The European Union is presently an economic powerhouse consisting of 28 countries with a combined GDP of nearly $19 trillion dollars. About 1.5 percent of that amount is spent on its defense, totaling a whopping 226 billion dollars. This massive number is still substantially smaller than the 664 billion dollars the United States spends on defense. But it’s Russia we’ll be focusing on today, the world’s second largest military. With a gdp of 1.9 trillion dollars, Russia spends $47 billion on its defense budget. Our question today is, how would the EU, with its 28 different countries, fare if it went up against the well-equipped, military-minded country of Russia? Let’s take a look at this hypothetical match-up in this episode of The Infographics Show; The European Union vs. Russia.
The first thing we should point out is that while Russia is indisputably the world’s most powerful military behind the U.S.; the U.K., France, Germany and Italy are all considered military powerhouses in themselves, and each country is a European Union member. The U.K. may have just Brexited, but the divorce from the EU won’t be final until March 2019.
Right now, the EU has a population of 508 million people, 1.4 million of whom are active military personnel. It also has another 1.7 million people acting as reserves. In terms of manpower Russia isn’t far behind. While its population is a shade of the EU’s at 143 million, 2.5 million of Russia’s citizens are reserve personnel, with 766,000 currently signed-up for active military service.
As far as weaponry is concerned, we should broach the not-so-pleasant subject of an all-out nuclear war and the all but assured ensuing apocalypse. In the case of such a disaster, Russia is the bigger foe, with a huge arsenal of nuclear weapons. It’s also worth pointing out that the U.S. is an ally of Europe, and it has an even bigger arsenal of these mega-bombs.
If we get down to the numbers, Russia reportedly has 1920 deployed warheads, meaning the missiles are good to go. It has another 5,380 warheads waiting in the wings or ready for dismantlement. The EU has a very small slice of the nuclear pie, with the U.K. and France being the only proprietors of nuclear weapons in Europe. The U.K. has 160 deployed warheads, 65 in reserve, while France has 290 deployed warheads and 10 in reserve.
All the nukes in the world couldn’t destroy humanity through blast force alone, but millions could die, certainly decimating the populations of Europe and Russia. It’s thought the biggest of nuclear bombs, Russia’s ‘Tsar Bomba’, if dropped on a densely-populated city such as New York, could kill as many as 7.6 million people on impact. But if Russia and the EU did get into a nuclear war, the eventual radiation fall-out and blocking out of the sun would cause massive illness and death, and also ecosystem destruction. Russia vs. Europe nuclear war ends in a draw; both sides lose.
On a lighter note, let’s have a look at both sides less destructive weapons. In terms of land weapons, the EU has 6,700 tanks, 48,971 armored fighting vehicles, 2,312 Self-Propelled Guns, 3,492 Towed-Artillery, and 1,069 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems.
Russia has some supremacy here with its 15,400 tanks, 31,300 AFVs, 5,972 SPGs, 4,625 towed artillery, and 3,793 MLRSs.
Who has the best tank is a debate in itself, but here each side holds up pretty well. Russia mounts a serious challenge with its T-90s and its new super tank: the next-generation T-14 Armata. Europe is no slouch, though, when it comes to tanks. Highly rated in the best of these armored beasts list is Germany’s Army Leopard 2A5, the U.K.’s Challenger 2, and France’s Leclerc.
In the air, again there’s compelling evidence that each side would hold its own if a war should break-out. Russia has 3,100 aircrafts, including its deadly multi-role fighter the Sukhoi Su-35, as well as its interceptor, the MiG-31.
Europe has a much bigger air-force with 6,751 aircraft and a handful of leading fighter jets. The EU’s ace in the hand here is probably the Euro-Fighter Typhoon, a feat of engineering that was a collaborative effort from UK, Germany, France, Italy and Spain. France’s omni-role jet fighter, the ‘Dassault Rafale’, is also highly rated.
While Britannia, Great Britain, may have boasted throughout late history that it rules the waves, that may not be the case these days. Britain’s Royal Navy is said to be one of the best, but it’s still thought to be less powerful than the Russian navy. Combining Europe, though, makes all the difference, not only in engineering skills but also sheer numbers.
The EU has a total of: 61 submarines, 102 frigates, 21 destroyers, 39 corvettes, 167 Mine Warfare Craft, 210 patrol craft, and 4 aircraft carriers.
Russia has a total of 60 submarines, 4 fri gates, 15 destroyers, 81 corvettes, 45 Mine Warfare Craft, 14 patrol craft, and only one aircraft carrier.
If we reflect on those numbers we might come to the conclusion that indeed Britannia no longer rules the waves, but the EU could certainly challenge any superpower in the sea.
To power these massive militaries takes a lot of oil, certainly if the war was a protracted one. Here the EU is lacking as it only produces about 1.7 million barrels of oil a day while consuming much more than that amount. It’s also got around 5.6 billion barrels of oil in reserve. Russia significantly has the upper-hand, producing 10 million barrels daily and consuming only 3.3. million barrels a day. It has a huge 80 billion barrel oil reserve.
There’s little doubt, however, that if this hypothetical war did happen, the world’s largest military, the USA, would have the back of the EU. This would change matters considerably. There is also the issue of each country’s technological capabilities. Throughout two world wars, Germany and the U.K. developed the technology which sparked the computer age.
Europe and its allies are currently developing automatized military systems, complex spying technologies, drone technology, and perhaps not too far from now, soldiers of war that are not human but robots. We can presently assume that the EU, with the US onside, is ahead in terms of computer technology, but Russia, possibly with China onside, would not be too far behind. As has been demonstrated in numerous documentaries, the Internet of Things could change how wars are fought. Weapons with machine learning artificial intelligence may also change the landscape of destruction. At the same time, if you can hack a nuclear missile launching system, it’s probably game over for the other side.
As for allies, Russia doesn’t have too many. It’s been said Russia has only a handful of allies, and nothing compared to the friendships the EU could call upon in times of need. Other things to consider might be military experience, of which the EU could be said to have the upper hand as a collective. Nonetheless, being a collective could pose its own kind of communication problems and disagreements. Russia will never fall-out with itself, while most of Europe has a history of squabbling.
After hearing this match-up, who would your money be on if the EU went head-to-head with the mighty Russia? Let us know in the comments!
- International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS)