It's never been stated, so no way to know. However, I would point out that large and highly populated is not necessary for the situation described.
Obvious example: North Korea. Economically very weak. Population of 25 million, which isn't bad, putting it between Romania and Poland, but, needless to say, support for that population is minimal, with famine not unusual.
Despite that, they cheerfully send assassins, military advisors and spies all over the world. They've invested in high-tech warfare, such as the ZM-87 anti-personnel blinding lasers. Although the quality is suspect, since the equipment ranges from World War 2 in vintage to the present, they're ranked 4th in the world in terms of tanks behind Russia, China, and the US, 3rd in towed artillery, 3rd in self-propelled artillery, they're ranked first in the world in number of submarines (quantity does not equal quality, obviously), number of special forces, and so on.
The main reason you don't see more about their action outside their borders is, quite honestly, their ethnicity. A spy who is North Korean in origin has a slightly harder time blending in with the populations North America (less so in Canada and the US with significant populations of East Asian origin), South America, Europe, much of Asia, and Africa, which limits them. A fictional European country would have much less of a problem in this case.
So, using the real life example, it's not hard to imagine a fictional example.