Despite the chummy personal relations between
Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump, tensions
between the two nations have reached their
highest point since the end of the Cold War.
Russia’s illegal annexation of the Crimea
has earned it international condemnation,
and its threats in recent years to use nuclear
weapons against Baltic state capitals has
only served to strengthen NATO’s resolve to
resist any possible Russian aggression.
Russia for its part has seen the expansion
of NATO as a form of aggression against itself,
and fears being boxed in even as it attempts
to resurrect the power it once held over east
Europe during the height of the Soviet Union.
Yet eastern european nations have largely
been adamant about their refusal to allow
the Kremlin into their backyard once more,
and have increasingly turned to NATO for security
With the war in Syria opening up a new and
ongoing front between east and west, the possibility
of conflict between the US and Russia has
once more skyrocketed.
Hello and welcome to another episode of The
Infographics Show- today we’re doing our annual
comparison of the two nation’s militaries
in our Russian and American military comparison:
In recent years Russia has found itself increasingly
maligned by the international community.
Their annexation of Crimea in 2014 immediately
ratcheted tensions between the US and itself
even after years of slowly warming relations
and cooperation between the two states.
When NATO responded by forming forward-based
rapid response forces close to Russia’s borders,
Russia privately warned the United States
that it would not hesitate to use tactical
nuclear weapons against NATO troops in the
Not one to be easily intimidated, President
Obama at the time responded by sending American
forces on permanent rotation to the Baltics,
determined to uphold America’s commitment
to its NATO allies despite the nuclear threats.
The attempted coup against the Montenegro
government by Russian agents just prior to
its joining NATO only served to further inflame
tensions between east and west.
Russia’s actions have also earned it severe
sanctions from the West, which have caused
deep economic harm to the increasingly isolated
Currently under a multi-year rearmament plan,
the sanctions have severely limited the scope
of the planned rearmament of the Russian military,
specially hurting its ability to upgrade aging
tanks, planes, and other high technology assets.
In the face of international sanctions though,
the Russian defense industry has expanded
impressively, rising to meet the needs of
Russia’s bid to modernize its military forces.
Even with an expanded domestic defense industry
however, Russia is still struggling to meet
the ambitious goals of its rearmament plans,
and it has had to abandon altogether some
of its most desperately needed and high profile
weapons programs such as the SU-57 fighter,
who’s acquisition has been indefinitely postponed.
Originally claiming that Russia had no need
for a 5th generation fighter as its current
air fleets were more than capable of meeting
any possible opponents, the statement has
been widely derided as an attempt to save
face as Russia faces the fact that it simply
cannot afford the expensive fighter jet in
any meaningful numbers.
As of 2019, the SU-57’s planned acquisition
continued to be indefinitely postponed, but
with the guarantee that no major purchases
will take place before 2020 at a minimum.
This is bad news for the Russian military
as its 4th generation fighters, while extremely
capable for the most part, are now threatened
by expanding numbers of American made F-35s
and a formidable fleet of F-22s.
Yet where Russia has fallen behind in the
air, it has maintained its historical advantage
in ground-based anti-air capabilities with
the S-400 and S-500 missile system, widely
considered best in the world.
A new family of very long range missiles can
now target aircraft as far away as 250 miles
(400 km), and the new 9M96E2 missile can intercept
even very low flying cruise missiles.
Newly updated acquistion radars also give
the S-400 and S-500 the ability to track and
target stealth aircraft such as the F-35 at
any angle but head-on, which is where the
F-35 stealth’s features best protect the aircraft.
Operating dense nets of anti-air systems to
make up for its significantly weaker air force,
Russia continues to guarantee that any American
air operations against it will come with a
very high price that the US may not be willing
On the ground, a new family of electronic
warfare vehicles also continues to give Russia
its historical advantage in electronic warfare,
and having carefully studied America’s use
of unmanned aerial vehicles, Russia has invested
heavily into disrupting drone platforms.
Keenly aware of the lethality of American
long-range standoff attack munitions, Russia
has also heavily invested into systems to
disrupt the guidance and targeting abilities
of cruise missile and other smart weapons.
While Russia’s current military strategy is
not to outright defeat America in battle,
but rather to ensure that any American action
against it is too painful to continue for
long, the US has for the first time in two
decades fully shifted its focus from global
terrorism operations to combating major regional
For nearly twenty years the hulking American
war machine has been increasingly streamlined
for smaller scale global conflicts against
rogue nations or terrorist threats.
This has placed an emphasis on mobility, surveillance,
and long-range attack capabilities, which
makes the US military of today a highly agile,
intelligent, and lethal force- against anything
but major peer competitors such as Russia
The emphasis on fighting low intensity conflicts
and rapid response has seen America’s traditional
overwhelming advantage in high-intensity warfare
Plans for new self-propelled heavy artillery
pieces, a new battle tank, and some of the
most ambitious parts of the Future Soldier
program were all canceled in preference for
information technology upgrades, aerial surveillance
systems, and long-range attack capabilities.
While these all continue to make America a
deadly military force, a lack of investment
in new ground attack aircraft, main battle
tanks, and other frontline, high intensity
combat systems have given nations such as
Russia and China time to catch up.
Further, the US military has woefully lagged
behind in its electronic warfare capabilities
versus peer competitors, with its own capabilities
far behind Russia’s own.
This places all of the US’s high tech weapon
systems at severe jeopardy in the case of
war, though in 2018 a new focus on electronic
warfare has seen billions of investment from
Any new technologies and weapon systems though
will not be operational for years, perhaps
even a decade, leaving the US in a serious
lurch in case of war in the near future.
While the capabilities of nations such as
Russia and China are not significant enough
to completely eliminate the capabilities of
American high tech systems, they are sufficient
to prohibit a decisive and overwhelming victory,
and perhaps enough to threaten the US’s stated
military objectives of being able to fight
and win two simultaneous high intensity wars
anywhere in the world.
It is not all doom and gloom for the US however,
as the F-35 is finally reaching operational
capabilities in significant numbers.
A much maligned aircraft, the F-35 still manages
to achieve impressive kill ratios against
American and other allied aircraft in exercises.
The only times that F-35s are matched by 4th
generation aircraft are when they are forced
to enter into a combat exercise under extremely
unfavorable conditions, such as combat engagements
within just tens of miles.
As a stealthy platform, the F-35 is not designed
to ever get into close range against enemy
fighters, and instead use its overwhelming
technological advantages, and those of allied
platforms it is linked up to, to track and
destroy enemy aircraft from well beyond visual
range and before they have a chance to respond.
What many critics have failed to grasp is
that modern air war has moved well past the
dogfighting stage, and modern jet aircraft
are more accurately missile tugs than air-to-air
fighters, with the real combat done between
Yet America’s high tech systems are increasingly
vulnerable to electronic attack, an area which
as we mentioned before the US is lagging behind
A multi-billion dollar expansion of the US
defense budget by President Trump though has
seen a revitalization of the US military.
While in no way “depleted” as so confusingly
claimed by President Trump, the influx of
cash has guaranteed the continued acquisition
of Ford Class carriers as well as a planned
naval expansion of 46 ships in five years,
up to a planned 355 ships by 2050.
The new ship acquisitions will feature accelerated
purchases of Virginia class submarines, second
only to the US’s Seawolf class, as well as
a huge expansion of smaller, unmanned surface
drones for everything from surveillance and
intelligence gathering to submarine hunting.
Still, even with a new influx of cash, the
forced retirement of Los Angeles class submarines
will see the US Navy’s requirement of 66 attack
submarines not reached until 2048.
So just how do the two nations match up numerically
Let’s take a look at the numbers.
The US military’s budget is 610 billion versus
just 66.3 billion for Russia, yet while the
US’s budget completely dwarfs Russia’s own,
the US military also has a great number of
international obligations to meet and pay
for in the name of global stability, while
Russia does not.
Currently the US has an active personnel force
of 1,281,900, versus Russia’s 771,000, yet
the US maintains 811,000 reservists versus
In case of war, Russia would be able to equalize,
and even exceed troop strength faster than
However the US’s much larger population that
is available for military conscription- 73,270,043
versus Russia’s 34,765,736, means that in
the end the US would win the numbers game.
With Russian forces being approximately 2/3rds
conscripts, and not professional volunteer
soldiers such as the entirety of the US’s
own force, an initial numerological advantage
in the first year of a war would be seriously
eroded by training and morale issues amongst
On the ground, the US fields 6,393 battle
tanks versus Russia’s 20,050.
While it may seem like Russia has an overwhelming
advantage here, it’s important to note that
only about 4,000 of these tanks are not even
While Russian tank forces are a hodgepodge
of T-72s, T-80s, T-90s and much older, Cold
War era models, the entirety of the US tank
force are relatively modern Abrams, with over
1500 being state-of-the-art M1A2 models with
an annual upgrade program of about 100 M1s
Russia’s most modern tank, the T-90, only
numbers at about 550, and while a very lethal
modern platform with impressive offensive
capabilities, weighs roughly half as much
and is vastly outclassed defensively by the
The T-90 best represents Russia’s current
military budget realities, which force it
to develop weapons which excel offensively
while very often trading off defensive capabilities.
Lastly, the vast majority of Russia’s claimed
20,000 + tank force is not just antiquated,
but currently mothballed, and would take months
to refurbish and prepare for combat.
In the air the US has a fleet of 12,304 aircraft
versus Russia’s 4,441.
While Russia maintains a larger fighter force
of 751 versus the US’s 457, the US’s overwhelming
number of multirole platforms- 2191 vs 526-
give the US not just the numerological advantage,
but a degree of flexibility that Russia can’t
Both nations field very capable and modern
fighters, though the US’s emphasis on stealth
technology highly favors a first-look, first-kill
However in case of war the lack of infrared
search and track and cheek-mounted radars
on some US aircraft- such as the F-22- and
the low missile capability of both the F-22
and the F-35, would leave many engagements
between US and Russian air forces in question.
While US planes would achieve many long-range
kills before Russian planes could effectively
respond, Russian Su-27s and Mig-31s would
exact a heavy toll on any incursions into
American stealth planes such as the F-35 and
F-22 are simply not fielded in large enough
numbers yet to completely dominate the air
space over a battlefield, yet the overwhelming
advantage in numbers by the US would make
eventual air supremacy a forgone conclusion.
At sea the US navy fields 20 aircraft carriers
versus Russia’s 1, 85 destroyers versus Russia’s
18, and 71 submarines versus Russia’s 59.
Overwhelmingly modern platforms, the US navy
is numerologically and technologically superior
to Russia’s, which still struggles to keep
cold war era ships in fighting shape.
With no planned expansions to its navy, Russia
is set to continue to remain hopelessly outclassed
at sea- and yet Russia military doctrine always
placed a strong emphasis on fighting under
a Fortress Fleet doctrine, with its navy mostly
geared at preventing major landings behind
the front lines in Europe and operating under
air and fire support from land-based forces.
Russia has never, and continues to not plan
to challenge the US at sea, and thus is only
focused on making sure the American navy has
great difficulties operating close to Russian
2019 is seeing both nations expand their military
capabilities after years of slow, incremental
Unfortunately Russia’s economic condition
leaves it unable to make significant improvements
where it needs them the most- namely a 5th-generation
aircraft, major logistical and information
technology upgrades, and establishing an all-volunteer
The US on the other hand is greatly expanding
its military budget, even as its citizens
question the need for doing so in the first
Russia and China may indeed be peer competitors,
but many argue that any potential aggression
by either nation should be met with a strong
system of international allies rather than
blunt military force, which only encourages
an even greater arms buildup.
Sadly, President Trump’s dismissal of long-time
traditional allies may indeed see the US’s
carefully cultivated system of international
alliances, groomed for decades after World
War II, begin to fall apart, leaving the US
standing alone while pushing its old allies
into the arms of its rivals.
Who do you think would win in a war between
the US and Russia?
Let us know in the comments!
Also, make sure you check out our other video,
Could USA Invade Mexico!
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