Comparing the Military Strength of Russia and NATO

The Biden administration agreed to provide high-tech M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine, just the latest high-cost contribution the United States has made to the beleaguered European nation’s war effort. But the United States is certainly not the only country providing substantial aid packages to Ukraine as it combats Russian forces. The United Kingdom, Germany, Poland, Canada and many others have been sending military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine.

Although the U.S. and several of its NATO allies have supplied Ukraine with weapons, they have made clear they do not want a direct confrontation with Russia in Ukraine. Looking at the military might of both parties, NATO holds an advantage in most categories. 

To find how Russia’s and NATO’s military might compare, 24/7 Wall St. used data produced by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute and compiled by consumer data site Statista. The data shows the differences in estimated military capacity of Russia and the 30 members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Data was collected in 2022, using data current as of January 2021. 

NATO has a total of 5.4 million military personnel compared to a little under 1.4 million for Russia. NATO commands 3.4 million active soldiers, while Russia’s active service members number 850,000. Russia may get a boost after ordering a draft of 300,000 reservists to support the war effort. Yet the mobilization of troops has sparked protests and an exodus of young men from the country. See the 25 countries where the most people serve in the military.

Russia surpasses NATO in three categories of ground combat vehicles: self-propelled artillery (6,574 to 5,040); tower artillery (7,571 to 5,495); and self-propelled rocket launchers (3,391 to 2,803). Such an edge could make a difference in a ground war fought on European soil.

In terms of naval strength, NATO has more ships and submarines. But Russia commands more corvettes, which are smaller, faster ships a size below a frigate.

Ominously, considering Vladimir Putin’s threats about using a strategic nuclear bomb, Russia holds 6,255 nuclear warheaps to NATO’s 6,065. What a nuclear attack would do to the world’s major cities.

Click here to see how Russia’s and NATO’s military capabilities compare.

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