Russian-Ukrainian war: how big is the Ukrainian army and the size of the armed forces compared to Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States and NATO


Kiev was surrounded by Russian troops but Vladimir Putin reportedly failed to achieve his military goals in Ukraine

Europe’s biggest conflict since World War II is unfolding in Ukraine after Russian President Vladimir Putin authorized an invasion of the Eastern European nation last Thursday (February 24).

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So how much military firepower can Ukraine call upon to repel Russian armed forces – and how do the countries’ armies compare?

Ukrainian troops outnumber the Russians more than twice (Image: AFP/Getty Images)

How big is the Ukrainian army?

According to the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), Ukraine has 196,600 active military personnel.

This breaks down into 125,600 ground troops, 35,000 airmen and 15,000 naval troops.

It can also call on 900,000 reservists – including paramilitary militias – although, as recent images of civilians holding wooden guns suggest, not all of these forces are necessarily well-equipped.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has also sought to bolster his troops with civilians by giving them the right to legally bear arms, offering them weapons and encouraging people to make Molotov cocktails.

Fighting has been concentrated in northern, southern and eastern Ukraine (graphic: Mark Hall)

Most of Ukraine’s firepower is ground-based, with the country having over 2,000 tanks, 1,960 artillery pieces and 2,870 armored vehicles before the Russian invasion.

The troops also have around 400 surface-to-air missile launchers that could take out Russian aircraft and access lethal NATO aid, including 2,000 UK-donated anti-tank weapons and 500 Stinger surface-to-air missiles. from Germany.

Its air power consists of 146 attack aircraft and 42 attack helicopters.

Ukraine has only two warships.

It remains the only country in the world to have given up its nuclear weapons, meaning it has no deterrent to threaten Russia.

(graphic: Mark Hall)

Given that the country has been fighting so-called Russian-backed separatists in the east of the country since 2014, its armed forces are well trained.

However, with a defense budget of between $2 billion and $5 billion, it lacks the capabilities of its powerful neighbour.

Ukraine will likely need international support to retain its territory if ceasefire talks fail.

How big is the Russian army?

The Russian army greatly exceeds that of Ukraine, with a budget of between 40 and 65 billion dollars.

On land, sea and air, the country has approximately 900,000 active military personnel and two million reservists.

Its active force includes 280,000 soldiers, 165,000 airmen and 150,000 sailors.

Russia often showcases its military force publicly with parades, like this one marking Victory Day in 2021 (Image: AFP/Getty Images)

The number of troops it currently has in and around Ukraine is estimated at around 150,000, although it appears more troops have been flown into the country since fighting began last week.

Russia’s ground capabilities include more than 13,000 tanks, just under 6,000 artillery pieces and nearly 20,000 armored vehicles – although not all of that firepower is being thrown at Ukraine.

Its main advantage is its long-range weaponry, with the country possessing more than 500 land-based ballistic missile launchers.

Footage from Ukraine showed missiles hitting the country’s infrastructure, as well as apartment buildings.

Russia has a navy that includes more than 50 submarines (Image: AFP/Getty Images)

As for aircraft, the country has 1,328 attack aircraft and more than 470 attack helicopters.

At sea, its 74 warships and 51 submarines dwarf Ukraine’s small fleet – although they are unlikely to be effective given that Ukraine lost much of its coastal territory when Russia annexed Crimea in 2014.

But while having a large army with advanced equipment is all well and good, it means nothing without battlefield experience.

Russia has had many over the past decade due to its involvement in the civil war in Syria, where it supported Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

It has also sent forces to Libya and, more recently, Kazakhstan, which means its war machine has plenty of recent combat experience.

NATO troops are deployed in increasing numbers in Poland (image: Getty Images)

Russia’s greatest threat to Ukraine and the rest of the world is its stockpile of nuclear weapons, the mere existence of which acts as a deterrent to directly engaging in war with the country.

How big is Britain’s armed forces?

According to the latest publicly available assessment from the Ministry of Defense (MoD), the full-time UK Armed Forces consist of over 159,000 personnel.

This figure includes 76,300 ground troops, 29,960 airmen and 29,136 navy personnel.

The UK actually aims to reduce its ground forces to 72,500 by 2025.

If achieved, this would mean there will be 30,000 fewer ground troops available than in 2010.

At present, over 32,000 reservists are available to supplement the active British personnel.

How big is the US military?

Few countries can match the power or technology of the American military machine.

According to the latest 2020 estimates, the country spends north of $700 billion a year on its armed forces.

In 2020, this represented 37% of the entire global defense budget.

It is believed that there are over a million active ground troops, over 300,000 navy personnel and over 300,000 air troops.

How big is the NATO army?

NATO’s defense organization has around 3.5 million active and reserve personnel that it can call upon if one of its members is attacked.

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