Special Report

Comparing Russia and NATO's Military Strength


Ukraine on Wednesday began its long-awaited counteroffensive into Russia-controlled territory. These actions could be the start of a major change in the tides of this war, which has dragged on well into its second year, and had become a stalemate in recent months.

The indomitable fighting spirit of the Ukrainians have been a major reason that the war didn’t end in a week or two, as was expected, given the imbalance in military might between the two nations. But few would argue against the fact that the real reason this war has dragged on is that Ukraine has received tens of billions of dollars in military aid from its western allies, including $75 billion from the United States alone. This conflict has arguably become a proxy war between Russia and its NATO adversaries. 

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. 

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 warheads to NATO’s 6,065. What a nuclear attack would do to the America’s 25 biggest cities.

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

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1. Personnel: total military personnel
> NATO: 5,405,700
> Russia: 1,350,000

Source: naphtalina / iStock Unreleased via Getty Images

2. Personnel: active soldiers
> NATO: 3,366,000
> Russia: 850,000

Source: Handout / Getty Images News via Getty Images

3. Personnel: reserve forces
> NATO: 1,301,000
> Russia: 250,000

Source: RomanBabakin / iStock Editorial via Getty Images

4. Personnel: paramilitary units
> NATO: 738,700
> Russia: 250,000

Source: Artyom_Anikeev / iStock Editorial via Getty Images

5. Air Force: total aircraft
> NATO: 20,723
> Russia: 4,173

Source: bfk92 / E+ via Getty Images

6. Air Force: fighters / interceptors
> NATO: 3,527
> Russia: 772

Source: shujaa_777 / iStock via Getty Images

7. Air Force: ground attack aircraft
> NATO: 1,048
> Russia: 739

Source: gsmudger / iStock Editorial via Getty Images

8. Air Force: transport aircraft
> NATO: 1,543
> Russia: 445

Source: alxpin / E+ via Getty Images

9. Air Force: special aircraft (e.g reconnaissance)
> NATO: 1,014
> Russia: 132

Source: USAF / Getty Images News via Getty Images

10. Air Force: tanker aircraft
> NATO: 678
> Russia: 20

Source: Dmitry Potashkin / iStock via Getty Images

11. Air Force: total helicopters
> NATO: 8,485
> Russia: 1,543

Source: guvendemir / E+ via Getty Images

12. Air Force: combat helicopters
> NATO: 1,359
> Russia: 544

Source: Mordolff / E+ via Getty Images

13. Ground combat vehicles: main battle tanks
> NATO: 14,682
> Russia: 12,420

Source: Rawf8 / iStock via Getty Images

14. Ground combat vehicles: armored vehicles
> NATO: 115,855
> Russia: 30,122

Source: Igor Nikushin / iStock via Getty Images

15. Ground combat vehicles: self-propelled artillery
> NATO: 5,040
> Russia: 6,574

Source: Ahrys Art / iStock via Getty Images

16. Ground combat vehicles: tower artillery
> NATO: 5,495
> Russia: 7,571

Source: Kirillm / iStock via Getty Images

17. Ground combat vehicles: self-propelled rocket launchers
> NATO: 2,803
> Russia: 3,391

Source: 3DSculptor / iStock via Getty Images

18. Naval forces: total military ships
> NATO: 2,049
> Russia: 605

Source: TRAVELARIUM / iStock via Getty Images

19. Naval forces: destroyers
> NATO: 112
> Russia: 15

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20. Naval forces: frigates
> NATO: 135
> Russia: 11

Source: HHakim / E+ via Getty Images

21. Naval forces: corvettes
> NATO: 56
> Russia: 86

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22. Naval forces: aircraft carriers
> NATO: 17
> Russia: 1

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23. Naval forces: submarines
> NATO: 144
> Russia: 70

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24. Naval forces: patrol boats
> NATO: 298
> Russia: 59

Source: 1amgreen / iStock via Getty Images

25. Naval forces: minesweepers
> NATO: 153
> Russia: 49

Source: rusm / E+ via Getty Images

26. Nuclear warheads
> NATO: 6,065
> Russia: 6,255

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