NATO vs Russia Military Comparison
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Using publicly available data, let us examine and explore the gaps between military strength, budget and resources of Russia and NATO.

TLDR Background. NATO or the North Atlantic Treaty Organization is an alliance of 30 nations formed to provide collective protection for the territories of member states in Europe and North America, and islands in the North Atlantic north of the Tropic of Cancer, plus French Algeria.

Tensions between NATO and Russia frayed in recent years as a result of Russia's annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in March 2014 and with the recent mass deployment of more than 100,000 troops and tanks along the vast Ukraine-Russia border in late 2021, the tensions between these two forces come to the fore once again. On 24 February 2022, the inevitable happened - Russia invaded Ukraine.

  Data Table

Preparing data


  [Special] Do also check out our gap analysis of Ukraine's military compared to Russia's

Also, our gap analysis of China compared to Taiwan's military


NATO is essentially made up of 27 European countries, 2 North American countries (USA and Canada) and 1 Eurasian country (Turkey). Let's explore the gaps between military strength, budget and resources of Russia and NATO in these aspects.

Note that this is theoretically a paper comparison as it is impossible that the entire forces on both sides will clash head-on, short of a full-scale conflict. Of course, if a full-scale conflict indeed materializes, the mode of warfare will likely not be conventional warfare but nuclear warfare.


1. NATO-Russia Active Military Strengths - 3.2x Gap (Edge: NATO). The combined active military force of NATO has a gargantuan size of 3.2 million soldiers, compared to Russia's 1 million strong active military force, which is mighty impressive for a single nation. It is also worth noting that 42% of NATO active forces can be attributed to USA's military which has close to 1.4M service men and women alone.


2. Total Military Sizes - 1.7x Gap (Edge: NATO). This is where Russia closes in on the gap. The total military force of the NATO alliance is 6.1 million troops, double that of Russia's 3.5 million troops. NATO nations have a total reserve force of 2.1 million solders and a paramilitary force of 765,000. Russia nearly matches with 2 million in reserve force and 554,000 in paramilitaries.


3. Defense Spending - 15x Gap (Edge: NATO). NATO nations spend a whopping US$1 trillion on defence, with USA accounting for 70% of that military spending. USA spends 3.4% of its US$21 trillion GDP on defense, amounting to an expenditure in excess of US$700 billion. In fact, the United States defense budget alone is more than the defense budgets of the next ten highest spending countries combined. In contrast, Russia spends US$65 billion annually on strengthening its military power, which amounts to about 3.9% of its US$1.48-trillion GDP.


4. Battle Tanks - 1.4x Gap (Edge: Russia). This is where Russia's land game reigns supreme. 30 member nations of NATO have a combined tank force of 16,077 tanks, a number eclipsed by the massive Russian tank fleet of 22,710 tanks. Of course, tank numbers do not win a battle or war today, given the multitude of ways tanks can be destroyed via the use of anti-tank munitions, drones and aerial assault.


5. Air Offense/Defense - 3.6x Gap (Edge: NATO). With USA, NATO has a combined fleet of 16,737 aircrafts (84% of which are US aircrafts), 3.6 times more than the Russian fleet of 4,650 aircrafts. But without the presence of the United States, Russia holds the edge - 1.7 times more aircrafts than the combined 2,677 aircrafts of NATO sans USA.


6. Naval Forces - 2.5x Gap (Edge: NATO). NATO has a combined fleet of 545 major war vessels - aircraft carriers, cruisers, corvettes, frigates, destroyers and submarines, compared to Russia's gigantic fleet of 220 major war vessels. Submarines-wise, NATO has a fleet of 148 submarines, including 91 nuclear submarines, compared to Russia's 59 nuclear submarine fleet.


7. Nuclear Warfare - EVEN. NATO's combined nuclear stockpile stands at 6,650 warheads, primarily from the nuclear powers - USA, UK and France. This is evenly matched by Russia's arsenal of 6,500 warheads, which means in the event of an all-out war between NATO and Russia, we can be assured of MAD (mutually assured destruction).


Check out these military rankings by region and force type:

Largest Militaries Worldwide  - by total force | by active force | by force per capita

Largest Militaries (region) - Asia | N.Asia | Europe | Africa | Middle East | N. America | S. America

G20 Countries - Defense Spending | Air Force | Military | Tanks | Navy | Submarines | Nuclear

Gap Analysis - NATO & Russia | Ukraine & Russia | China & Taiwan

Highest Military Budgets - World | Asia | N. AsiaEurope | Africa | Middle East | N. America | S. America

Largest Navy - World | Asia | North AsiaEurope | S. America

Most Submarines - World | Asia | North Asia | Europe | S. America

Largest Air Force - World | Africa | Asia | North AsiaEurope | Middle East | N. America | S. America

Most Battle Tanks - World | Africa | Asia | North Asia | Europe | Middle East


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