Though some have been warning about the catastrophic potential for a third global conflict for years, it wasn’t until recently that these warnings became more mainstream. The calamitous nature of the violence in Syria – which has one nuclear power defending a government that has been the target of a regime change operation led by the world’s superpower – combined with 2017’s threats of “fire and fury” against another state intently pursuing a nuclear weapons supply of its own, has pushed the issue of a third world war directly into the public discourse.
While certain hotspots throughout the Middle East, Asia, and Eastern Europe (i.e. Ukraine) have seen some notable escalations in the last few years, a direct conflict between Russia and the United States is still yet to emerge. That’s because the idea of a third world war in today’s world is completely insane. If the two countries that currently possess the world’s greatest supplies of nuclear weapons go to war, there may not be a world left for the victors to inhabit after the war is done, thereby making it an unthinkable proposal.
Then again, the U.S. did just recently bomb a significant number of Russian-linked forces in Syria, reportedly killing scores of them. The targets of these air strikes were also predominantly Iranian-backed militias (just in case there weren’t enough state actors already involved in this ongoing conflict).
Speaking of Iran, Donald Trump recently fired Rex Tillerson as secretary of state and immediately appointed CIA director Mike Pompeo to replace him. Pompeo is a notable anti-Iran hawk who will almost certainly go further than Tillerson was ever prepared to go with regard to the Iranian nuclear accord, a deal Pompeo believes is “disastrous.”