The world watched in wonder when, in 1993, the European Union, known as the EU, was officially formed. Questions abounded! Would the UK and France finally be able to live harmoniously in perpetuity? Would Germany and the rest of Europe finally form an unbreakable alliance? With a currency to rival that of the US, and the combined military might of 28 different countries, the EU could easily be one of America’s greatest trading partners or one of its most menacing foes. Although the American and European Alliance is the strongest today than it’s ever been, we thought it would be interesting to compare the military might of these two powerhouses and determine who would most likely win in a theoretical war, in this episode of the Infographics show; the European Union vs. the United States of America.
Although money isn’t everything, the first major difference worth pointing out is military spending: the annual defense budget of the European Union (which still includes the UK even though they recently voted to Brexit) is $227 billion or 3 times smaller than United States annual defense budget of $664 billion.
When it comes to manpower, the EU has a population of 743 million people with 1.4 million being active military personnel and 1.7 million being reserve personnel. The United States has a population of 324 million people with 1.4 million being active military personnel and 1.1 million being reserve personnel. With programs such as Saber Strike, the 7th Army Training Command, and the Atlantic Resolve, it is safe to assume that the close connection between the US and the EU has resulted in reasonably similar training for the army personnel of each country.
In terms of land systems, the EU and the US are also similarly matched. The EU has 6,700 tanks, 48,971 AFVs, 2,312 SPGs, 3,492 Towed-Artillery and 1,069 MLRSs. The US, on the other hand, has a fleet of 8,848 tanks, 41,000 AFVs, 1,934 SPGs, 1,300 Towed-Artillery, and 1,331 MLRSs. Despite the US having a larger number of ground tanks, Germany makes one of the top-ranked tanks, the Leopard 2, which has been purchased in the hundreds by countries all over Europe.
It should be noted that while the US has troops and missiles stationed in Europe, there are no European army bases in the US. This is an obvious advantage to the US who could more easily bring the battle to European soil, keeping it away from the plants which manufacture American weapons, and again turning Europe into a war-zone similar to World War II.
Of the US missiles on European soil, the Aegis Ashore Missile Defense System located in Romania has recently gone online, and is manned by 130 US sailors. This defense system is currently run by NATO but in the case of a US-EU war, it would become an ideal base for the US on European soil.
With regard to air power, the US currently has a larger and more modern Air Force, with 13,444 aircraft, the most popular being the American made F-16 Fighting Falcon. EU has less than half that with 6,751 total aircraft, the most popular being the Eurofighter Typhoon.
Since the US and the European Union are on two different continents, it is important to take a look at each country’s naval power. The EU has a total of 61 submarines, 102 frigates, 21 destroyers, 39 corvettes, 167 Mine Warfare Craft, and 210 patrol craft. The United States, on the other hand, has 75 submarines, 6 frigates, 62 destroyers, 0 corvettes, 11 mine warfare craft, and 13 patrol craft. The two seem pretty tied, however the EU only has 8 aircraft carriers compared to the US’s 19.
In the unlikely scenario that nuclear weapons are used, the US has a stockpile of 6,800 nuclear warheads, with 150 nuclear warheads located directly in Europe. Europe barely has 500 nuclear warheads of its own, split nearly evenly between the UK and France.
As we all know, a major component of this military assessment is fuel, since almost every ground vehicle, aircraft, and naval unit needs fuel in order to operate. The European Union produces only 1.7 million barrels of oil a day, and consumes almost 8 times that each day. It also has 5.6 billion barrels of oil in reserve. The United states produces 9 million barrels of oil a day and consumes 19 million barrels, though it has 37 billion barrels of oil in reserve. It is safe to say both countries would need to rely on importing oil from other countries. The EU and the US share most of their allies, and it would be very interesting to see who allies with whom.
As many will point out, experience is also a major factor when assessing military prowess. The EU and the US have been involved in the same wars for the last decade. However, the US military exists as a unified entity, and the EU runs much of their military on a country-by-country basis making communication and tactical planning much more complicated.
When it comes to the all seeing eyes from space, both the European Union and the United States run their own Global Navigation Satellite Systems. The US has GPS and the EU has Galileo. GPS used to have the capability to block civilian signals called Selective Availability. One of the main reasons the EU developed Galileo was due to its concern that the US could deny others access to GPS during political disagreements. The two came to a compromise and the US is now in the process of replacing old GPS satellites with new ones that will not have selective availability enabled.
So, who do you think would win the war, the US or the EU? Do you think there are factors we omitted that would make a difference? Is war between the EU and the US even a possibility? Let us know in the comments! And if you want to get a daily comparison or fun fact in your feed, follow us on social media.
- International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS)