NewslettersSign inAPP
spainSPAINargentinaARGENTINAchileCHILEcolombiaCOLOMBIAusaUSAmexicoMEXICOperuPERUlatin usaLATIN USAamericaAMERICA


How big are the armies in Europe and which are the biggest? How big is Ukraine's army?

With the end of the Cold War European armies began to shrink considerably. With the start of the largest land war in Europe since WWII, where do they stand?

With the end of the Cold War European began to shrink considerably. With the start of the largest land war in Europe since WWII, where do they stand now?

The current conflict between Russia and Ukraine appears like a battle between David and Goliath when comparing their militaries. The NATO alliance has said that it will not get involved but has moved forces to its eastern-most members that neighbor both nations at war.

After Russia, the next four largest military forces in Europe are members of NATO. The combined strength of the 30-member alliance which includes two thirds of the European nations surpasses that of Russia in some areas but in others is on par number-wise.

Also see:

Which are the largest militaries in Europe?

Prior to the end of the Cold War Western European nations spent on average 2.4 percent of GDP on the military. However, by 2020 that had dropped to just 1.6 percent of GDP but the reduction in the size of each nation’s armed forces was unequal.

Germany, then just the western portion, on the front line of the Iron Curtain had the largest standing army followed by Italy, France and Britain. The picture has changed a bit since then with France possessing the largest European military force, after Russia, followed by the UK, Italy and Germany, respectively.

The downsizing of military spending occurred in Russia as well. However, around 2009 spending picked up again according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) data.

How big are the standing armies in Europe?

As a single nation Russia has the largest force of a European nation with 850,000 active personnel, or ready to deploy. They have another half million that they could call upon on short notice.

However, Russia doesn't have the most troops in the world, that title goes to China. However, Russia must also protect a vast area covering around a tenth of the Earth’s land.

Ukraine has a sizeable force with 200,000 active personnel and 500,000 when reservists and paramilitary forces are included. In the current conflict the nation has called on all males 18 to 60 years old to take up arms. As well, they have handed out weapons to all citizens that wish to pitch in along with instructing the population how to make Molotov cocktails.

For comparison according to Global Firepower, France has 205,000 active personnel, the UK 194,000, Italy 170,000 and Germany 184,000. However, the combined number of troops that NATO can call on is close to 3.4 million with another 2 million reservists and paramilitary forces according to Statista.

Russia and NATO have similar numbers of heavy equipment

Although NATO has almost four times the number of ready to deploy troops as Russia, there is less of a gap in heavy weapons. NATO combined has around 2,300 more tanks than Russia. Nearly half of the alliance’s 14,682 tanks come from the US. Where Russia has its greatest advantage is in artillery which between stationary and mobile units including rocket launchers numbers around 17,500.

Although they haven’t brought all their tanks and heavy equipment to Ukraine, its been estimated that roughly half the firepower Russia has was amassed along the border prior to invasion. They’ll encounter around 2,600 tanks, around 3,100 artillery fixed and mobile in addition to 490 rocket launchers in Ukraine.

Air superiority is key in modern day warfare

Controlling the skies is critical to battlefield victory. Air superiority allows an army to be more maneuverable and to concentrate its forces. Individually the four biggest Western European air forces don’t come close to Russia’s 772 fighter jets, but NATO has a combined force of over 3,500 fighter jets. Even just the four top European NATO members have a combined 611 fighter jets they can scramble.


To be able to comment you must be registered and logged in. Forgot password?