Is World War III Near Horizon?


  • Since tensions between Kyiv and Moscow started to rise, people have wondered whether the conflict could escalate to a general fight between Russia and NATO.
  • If Russia feels that either the diplomatic or the military situation are tipping away at this level of escalation, Moscow might risk moving to the next one.
  • NATO could declare and enforce a partial no-fly zone along the borders of NATO countries, undertaking strikes on SAM systems in the area.
  • This article appeared originally in 1945.

Since tensions between Kyiv and Moscow began to build, many have wondered if the crisis may turn into a larger battle between Russia and NATO as reported by Real Clear Defense.  

Turmoil in Ukraine

Ukraine is not a NATO member, thus the military alliance is not required to defend it. President Biden, like the leaders of most of NATO’s key partners, has stated unequivocally that US soldiers would not be fighting on Ukrainian soil under any circumstances. Leaders are plainly aware of the threat of World War III and are working hard to avoid it.

Even while unintentional wars are uncommon, they do occur. Here are five ways that the turmoil in Ukraine could evolve into a Russian-NATO battle.

Atrocities force NATO

Taking Kyiv, Kharkiv, and Odessa would be extremely damaging. These are historic cities, and seeing them obliterated by artillery over the course of weeks may elicit such a public outcry in the West that NATO would be willing to risk direct intervention. This would result in a no-fly zone at first, followed by direct attacks against Russian fielded forces in the war zone. The outcome of the conflict would be determined by Russia’s response.

Russia escalates to de-escalate

Since the start of the conflict, Russia and NATO have been swapping escalation levels. If Russia believes the diplomatic or military situation is deteriorating at this stage of escalation, it may choose to go to the next. In terms of military options, this may include the use of nuclear weapons against Ukraine, an assault on a non-NATO member, a large cyber-strike, or any of a number of other possibilities. NATO may believe it is required to intervene in such a circumstance, either directly in support of Ukraine or in a different theatre of operations.

Fire from the wrong side

While Russia has largely avoided the areas of Ukraine bordering NATO, military necessity may force it to enter those areas at some point. If Ukrainian forces flee across the border (with or without the knowledge of NATO officials), Russian commanders may be motivated to attack. This is especially true if it appears like Ukrainians are exploiting NATO boundaries as a haven, waging war from the safe haven. Infiltration, shelling, or bombings into a NATO country could prompt a swift response from an alliance concerned about its own credibility. This could entail air and missile strikes against border-based responsible troops.

NATO’s anti-fly zone

A Russian aircraft might end up over NATO airspace by accident or in pursuit of fleeing Ukrainians. While we don’t know all about the rules of engagement that the pilots on both sides would follow, we may easily see a repeat of the 2015 incident in which a Turkish F-16 shot down a Russian Su-24. Russia and Turkey managed to avoid escalating the confrontation and, in fact, got closer politically in the years following the incident, but the political environment is now considerably more volatile. NATO may establish and enforce a partial no-fly zone along NATO countries’ borders, as well as launch strikes against SAM systems in the area.

Russia retaliates on purpose

The Russian air force has yet to hit any weapons convoys streaming from NATO into Ukraine, whether due to political hesitation or a lack of competent targeting equipment. While these convoys are unlikely to contain NATO military troops, they may contain a significant number of Westerners, especially if volunteer fighters arrive in large numbers. The destruction of one or more convoys might stoke support for direct involvement in the West, especially if it appeared that Westerners were being targeted on purpose. The proclamation and building of a corridor into Ukraine by NATO might represent a military operation.

NATO vs. Russia

It’s vital to remember that even if NATO and Russian forces engage in limited combat, this does not ensure escalation to strategic nuclear conflict. In each of the aforementioned crises, both parties would have many chances to back away from the cliff and de-escalate the situation.

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Source: Real Clear Defense


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