After the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, Russia’s military severely declined. President Vladimir Putin decided to prioritise improving the readiness of the Russian military, which resulted in a ten-year modernisation push that completely transformed the army. This included a massive increase in its volunteer forces, as well as new battle tanks and fighter aircraft, according to the Infographics Show.
The Zapad exercises had started as counter terrorist operations and were supposed to feature 10,000 personnel, but this quickly turned into a 100,000 operation.
This sparked fears that Russia had become ready for an invasion of eastern Europe.
Can Russia actually invade Europe?
NATO seems to have an advantage if comparing the fact it has two million personnel, compared with Russia’s one million.
The NATO airforce is at 13,000, whereas Russia is lagging behind at 3,914.
But Russia has the biggest advantage on the ground as it has more than 20,000 tanks, versus NATO’s 10,000.
Most of NATO’s capabilities rest with the USA, but this means the forces are geographically far away from Europe.
Also, NATO may have 29 member states, but only eight of them hit the two percent of GDP investment in their militaries.
This has created an imbalance of commitment between the alliance and is said to be weakening NATO as a whole.
After Russia invaded Ukraine in 2014, NATO sent forces to neighbouring countries of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, as these are the most vulnerable if Russia decides to attack Europe.
Russia could storm across Belarus into Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania to cut off Poland from its European allies.
If Russia then launched long range air and missile strikes on NATO facilities in Germany, this would be a big enough distraction to delay any response to its invasions of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
If they did not have NATO support, the three nations would not be able to fight Russia for very long.
But once US forces eventually arrived, NATO could then carry out a devastating counter attack that Russia would have no hope of stopping.
Russia would then use its back up plan of threatening to use nuclear weapons, as it wouldn’t ultimately stand a chance against NATO’s army.
The only chance of Russia being victorious is to use its nuclear arsenal.
However, even if NATO fought back, a nuclear war would devastate the whole world both economically and economically, so neither side would ultimately fare better.