Since 1980 Cuba has become the most thoroughly militarized nation on earth. According to the authoritative London-based International Institute of Strategic Studies, the Cuban regular army numbers 145,000 men, most of them conscripted privates who serve for three years. They are backed up by at least 110,000 ready reserves, who are trained forty-five days or more annually. This force has been lavishly armed by the Soviet Union and boasts an astonishing 300 T-62 and 650 T-54/55 main battle tanks (MBTs). By way of comparison, Canada, with two and a half times the population, infinitely more wealth, and serious NATO commitments, relies upon a regular army of only 22,500, with 114 antiquated MBTs. Cuba's army also has 1,400 major artillery pieces, 60 light and amphibious tanks, and 650 other armored vehicles, as well as 600 anti-tank guns.
The Cuban Navy, with 12,000 men, maintains three submarines, two modern guided-missile frigates, and a large number of patrol craft and minesweepers. Canada makes do with an equal number of submarines and twenty-three assorted anti-submarine-warfare vessels; its navy has only 10,000 men. The Cuban Air Force (whose previous chief, General Rafael del Pino, defected to the United States in 1987) is a very potent one. Its strength is 18,500 men(including the Air Defense Command), with 250 combat aircraft, mostly MiG-21, -23, and -27 models. Significantly, it possesses only seven troop-carrying Tupolev TU-154 transports, severely restricting Castro's ability to intervene on his own. Canada, with 23,050 airmen, has only three fighter squadrons, or roughly forty-five planes, to defend its skies. The Cuban military machine is considerably more powerful than that of any other Latin American nation-including Brazil, which has a population of 142 million, fourteen times Cuba's.