NATOs military arsenal laid bare as alliance edges closer to war with Russia

Ukraine ‘needs NATO ships in Black Sea’ says Prystaiko

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Ukraine’s message to NATO in the last week has been clear: we need weapons, weapons, weapons. Its foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba told a recent NATO meeting that atrocities against civilians could happen unless the country was given more military aid. Horrific scenes at Bucha — a city just north of Kyiv — flooded the world’s press and social media with images of mass civilian murders, some showing victims lying in the streets with their hands tied behind their backs, others showing children strewn across roads, still more depicting women beheaded, all allegedly carried out by Russian troops who had until recently occupied the locality.

It appeared to be the tipping point for NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and the organisation’s members after they voted in favour of providing more military support to Ukraine.

In light of this, Russia warned that “pumping weapons into Ukraine” will have a “negative effect” on peace talks — another thinly veiled threat of potential things to come as the conflict protracts and Moscow becomes desperate to end what it started on February 24.

Before the invasion, questions remained over NATO’s military capabilities and logistics.

The organisation owns little in the way of military equipment: a fleet of

AWACS (Airborne Warning and Control) aircraft and five Global Hawk surveillance drones.

But in the wider context, it can be provided with the military hardware and personnel of its constituent member states, some 30 countries.

Since its inception after World War 2 in 1949, NATO has significantly increased its military power.

Today, it has the capability to count on nearly 3.5 million personnel, troops and civilians combined.

Each member state agrees to contribute with different strategic weight and influence, as well as allocating a certain percentage of GDP.

They regularly perform military drills together, the costs of which they cover, like providing fighter jets and tanks.

The collective nature of NATO means that the organisation as a whole far outnumbers Russia in terms of aircraft (20,723 to 4,173) and naval power (2,049 military ships to 605).

Russia’s ground vehicle capacity is more competitive, however, with 12,420 units, to 14,682.

And, even with the combined nuclear arsenal of the US, UK and France, Russia still has the lead, with 6,255 to NATO’s 6,065.

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Using statistics collected by Statista, has mapped out NATO’s current military capabilities.


Total military personnel: 5,405,700

Active soldiers: 3,366,000

Reserve forces: 1,301,000

Paramilitary units: 738,700

Air Force 

Total aircraft: 20,723

Fighters/interceptors: 3,527

Ground attack aircraft: 1,048

Transport aircraft: 1,543

Special aircraft (e.g reconnaissance): 1,014

Tanker aircraft: 678

Total helicopters: 8,485

Combat helicopters: 1,359

Ground combat vehicles 

Main battle tanks: 14,682

Armoured vehicles: 115,855

Self-propelled artillery: 5,040

Tower artillery: 5,495

Self-propelled rocket launchers: 2,803


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Naval forces

Total military ships: 2,049

Destroyers: 112

Frigates: 135

Corvettes: 56

Aircraft carriers: 17

Submarines: 144

Patrol boats: 298

Minesweepers: 153

Nuclear Weapons

Nuclear warheads: 6,065

Before this month’s NATO meeting, alliance countries had already sent scores of weapons and military equipment to Ukraine.

Initially, the weapons being sent were earmarked as defensive so as to avoid any accusations from Russia that the west was instigating attacks on its military.

However, Mr Stoltenberg has since made clear that there will be no distinction between defensive and offensive weapons, signalling a major shift in NATO’s position.

He said: “When it comes to Ukraine, there should be no such difference as between defensive weapons and offensive weapons.

“Because every weapon used in the territory of Ukraine, by the Ukrainian army, against a foreign aggressor is defensive by definition.

“So this distinction between defensive and offensive doesn’t make any sense when it comes to the situation in my country.

“And those countries who are saying we will provide Ukraine with defensive weapons but we are not in a position to provide them with offensive weapons, they are hypocritical.

“This is simply an unfair, unjustified approach.”

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