September 30, 2023

The world’s largest military alliance is indeed powerful

NATO is considered to be the most powerful defense alliance in the world. But how strong is the military alliance really?

NATO heads of state and foreign and defense ministers met in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius for the past two days. The meeting near the Belarusian border is about supporting Ukraine – but also about how to improve the security capabilities of the world’s largest military alliance in the future.

NATO is already the strongest military alliance in the world. It has 30 members and several associate countries. But how strong is NATO compared to other countries and security alliances? What military equipment can Allied countries withdraw? What about the strength of new members Finland and Sweden? Here T-Online answers the most important questions about the world’s largest military alliance.

Who is a member of NATO?

In total, NATO has 31 member states. When the military alliance was launched in 1949, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, the United Kingdom and the United States were established.

In 1952, Greece and Turkey joined NATO, followed by the Federal Republic of Germany in 1955. After the end of the Franco dictatorship, Spain became a member of the military alliance in 1982.

New member Finland and Sweden will soon join the military alliance from April 4, 2023.

How many soldiers are there in NATO countries?

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPR) writes that there are currently around 3,358,000 active soldiers across all NATO member states – new NATO member Finland is not included in these figures, but has around 24,000 soldiers in service. However, it must be said that force strength is not equal to NATO strength. This is because different countries allocate a certain percentage of their total force to NATO.

In addition, there are about 1,720,000 reserve soldiers and about 900,000 Finnish reserve soldiers. In total, NATO – including Finland – has deployed 6,741,000 soldiers to allied forces.

By comparison, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army had about 2,000,000 soldiers and 510,000 reservists in 2022.

Which NATO army is the strongest?

A look at the “Global Firepower Index,” which is published every year comparing the military strength of the various armed forces, shows that the United States tops NATO militarily by a wide margin. Great Britain and France follow closely behind. With the Bundeswehr, Germany ranks eighth among NATO countries.

How strong are the air forces of NATO countries?

According to Sibri, a total of 20,633 aircraft and helicopters are in service with NATO forces. These include 3,398 fighter and interceptor aircraft, 1,108 ground attack aircraft, 1,506 transport aircraft, 970 special aircraft used for aerial reconnaissance, among others, 615 tanker aircraft and 8,614 military helicopters. The same applies here: in the event of an alliance, not all of the forces of the national air forces will be available to NATO.

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The Finnish Air Force adds 67 aircraft not included in the Sibri report. 55 of these are US manufacturer McDonnell Douglas’ F/A-18C Hornet fighter jets, which will be replaced by 64 modern Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter jets by 2026.

Compared to NATO, the Air Force of the People’s Republic of China has 1,624 combat aircraft of various types.

How strong is the navy of NATO countries?

NATO forces are also well positioned at sea. According to Sibri, a total of 2,151 warships are in service with coalition forces. These include 16 aircraft and 13 helicopter carriers, as well as 112 destroyers and 135 warships. It is not known exactly how many ships are in service in the Chinese Navy. US Naval Intelligence estimates their number at around 360.

How much money do NATO countries spend on their defense?

At the NATO summit in Vilnius on July 11 and 12, 2023, NATO countries agreed to invest two percent of their gross domestic product (GDP) in defense budgets in the coming years. According to the SIPRI Annual Report for 2022, only eight alliance states are meeting this target.

Greece, the United States, Lithuania, Poland, Great Britain, Croatia, Estonia and Latvia are currently investing heavily in their defense. France is closing in on the two percent target — even if neighboring Germany misses it with 1.94 percent of GDP.