Ukraine vs Russia Military Comparison
Using publicly available data, we will be looking at the Russia-Ukraine military comparison and what their gaps in military strength, budget and resources look like.
TLDR Background. The Russia-Ukraine conflict started since February 2014 when Russian forces annexed the Crimean peninsular region of Ukraine, giving it control and dominance of the Black Sea. These tensions were born partly out of Russian concerns for the perceived threat of NATO's eastward expansion that enrolled ex-USSR states such as Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania into the NATO membership.
In late 2021, Russia began amassing its troops near the borders of Ukraine. Russia is, of course, a mighty military power but Ukraine is no slouch itself with a total military size that exceeds a million soldiers. Nevertheless, there are still plenty of gaps in their respective military strengths - but by how much? That's what we will find out.
Dataset Rank & segment full dataset here
(Continuing) So, we will make the comparisons in these 7 aspects:
1. Ukraine-Russia Active Military Strengths - 5x Gap. Russia boasts an active military strength of 1 million soldiers - the fifth largest in the world. This is nearly five times larger than the 209,000 strong active Ukrainian military.
To put this scale in further perspective, Russia's military size is roughly equivalent to the combined military size of the other fourteen ex-USSR states - Ukraine, Moldova, Lithuania, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Armena, Belarus, Georgia, Estonia, Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Latvia - put together.
2. Total Military Sizes - 3x Gap. However, in terms of overall military size, Ukraine manages to close the gap to a narrower 1:3 ratio. It maintains a reserve military force of 900,000 soldiers and a paramilitary force of 102,000, bring to bear an impressive total military size of 1.2 million soldiers that is the 13th largest in the world.
Unfortunately, that is still dwarfed by Russia's massive 2 million reserve troops. with another 554,000 soldiers in paramilitary forces, totalling up to a whopping 3.56 million troop strength - 6th largest in the world.
Russia has a population of 144 million, with 25 out of every 1000 citizens being deployable to the military, while Ukraine's population is about 44 million, with a per 1000 capita of 27.6 being deployable for any military event.
3. Defense Spending - 12.5x Gap. While Russia has a 3x to 5x advantage in troop sizes over Ukraine, it boasts an even larger 12.5x advantage over Ukraine in defense spending which covers everything from troop salaries, maintenance services, equipment, munitions, weapons, smart technologies and supplies.
Russia spends US$65 billion annually on strengthening its military power, which amounts to about 3.9% of its US$1.48-trillion GDP - the highest in Europe and 4th highest in the world. Ukraine's GDP pales in stark contrast at US$155 billion and spends 3.4% of its GDP on defense, amounting to around US$5.3 billion which is the 35th highest in the world.
4. Battle Tanks - 32x Gap. Any major conflict between Russia and Ukraine will, in essence, be a large-scale land war over an expansive 603,548 km² of Ukrainian terrain. It will involve swift agility and overwhelming scale of troops and mobile forces. Russia has a massive battle tank fleet of 22,710 tanks - the largest in the world - which will give it a highly strategic speed advantage should it plan to advance into Ukraine.
On its own, Ukraine has about 700 battle tanks but is increasingly armed by its supportive allies such as USA and UK with a large arsenal of Javelin anti-tank missiles and Turkish-supplied Bayraktar drones.
5. Air Offense/Defense - 13.6x Gap. Again, Russia holds an overwhelming edge in this aspect - it has the 2nd largest aerial fleet in the world (first being USA) - approximately 1,438 attack choppers and 3,212 fighter jets, compared to Ukraine's 137 choppers and 203 jets.
While Ukraine has long-term aspirations to overhaul and diversify its air force to Western fighter jet models from France and USA, it still holds a sizeable number of Russian-made aircrafts in its fleet, such as the MiG and Sukhoi fighter jets. Air power is critical to provide strategic cover to ground forces and defend key facilities and installations from being bombarded.
6. Naval Forces - >100x Gap. With the annexation of Crimea, the Ukrainian Navy was severely diminished and today, the Russian Black Fleet, from its base in Sevastopol, Crimea, basically dominates the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov - where the coastlines of Ukraine.face.
The Russian Navy boasts a host of corvettes, cruisers, frigates destroyers, amphibious vessels and nuclear submarines, while Ukrainian's primary war vessels are a corvette and a frigate.
7. Nuclear Warfare - only Russia. The Russian military also has 6,500 nuclear warheads in its arsenal, although it is near impossible that nuclear warfare will be waged against the smaller military force in Ukraine when conventional warfare will suffice aplenty.
The tensions between Ukraine and Russia will persist so long as there is a power imbalance between the military might of the two neighbours and the perception of threat between Russia and NATO with strategic attempts to contain the other. In our next comparison, we will also explore the gaps between NATO and Russia should both these forces go head-to-head.
Check out these military rankings by region and force type: