Military (Im-)Balance in Europe

I did a summary of the IISS' "Military Balance 2014" 2nd edition publication, a reference yearbook on the world's armed forces. My focus was on Europe; I summarized the military budgets of 2013 in US$ as given by the publication, the active military personnel strength without paramilitary forces and the quantity of army manoeuvre brigades.

The latter criterion is a bit difficult because "brigades" are not standardized, some small countries have only independent battalions instead and I chose to exclude "ISR" or other non-manoeuvre brigades, particularly from the EU forces. Some countries (Russia especially) had divisions not split in brigades, so I counted them in brigade equivalents. Greece's paper tiger brigades are distorting the statistic much, so I think the real brigade equivalent estimate is more realistic than the brigade count.

My summary is here in shape of a PDF file:
(I can send the xls file with some explanations by e-mail.)

Summary of the summary for the extra-lazies:

European EU and NATO members without Turkey:
budgets USD 256 bn
personnel 1.60 million
manoeuvre brigades 128
(estimated ~100 real brigade equivalents)

budgets USD 246 bn
personnel 1.51 million
manoeuvre brigades 123
(estimated ~ 100 real brigade equivalents)

European NATO without Turkey:
budgets USD 240 bn
personnel 1.51 million
manoeuvre brigades 103
(estimated ~ 80 real brigade equivalents)

Russia + Belarus:
budgets USD 68.7 bn
personnel 0.89 million
manoeuvre brigades 58 (only 18 facing Europe!)
(estimated 40-70 real brigade equivalents)

I know the concerns that many EU or NATO brigades are poor quality; I expressed some such concerns in the previous blog post. Yet military power is relative: The Russian army is still in a dire state itself.
I also agree that USD is a poor measurement for budget comparisons, but even PPP exchange rates don't satisfy everybody, and those who dismiss the budget comparisons have no case whatsoever to claim that Russia spends as much or more than EU or European NATO. No real world exchange rate would show that.
Furthermore, the personnel strengths - albeit distorted somewhat by civilian employees leading to an understatement particularly of EU forces - clearly point at a Russian inferiority, and the Russian inferiority is extreme in regard to what little military power they have in the Western Military District. This is even true today, despite the so-called "force concentrations" on the Ukrainian border.

Think about this, and how hysterical the usual suspects complain about European military spending being "only" 1.5% GDP, and how we supposedly need to arms race to make Europe capable of defending itself. The reality rather supports the view that we should cut expenses by a third to 1% GDP!

I've been thoroughly annoyed by ignorant or arrogant (or both) Americans and ignorant (or plain hawkish and lying) Europeans who pretend that Europe is militarily weak.
It's not weak at all. It's just not that easily motivated to run into stupid military adventures and few European governments are into interventionism or cruise missile diplomacy.

2009-05 The utility of NATO
2010-04 The military spending freeriding discussion
2014-01 European and Russian military capability
2014-11 Ukraine's wake-up call for NATO

Edit: Go here for a more recent IISS appraisal of the Russian Armed Forces. Their 2015 figure for the Russian military's real active strength is 771,000 troops, well short of their nominal strength. The Russian military and especially so the army had difficulty to attract enough recruits, and Russia only drafts about 300,000 (twice 150,000) men per year through presidential decrees. So only about 300,000 conscripts are in the military.

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