It is unquestionable that the United States’ military power is dominant, but just as an illustration, consider these numbers:
Russia’s military budget at $67 billion is tiny, compared to the United States’ $594 billion (bigger than the military budget of the next nine countries with largest military budgets combined).
The United States has 1,492,200 military personnel vs. Russia’s 845,000.
There are around 800 U.S. bases in 80 foreign countries, with 174 U.S. “base sites” in Germany alone. As of 2016, Russia has 12 military bases outside of its border: 10 of them on the territory of the former Soviet Union, in close proximity to Russia’s borders, two others in Syria and Vietnam
Both sides have more than enough to completely destroy each other several times. According to the Arms Control Association, Russia has 1,735 strategic warheads deployed on 521 ICBMs, SLBMs, and strategic bombers, and 2,700 non-deployed strategic and deployed and non-deployed tactical warheads, and 3,200 additional warheads are awaiting dismantlement.
The United States has 1,481 strategic nuclear warheads deployed on 741 ICBMs, SLBMs, and strategic bombers, and 2,570 non-deployed strategic warheads, and roughly 500 deployed and non-deployed tactical warheads, and approximately 2,500 warheads retired and awaiting dismantlement.
Irrelevance of Hard Numbers in “Asymmetric Response”
Whilst the overall defence numbers look favourable to the United States, the Russians can compensate for their numerical inferiority by deploying high-end systems for which the US has no real equivalent or good countermeasures.
Since 2012, when the U.S. announced its plans to proceed with building the Missile Defence System in Eastern Europe, Russia has warned of its asymmetric response to US threats:
“Russia will strengthen its air defence capabilities, including air defence systems around Moscow and in strategic forces, build new tracking stations in addition to three existing ones, and create such systems for which missile defence will not be an obstacle”.
Four years later, in summer 2016, Russian representative at NATO, Alexander Grushko reiterated: “Certainly, we’ll respond totally asymmetrically,” and that this response “would not be extremely expensive, but also highly effective.”
Russia’s Major General Igor Konashenkov, the Chief of the Directorate of Media service and Information of the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation, responded to the U.S. State Department’s threats that “Russians will be going home in body bags,” and that Russian cities will become targets of terrorist attacks:
“I would say that we know exactly where and how many “unofficial specialists” operate in Syria and in the Aleppo province and we know that they are involved in the operational planning and that they supervise the operations of the militants. Of course, one can continue to insist that they are unsuccessfully involved in trying to separate the al-Nusra terrorists from the “opposition” forces. But if somebody tries to implement these threats, it is by no means certain that these militants will have no time to get the hell out of there.”
Konashenkov warned Washington against a possible attack against Russian military personnel in Syria, as the “radius of the new Russian systems implemented in Syria might surprise our colleagues.”
Hard numbers might be irrelevant when it comes to threats of cyber-attacks.
In retaliation for alleged Russian interference in the American presidential election, “the CIA has been asked to deliver options to the White House for a wide-ranging ‘clandestine’ cyber operation designed to harass and ‘embarrass’ the Kremlin leadership,” according to NBC.
Russian president Putin responded that cyber-attacks or other types of interference in other countries’ internal affairs were intolerable and ridiculed the accusations of Russia’s meddling in the U.S. presidential elections as a distraction from the multitude of unresolved domestic problems “pointing instead to supposed Russian hackers, spies, agents of influence and so forth. Does anyone seriously imagine that Russia can somehow influence the American people’s choice? America is not some kind of ‘banana republic’, after all, but is a great power. Do correct me if I am wrong.”