What is biggest army in the world? Size and strength of UK, Ukraine, Russia, NATO, and China armies compared

From military spending to conflict-related deaths, these seven charts will show you how Russia, Ukraine, the UK, US and NATO all compare.
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One year into the war in Ukraine and the conflict looks no sooner to ending.

As of yet no other countries have entered the conflict, except for providing military, financial and humanitarian aid. But should a NATO (The North Atlantic Treaty Organization) country be invaded or attacked then all NATO countries would enter the conflict, including the UK, US, France and Germany.

Which country has the biggest army in the alliance? And how do Russian forces compare? From armed personnel numbers and military spending to conflict-related death rates, these six charts will show you how Russia, Ukraine, the UK, US and NATO all compare.

Size of military personnel – how do they compare?

Russia’s military stands at around 1.5 million armed force personnel (not including drafted– five times greater than that of Ukraine which has 311,000 armed personnel, according to 2019 data from the International Institute for Strategic Studies and published by The World Bank. When factoring in NATO, which consists of the armed forces from 29 countries, the Russian army is dwarfed.


The most recent figures published by NATO shows the US is the single largest contributor to the alliance. Based on NATO estimates for 2022, the US contributes 1.3 million armed personnel, making up 40.7% of the 3.3 million armed personnel in the alliance. The remaining 59.3% come from Canada and European countries.

Turkey is the second largest contributor to NATO providing 447,000 armed personnel to the alliance, followed by France with 207,000. The UK contributes 156,000 armed personnel, the sixth largest headcount. Looking at NATO figures from 2019, when Russia and Ukraine’s latest figures were from, the alliance had 3.2 million military personnel.

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Finland and Sweden have actively sought to join the NATO alliance. Should the Scandinavian countries join this could potentially increase NATO’s armed force personnel by around 42,000 (based on 2019 figures for each nation)


Which army is the biggest in the world?

The latest available data from the International Institute for Strategic Studies (via the World Bank) shows India has the largest army in the world with 3 million armed force personnel. This is followed by China with 2.5 million.


Military expenditure – how much do they spend?

The US spent $800 billion US dollars (current USD) on military expenditure in 2021 while Russia spent $66 billion USD during the same period, according to Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) data published by The World Bank.

In comparison, the UK spent $68 billion USD in 2021 while Ukraine spent $6 billion US dollars on its military in 2021. Separate estimates from NATO for 2022 show defence expenditure was at $1.2 trillion USD.


Data from SIPRI has been adjusted to 2022 prices, but NATO data is in cash terms.


According to the SIPRI, Russia had the highest military expenditure as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2021 compared to any NATO county, at 4.1%. Ukraine was not far off –  the country’s military expenditure was 3.2% of GDP. The US military expenditure was recorded at 3.5% while the UK’s was much lower at 2.2%.


Deaths from conflict – who has the highest death rate?

The human cost of war can never be downplayed and figures show Ukraine has experienced a very high conflict and terror related death rate in the last three decades.

According to data sourced from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation and Global Burden of Disease (2019) and published by Our World in Data, Ukraine’s conflict and terrorism death rate is significantly higher than that of Russia, the UK and US.

Its conflict-related death rate spiked in 2014 when it rose from barely more than 0 (0.003) to 12.68 deaths per 100,000, likely as a result of the 2014 annexation of Crimea. The most recent available data for 2019 also shows Ukraine’s conflict related death rate was the highest in Europe – the country recorded at 0.52 conflict and terror related deaths per 100,000 people that year.

In comparison, Russia’s conflict and terror related death rate peaked in 1999 when it was recorded at 4.78 per 1000,000 due to war and multiple bombing incidents.

The US death rate peaked in 2001 as a result of the 9/11 terror attack and recorded a rate of 1.51 per 100,000. The UK has maintained a very low conflict and terror related death rate with the highest rate being recorded in 1991 when it was 0.38 per 100,000.

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