By: Dr. Peter Vincent Pry
In the long history of war and peace, numbers matter.
If Ukraine is annexed or dominated by Moscow, Russia will again directly confront NATO in central Europe. New NATO members Hungary, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, and Poland are no match for Russia. Nor are traditional NATO members in Western Europe what they were during the Cold War. They are no match for the modernized Russian Army.
Collectively, the armed forces of NATO’s 27 members (excluding the United States) seem impressive at about 1.7 million active duty, although this is only about half their Cold War strength of 3.3 million. European NATO (including Turkey) collectively has 6,000 tanks and 2,000 fighter aircraft among 27 member nations.
However, NATO’s European members have very little power projection capability–their armed forces are largely incapable of traveling far beyond their national territories. Only the United Kingdom has significant power projection, estimated capable of sending 30,000 troops overseas.
France, after the U.K. estimated to have the greatest power projection capabilities in Europe, had great difficulty projecting even a small force numbering 2,000 Foreign Legionnaires to Mali in January 2013. France needed help with aerial refueling and logistical support from the U.S., Canada, and Britain.
When European NATO led the bombing campaign against Libya in March 2011, they quickly exhausted their ammunition. They needed resupply from the United States.
European NATO was hard pressed to conduct military operations against Libya–a helpless adversary.
Russian armed forces comprise 1.4 million active duty troops, 3,300 modern main battle tanks (18,000 more tanks in reserve), and 2,750 military aircraft.