Special Report

Comparing Russia and NATO's Military Strength

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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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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