Third World War Scenarios

18.10.2016

Katehon Analytical Center is launching a series of publications discussing possible scenarios for a Third World War. Our permanent authors are going to present their theories of possible scenarios and consequences of an escalation of the conflict to the global level.

This approach is dictated by the need to analyze:

- The most serious contradictions between the main actors of world politics;

- Paradigm shifts in the thinking of international relations;

- The risks of crossing the red line (the Rubicon theory);

- The most vulnerable places on the world map in terms of geopolitics;

- Possible causes behind the unleashing of an irreversible chain reaction;

- The role of advanced technology and globalization processes in the increasingly possible conflict

We should take into consideration the main trends, such as the escalation in relations between the US and Russia, the specific position of the United States in regards to China’s interests (most clearly described in the Air-Sea Battle Doctrine, which involves launching air strikes against China’s missile defense systems), as well as the information noise around North Korea.

At the same time, Europe cannot be excluded as a possible theater of operations, especially in connection with the continuation of NATO’s longterm “Operation Atlantic Resolve.” Moreover, the deployment of additional American troops in Europe is planned to be completed in 2017.

International relations are significantly complicated by the activities of some countries, which even though are not part of the US-controlled NATO bloc still cooperate closely with the alliance and the United States. In particular, Sweden and Finland are the subjects for the further expansion of NATO and even conducted a series of military maneuvers in 2016 which had a clear anti-Russian orientation.

The Middle East is a cause of concern not only because of Syria and Iraq, where the US military is actually present. First and foremost there is also the risk of a direct clash with Russian troops.

The war in Yemen is indicative of not only a further outbreak of tension, but also an erosion of international law. The UN will hardly be able to prevent a global conflict if Washington decides to attack a country. The United States initiated aggression against and subsequently occupied Iraq in 2003 without the authorization of the UN Security Council. The bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999 by NATO forces can also be mentioned as an example. 

The Russian intervention in the Syrian crisis shows that the unipolar era is coming to an end. However, this does not remove the military and political tensions between the United States and other poles of power, such as reviving Russia, rising China, and other states which do not accept Washington’s dictatorship.

It should be noted that the current political crisis of the US (which they are trying to hide in every possible way) has entailed discussions on possibly changing the US’ approach to using nuclear weapons.

This could be mere disinformation designed to lull the other nuclear powers, as has repeatedly happened (for example, during the disarmament of the former Soviet Republics - Ukraine and Kazakhstan, whose nuclear arsenals remained after the collapse of the USSR).

On the other hand, the US’ plans for modernizing its nuclear arsenal at the cost of $1 trillion do not fit with Washington’s so-called “peaceful plans.” In addition, US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter has stated that the “no preemptive use policy” might undermine the trust and the security of the United States’ partners. The veteran of the Vietnam War and “pacifist” John Kerry has also strongly opposed the signing of a protocol that would declare that the United States refuses to use nuclear weapons first in a conflict.

Does this mean that the US is ready to launch preemptive nuclear strikes? What will their targets be?

Will the United States continue the policy of intimidating non-nuclear powers, as it has already done?

Or will it dare to include sovereign states with a special status and corresponding political culture on its list of targets?

Will this response turn out fatal for the United States itself if Washington mistakenly overestimates its strength and chooses to attack an opponent that turns out to be not so weak as at first glance? 

A nuclear conflict is one of the possible scenarios. Conventional weapons and proxy actors such as terrorist groups in Syria might also be active instruments in a possible Third World War. The question is who will be drawn into a new conflict and what possible effects this will have on the whole world.

The Eurocentric approach can be misleading in trying to forecast a future conflict. The first two world wars began in the European theater of operations, but the Second World War ended in Japan. Even before September 1st, 1939 which is considered to be the beginning of the Second World War, China and Korea were under Japanese occupation and millions of people in the region were killed. Therefore, it is possible that criteria for evaluating a conflict differ significantly. 

And, of course, at first glance, some rather exotic scenarios could be realized in the nearest future. The advanced dual-use of technology is rapidly changing the face of war. Such can become a trigger or deterrent factor depending on in whose hands new super weapons will be. 

The spectrum of our writers’ opinions can differ, even radically, insofar as an objective approach and the logic of war itself have a paradoxical nature.

We hope that our intellectual efforts will serve to promote peace, as public debate on critical issues often helps to avoid seemingly fatal consequences.