As Russia's intervention in Ukraine is increasing, the main focus of some news is how many troops are ready for invasion:

Military units heading into Ukraine will be drawn from up to 190,000 personnel gathered close to Ukraine's borders in recent months.

They are equipped with everything from tanks and artillery to air power and naval support.

In such a context I expect that NATO prepares a similar (the same order of magnitude) number of troops and equipment on its Eastern flank (The Readiness Action Plan). This article suggests 40K as the number of troops:

(..) A significantly enlarged Response Force of 40,000 troops

It is not clear how many troops NATO has on its Eastern flank. I am interested in a very rough estimate, as this will most likely change in the near future.

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    What do you count as the Eastern flank? For example, does the entire Polish army count (the parts stationed in Poland)?
    – quarague
    Feb 23, 2022 at 18:18
  • There is a difference between the headline of your question ("have") and the text ("prepare"). To the best of my knowledge, the ready forces have not been deployed as a body. Instead, the EFP has been reinforced.
    – o.m.
    Feb 23, 2022 at 18:49
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    At a rough estimate you can probably add up the armed forces from each of those border countries. Then add an extra 10-20k - NATO does not keep large forces stationed in border states, unlike both NATO and the Warsaw Pact during the Cold War. They have been putting in some reinforcements in the past few months, but nothing very large in absolute terms. Feb 23, 2022 at 19:23
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    Keep in mind too that the numbers, by themselves, don't mean all that much. Counting the entire Polish army for example means assuming that it could project force on short notice. But if you look at NATO as a whole it often struggles to have 2 or 3 brigades capable of force projection (rather than sitting at home). In contrast, a large proportion of the 100K+ Russian troops are out of their garrison area and ready for action. Feb 23, 2022 at 19:30
  • 2
    "I expect that NATO prepares a similar (the same order of magnitude) number of troops ..." Why? It's not as if Russia is directly preparing to attack a NATO country yet. Feb 23, 2022 at 22:35

1 Answer 1


The Readiness Action Plan consists of small coordinating headquarters in eastern countries, plus an increase of the major units earmarked for deployment in a crisis.

According to some leaks, the plans for the defense of Poland and the Baltics included nine divisions, as of several years ago. Most of these divisions seem to be still at their home garrisons, and I doubt that one could hide troop deployments on that scale.

The Enhanced Forward Presence, which are actually deployed, are multinational battalions on rotational deployment. There have been deployments in addition to those, like the US forces in southern Poland. Then there is NATO Air Policing, loaning an air force to countries without their own fighter wings. Poland also has the headquarters of the Multinational Division North-East, but the bulk of that unit are in their respective home countries.

So for the north-eastern flank, call it about 15000 troops on top of the national forces. Counting the latter at full numbers would be misleading, since they include training, headquarters, etc. I cannot answer about the south-eastern flank.

Follow-up: The Bundeswehr is announcing "nationale Alarmmaßnahmen", "national alert measures," which include the movement of equipment. This "may reduce civilian transport, as capacities are reserved for military use."

Follow-up: The BBC counts 16,460 non-local troops for the total eastern flank, which is a bit lower than I had eyeballed. I wonder how current those numbers are.

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