World war happened a long time ago and the cold war also ended in 1990’s. Since the end of Cold War – there have been multiple rhetoric’s on next World War and commonly claimed as War of Wars or End of the World. Technology has advanced and now we have 1000 times more powerful weapons and destroying capability. With growing reasons and regions of conflict, multiple global heavyweights who are on loggerheads with clashing interests.
Let’s assess some of these potential Triggers which can result in World War III.
War on Terror – One countries freedom fighter is another countries Terrorist. Growing religious fanaticism with clashing interests has given War on Terror a whole new meaning. Wars against terrorists groups and regions infected by Terror Groups like in Syria, Kashmir, Pakistan, Yemen, Palestine etc.
Economy or Trade Wars – Countries are on Loggerheads to create or maintain global supremacy. This resulting in TRADE WAR. Trade wars is an economic conflict resulting from extreme protectionism in which states raise or create tariffs or other trade barriers against each other in response to trade barriers created by the other party.
Currently, the USA vs China trade war is in limelight. The USA government is imposing tariffs on China and banning its product in the market which is causing huge financial loss to China. The difference and growing battles between Developed and Developing economies is creating passive conflicts which can turn anytime into an active war.
Growing Regional / Religious Conflicts – During 1970’s world was divided into 2 groups. Capitalist Economies supported by United States and Socialist Economies supported by USSR. After the breakdown of USSR, new conflict regions have evolved and below are some the hotbeds of Conflicts which threaten the Global Peace and Security. These conflicts can trigger out of proportion and might result in a World War. Some of well known conflicts are listed below:
- China & Its regional Conflicts – Probably one of the only country in the world which has a conflict with almost all of its regional neighbors and global heavyweights. Be it the disputes with giant economies like Japan, India, Russia and Australia. or its economic conflicts with South China Sea – Freedom of Navigation Conflicts with US and Taiwan, Other smaller known conflicts with neighbors like Vietnam, Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia. It’s BRI and Debt Trap Diplomacy has created more enemies than friends. China’s continued ill treatment of Uighurs Muslims in Xinjiang and poor treatments of Mongolians. All resulting in China becoming a global threat and a potential trigger for World War III
- India & It’s regional Conflicts – India is challenged with brother turned enemy in the name of Pakistan. Shares a regional border conflict with other giant economy namely China. These dynamics of south asia makes it the most volatile place a potential trigger for a full scale war.
- Middle East – Iran / Saudi Conflict – The religion in itself has the power to destroy. The Iran / Saudi religious infighting commonly known as Shia / Sunni Conflict has been one of the oldest known conflicts. This conflict has resulted in multiple direct and proxy wars. This has the potential of triggering a full scale war at anytime.
- Middle East – Israel vs. Muslim Nations – Bad decisions made post WW-II has created more conflict regions and the biggest hotbed or a Trigger point for a future World War.
Now the big question to Ask is will the world even witness another World War. My independent assessment is a BIG NOOOOO. Below are some of the reasons:
1. Decision Making (Bi-Polar vs. Multi Polar Worlds): Bi-polar worlds, all the previous wars were fought and executed by a small cluster of nations.
Ex. World War - 1: was Triple Alliance (Austro Hungarian Empire, Germany and Ottoman Empire) vs. Triple Entente (Russia, Britain and France). World War - 2: Axis Powers (Germany, Italy, Japan) vs. Allied Powers (Britain, United States, Russia)
As against that - We currently live in a Multi Polar World with multiple epicenter of powers. Todays epicenters of power are based out in each continent North America (US / Canada), Europe (Britain, France, Germany, Middle East (Saudi Arabia, Iran, Israel, Turkey), Asia (Russia, China, India, Japan, Korea)
The scale of conflicting interests and priorities are just too much and bringing all these countries into one common decision to fight is practically impossible.
2. Economics of a World War - Funding a Large Scale War: World War - 1 was fought at an estimated cost of $208 Billion Dollars. As an impact of the war, it caused greatest global depression of the 20th Century. Debts accrued by all the major combatants. World War - 2 was one of the most expensive wars. Adjusting for Inflation to todays dollars, the war costed over $4 Trillion Dollars and lasted for 4 Years. The defense spending of the combatants were as high as 40% of their GDP.
The combatants managed to scale such huge wars because of their colonies. Consistent inflow of funds from these colonies helped combatants sustain a long war. It will also be fair to say that World War were fought not just for Political Ego's. It was fought to gain or retain political colonies.
However, given the current state of affairs, no economies of the world can afford costs at such a high scale or magnitude. On a flipside, countries engaging into a war of this magnitude of was might see a full scale rebellions from citizens and governments getting overthrown for wasting public money.
3. War of Attrition - Human Resources Colonization and Manpower: World Wars were not just about the Scale of Funding. But it was also about the Scale of Attrition. Combatants not just lost human lives of there own soldiers but they also engaged and lost soldiers from its colonies.
Ex: During World War 2 - One of Key Combatants Britain raised from its British Empires and Dominions 8.6 Million Soldiers for Military Service. British Colonies viz India (1.45 Million), Canada (0.62 Million), Australia (0.43 Million), South Africa (0.14 Million) and New Zealand (0.12 Million) and Other Colonies (0.13 Million)
Similar story with other combatants like Germany, France, Italy, Spain in World Ward 2. This was one of the Primary reasons how the combatants were able to manage a full scale war going for Years.
However, in the Modern World - the tides have changed and No country can sustain a War of Attrition even for a Month. Ex: Britain Active Defense Force in 2020 is just 205,000 personnel.
4. Changing WarScape - Technologies, Cyber or Economic Warfare: As some of the analysts put through, the modern warfare will be fought 10% on the battleground and 90% behind the scenes. These are by using modern theatres of War which is hurting each other through Future Technologies, Cyber Warfare and Economic Warfare.
The Most Latest example of a Technology Warfare is the Pandemic originating out of Covid19. Global Analysts have dubbed the Covid19 Virus as a Chinese Bio Warfare against its enemies. Ex: The Biggest Loss of Lives due to Covid19 were United States and India. Both are Arch Rivals of China.
US and India Continue to hurt China through its Economic, Technology Sanctions and Trade Wars.
5. Nuclearization of the World: During World War 2, only United States was the country with a Nuclear Weapon and During Cold War, it was still US and Russia.
However, accordingly to a latest survey, 9 countries possess an estimated 13,500 Nuclear Warheads and out of which 9500 Warheads are in active military service. Some of these modern nuclear weapons are 3000 times more powerful than the Nuclear Bomb dropped on Hiroshima at the end of World War 2.
So given the potential destructive capabilities, countries would not dare to use these Nuclear Weapons knowing that it will be the key for their own self destruction. Future wars are primarily going to be through the use of conventional weapons. However, small scale usage of Tactical Nuclear Weapons cannot be ruled out.
With an independent viewpoint, the World will continue to see the aggressive posturing by nations and might also see conflicts or war at a small scale. However, the chances of World witnessing another World War is almost Zero. So as much as it may add spice to the Media and New Makers, this conversation can be put to rest.
I believe that there are much more existential challenges which the world will have to actively deal with are terms of Climate Change, Global Warming, Environment Destruction. These are much more real and existential threats than a potential World War.