, being the first to recognize a new country tends to pay off with relations between the two flourishing down the road. (Though it's no guarantee.) This is why, despite the fact that only one country can actually be first, several countries will claim to be first, or at least among the first, or the first in a particular region. I've done the best I can in sifting through all the claims, though just in case I'm wrong, other claimants are noted.
*Armenia- Argentina (Of all the places, Turkey also claims priority.)
*Bangladesh- Bhutan (India also claims priority.)
*Belgium- United Kingdom
*Brazil- United States
*Croatia- Iceland (Germany and the Vatican also claim priority.)
*Greece- Haiti (The United States also claims priority.)
*Guinea-Bissau- Brazil (Romania also claims priority.)
*Haiti- Really, nobody ought to get credit. Haiti was the second independent nation in the Western Hemisphere, spurred by a slave revolt in 1791. But to recognize Haiti as a nation would be to recognize the right of slaves to revolt. And nobody, at the time, wanted to make that admission. So nobody recognized Haiti... until France in 1825. Even then, they extracted as the price for recognition a restitution payment ten times Haiti's total revenue, because of all the money France had lost due to the slave revolt. It must be noted that four years before this payment, in 1821, Haiti recognized Greece. Greece, obviously, did not repay the favor.
*India- it looks like Bhutan.
*Ireland- a bunch of possible answers, but we're going to go with Russia. (Claims are also made for the United Kingdom, Argentina, Canada and Germany.)
*Israel- United States (The Soviet Union claims priority, but they were just the first to formalize it. The United States was the first to hit the threshold we're looking for.)
*Italy- United Kingdom (The United States also claims priority.)
*Kazakhstan- Turkey (The United States claims to be first, but missed out by nine days. Turkey got there on December 16, 1991; the United States got there on the 25th.)
*Liberia- United Kingdom
*North Korea- Soviet Union
*Panama- United States
*Turkmenistan- Iran (Turkey and Pakistan also claim priority.)
*South Sudan- Sudan
*Tunisia- United States (France may also claim priority.)
*United States- Morocco (The Netherlands also claims priority.)