Photo illustration by John Lyman

World News


Concerns about World War III Are Not Irrational

The specter of World War III looms larger as Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic warns of an imminent escalation in tensions between Russia and the United States. In a candid interview with Switzerland’s Die Weltwoche, Vucic revealed that Serbian officials are preparing for the worst, checking stocks of essential supplies like oil, flour, and sugar.

When pressed on the likelihood of such a scenario, Vucic was unequivocal. “I believe we are not far from it. Not more than three, four months,” he stated, suggesting that the timeline could even be shorter. “We are getting closer to a real disaster. Who is ready to lose 1 million, 2 million, 5 million, 10 million, and 15 million people? I’m not ready to lose a single man and won’t participate in that.”

Serbia’s stance is notably neutral, having refused to join Western sanctions against Russia, seeking instead to navigate a middle path between the opposing sides.

Adding to the global anxiety, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has echoed similar sentiments about the looming threat of a third world war. Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin has issued his own chilling warning to the West, declaring he is approaching a “point of no return.” This statement came shortly after his visit to North Korea, where he and Kim Jong-Un pledged mutual support in the event of an attack.

China, observing the burgeoning alliance between Russia and North Korea with trepidation, is itself engaged in aggressive posturing towards Taiwan, a situation that the United States has vowed to counter.

The potential for conflict extends beyond these nations. The world is already witnessing a multitude of hotspots, from Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine to the Myanmar conflict, the insurgency in the Maghreb, and the Sudanese civil war. In the Middle East, Israel’s war in Gaza persists, while Hezbollah in Lebanon threatens a full-scale assault, likely backed by Iran.

Iran’s nuclear ambitions add another layer of complexity. The nation is rapidly advancing its nuclear program, edging closer to crossing the nuclear threshold—a red line that U.S. President Joe Biden has promised to prevent.

As the war in Ukraine grinds on, the risk of escalation by Russia remains high, particularly if Putin feels cornered. Both Western and Russian preparations signal a growing likelihood of broader conflict. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has warned that China will face consequences, potentially economic sanctions, if it continues to support Russia’s war effort in Ukraine.

This evolving geopolitical landscape hints at NATO’s shift towards a more global role, potentially incorporating countries like South Korea and Japan under its security umbrella. While Ukraine’s NATO membership is not imminent, the EU acceptance process might eventually pave the way for such negotiations.

A Ukraine integrated into the EU and NATO would significantly alter the geopolitical calculus, pitting the West directly against Russia. Any aggression from Russia against a NATO and EU member could then serve as a direct casus belli.

For a global conflict to erupt, several key players would need to align. Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea seem poised to side against a relatively unified West, though several European countries might choose neutrality. Leadership in each country will play a critical role in shaping these dynamics.

In the Gulf, states like Saudi Arabia and Bahrain are still defining their relationships with Iran, which could influence their positions in a potential world war. Iran’s influence extends into Central and South America and the Sahel region in Africa. In a global conflict, Iran could leverage these connections to significantly disrupt the global economy.

While these warnings are stark, the scenario is not inevitable. Preventing Iran from achieving nuclear status and deterring Russia, China, and North Korea from utilizing their nuclear arsenals is crucial. A firm and actionable stance from the West could lead to détente. Conversely, a policy of appeasement could very well usher in World War III within our lifetime.