NATO vs Russia: How forces stack up as Putin’s army decimated and NATO increases troops

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This week’s NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) summit is billed as one of the most important in decades as the Russian threat to the European continent builds amid the Ukrainian invasion. World leaders will descend on Madrid from Tuesday to Thursday for top-level security talks, where Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky will address the allied nations, who are set to approve a new assistance package for Ukraine. Ahead of the meeting, NATO’s secretary general committed the 30-member alliance to putting 300,000 troops on high alert.

Jens Stoltenberg said the move represents the “biggest overhaul of our collective deterrence and defence since the Cold War”.

Speaking on Monday, he added: “We will enhance our battlegroups in the eastern part of the Alliance up to brigade-levels.”

Until now, NATO’s response force on its eastern front near Ukraine, Russia and Belarus had numbered 40,000 troops.

Although the alliance has troops near Ukraine, they will not be sent into the country to help defend it from the Russian invaders.

This is because Ukraine is not a NATO member and therefore not covered by the pact that member states will defend one another.

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The military bloc also fears that sending troops into Ukraine could spark an all-out war with Russia across Europe.

However, NATO has sent weapons to Ukraine and mobilised its forces near the country, which has changed since before the war began.

Russia began massing troops near its border with Ukraine in Spring 2021, claiming it was just conducting training exercises and was not planning an invasion.

By November, Moscow had assembled 100,000 troops and heavy artillery, before the numbers swelled to as many as 190,000 in February, according to US estimates.

However, Russia has suffered significant losses on the battlefield, according to Western intelligence and military experts.

Its military might has been crippled by losses of soldiers and weaponry, meaning it would be less likely to effectively take on NATO troops should such an outcome arise.

In recent weeks, Russia’s annual Spring recruitment drive has given it an extra 40,000 or 50,000 troops to boost its army amid the losses in Ukraine.

However, last week UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, claimed Russia would only be able to continue its war for the “next few months”.

Russia’s death toll in the war now stands at 35,000, according to the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces in its most recent update on Monday.

Russia’s military hardware losses are also significant, including the destruction of around 1,500 of its tanks, 3,600 armoured vehicles and 770 artillery systems.

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Back in October, NATO had placed nearly 5,000 of its troops in Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia and Poland.

These multinational battalions were supported by tanks, air defence systems and intelligence and surveillance units.

The US also backed the NATO Response Force by putting 8,500 troops on “heightened alert” to send to Europe from January.

However, after Russia invaded Ukraine, NATO dramatically shifted its thinking on defence and security.

The alliance increased the number of forces under its control tenfold to around 40,000 permanently ready troops comprising soldiers, sailors and airmen.

These men and women are drafted from across the alliance’s 30 member states, including the UK.

After the invasion began, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria also agreed to host multinational battle groups from NATO, doubling the number of nations to do so to eight.

NATO’s presence in eastern Europe is seen as one of the reasons Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine.

The Russian President has long been concerned about the presence of western forces in what he perceives as Russia’s backyard.

The Kremlin strongman also feared Ukraine’s attempts to join the NATO alliance before the invasion.

In March, Zelensky conceded that his nation would not be able to join the 30-member security bloc.

Speaking to military officials, he said: “Ukraine is not a member of NATO. We understand that.

“We have heard for years that the doors were open, but we also heard that we could not join. It’s a truth and it must be recognised.”

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