wwi-graveIn many ways, Europe today would be unrecognisable to someone from over one hundred years ago. Women have the vote, once-mighty colonial empires have been broken up, bitter rivalries between European nations have been peaceably resolved (with one or two notable exceptions). Yet the traveller from 1914 would still recognise certain age-old human preoccupations, and they may be disappointed to learn that the 21st century is by no means an era of universal peace. Despite the lessons of history, brutal wars still rage in Syria, Ukraine and elsewhere.

But these are local or regional wars, and often civil or asymmetric in nature. Today’s “Great Powers” may come into indirect conflict through their proxies – by arming this rebel group or supporting that insurgent militia – but surely open warfare on a global scale is by now unthinkable? Haven’t nuclear weapons, economic globalisation and international institutions like the UN rendered World War Three impossible?

Writing in The Atlantic, Roger Cohen argues that a new global conflict is certainly not out of the question. He suggests a scenario whereby a series of separate regional conflicts (such as a territorial dispute in the South China Sea or fallout from the conflict in Ukraine) could escalate and begin overlapping. He concedes the chances seem slim, but points out that people thought the same thing one hundred years ago.

In 1914, just as today, many were convinced by the argument that economic integration meant total warfare was essentially obsolete. Then, when the horrors of trench warfare and economic blockades proved them wrong, many believed that the First World War would be the “war to end war”, convinced that poison gas had rendered modern wars unwinnable. By 1945, Nazi Germany had enough nerve gas (of a much more sophisticated variety than the chemical weapons used during the First World War) to wipe out the populations of dozens of cities the size of Paris. Yet poison gas did not act as a deterrent to conventional warfare during World War Two.

Furthermore, the near total success of the Iron Dome missile defence system in the Israel-Gaza conflict (admittedly against crudely designed rockets) points to a possible future in which global powers might be tempted to believe that the nuclear threat has been sufficiently weakened to make open warfare a reasonable gamble.

In the period between the two World Wars, many put their faith in the League of Nations to protect the peace, just as people hope that today’s United Nations will be able to effectively mediate and resolve conflicts between states in the 21st century. But, despite early successes, the League proved impotent in the face of aggressive nationalism and failed to stop the drive to war.

Will there ever be another World War? Have nuclear weapons, economic interdependence and effective international institutions rendered a third global conflict impossible? Or are we in danger of repeating the mistakes of the past? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below, and we’ll take them to policy-makers and experts for their reactions.

104 comments Post a commentcomment

  1. avatar
    Giwrgos Filippatos

    As long as pathetic countries like Israel exist World War will always be a threat.Personally i sympathisez Israel but after from what i have seen i have changed completely opinin.Civilians sing songs about all palestinians kids to die?These guys are mentally dead

    • avatar

      You must confuse them with Palestineans. They, and several other countries such as Iran heavily promote childrens programmes on official TV channels glorifying the idea of ‘death to Israel’. We are talking here of the people whose grandfathers allied with Hitler in the hope to get the ‘final solution’ extended to the Middle East.

    • avatar

      Giorgos your argument is very weak. Unfortunately you are only swimming on the surfaces of the ocean and you think you know what’s at the bottom

  2. avatar
    Giannis Tolios

    It is painfully obvious to everyone that the Middle East is a very volatile region. The escalation of tensions between countries like Iran and Israel could lead to a bigger conflict, involving other countries from the East, as well as the West. I doubt that this would lead to a global conflict though.

    • avatar
      Kroum G. Balabanov

      I agree, that is a serious risk. There was massive speculation Israel would preventively bomb the Iranian nuclear facilities, but the Economist reported that with 32 sites, many of them dug deep in the mountains, the chances that Israel could accomplish that going it alone (without the US) are meager. Moreover Iran has been intensively arming so as to render a potential US intervention in the Gulf extremely costly – to such an extent that the US revised its Air-Naval military doctrine (the first & foremost reason was China’s new assertiveness in the Pacific) – to the Air Sea Battle Concept. So, paradoxically, the adversaries ahve enough to effectively deter each other, much like the Cold War’s MAD, but regionally – the cost of an armed conflct would be extremely high & the outcome hard to predict.

  3. avatar
    Máté Parászka

    it’s repeating so be nice and stop imitating your grand parents and lets have a nice relaxing period, realy, who want’s to go to fight in a war?

  4. avatar
    Nando Aidos

    Nuclear weapons – not a good deterrent – there are enough fools and rogue states out there who could trigger a world war.
    Economic interdependence – more likely – but a war could be started as sanctions may weaken interdependences.
    United Nations – doubt it – could the UN, as is, bring nations to their senses? What has it done to deter the Israel/Palestine wars? What if other regional states join in? Will the UN be able to stop it? And stop a world wide conflagration? I doubt it.
    The world needs to revise rules and regulations that were created during the first half of the XX th century and make them fit the world of the XXI st century. If this has been done it is not apparent to the world at large.

  5. avatar

    Well if we stop telling other people how to live their lifes before they get to mad at us,then i highly doubt it and if theres going to be a massive conflict,then it s going to be far away and non of our business…Why should we care if the people in timbuktu don t have other hobbies then killing each other?And if some of the parties turns at us…well we got nuclears here.
    Isolationism is the key to felicity

    • avatar

      I doubt that the United States will turn their arsenal of nuclear weapons towards any country with the intention to fire them anytime soon. It would be too controversial and would essentially be national suicide. We may have nuclear weapons but we’re not stupid enough to use them for petty reasons.

  6. avatar
    Richard Osborne

    Hmmm, how many countries were involved in Afghanistan? England Spain, Italy, Germany, Japan, Australia and the u.s. how many more countries do you want before you call it a world war?

  7. avatar
    Lee Tong

    What will happen to Putin now ? What will happen in Russia ? Thats a good question.

  8. avatar
    Trond Johannessen

    We’re in one every day. Hegemony is at stake. The US is losing theirs and Europe is under siege for this. China on its own agenda, as is Russia. Australia aligned with the US – the most visible puppet regime. Every time there is heat on one block, they make a shipment to some Group seeking Independence, Revenge or havoc, and the media picture shifts in focus, while the chess players ponder moves and countermoves.

  9. avatar
    Tarquin Farquhar

    UNFORTUNATELY/ARGUABLY the car crash that is WW3 has already started.

  10. avatar
    Matej Zaggy Zagorc

    The world is constantly in war. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but a world war isn’t about thousands of tanks and soldiers clashing with each other on a front. It’s on a global scale in a different meaning. Countries with strong allies break out in skirmishes all the time. And it’s not just an arms war. It’s a political world war, economical world war, and it’s happening day-to-day. To keep saying that a world war is a fight of arms between two or more major sides is just a way of deceiving the people and making them oblivious to what’s constantly going on, and leading them to believe that they have nothing to worry until that happens, just so that everyone can go on doing what they’ve done so far.

  11. avatar
    Peter Evtimov

    USA have no money, dollar cost nothing… USA need a War in Europe to survive!!! USA paid to EC leaders to make war with Russia!!! EC people don’t like war. Russia don’t like war. Ukrainian people don’t like war. Only USA wants WAR…. This is the truth….. I don’t like Russia, I don’t hate USA, I just want to live!!!!!!!!!!

    • avatar
      Kroum G. Balabanov

      Who told you the US has no money…. it spends 4,4% of GDP on its military – about 600 billion $. America is indeed war-weary & the €U nations do not want to risk an armed conflict. But it is Russia, who wants to redefne the Post-cold-war world order and borders in Europe. It is Russia who wants to restore the empire and has never understood & acceptd the collapse of the Soviet Union. And ha would you call the conflict in Eastern Ukraine – a “liberation”. It i exactly for that reason that most of the Central & Eastern European nations (NATO-9, EU-11) do want more NATO presence on the eastern flank. Ask the Poles, the Romanians, the Chechs, the Baltics. It is exactly for the same reason that Sweden & Finland want to join NATO. It is exactlyfor the same reason – Poland, Chech, Hungary, Slovakia, Litva, Latvia, Estonia, Romania & Bulgaria joined NATO – to never let a new revisionist Russia push them around again.

    • avatar

      How could the wealthiest nation on the planet not have any money?

    • avatar

      The United States general populace does not like war.

  12. avatar
    Dim Zev

    I expect answers from the case Ares (2014) 1502108.
    On 12 May 2014, registered the above case involving questions-clarification for start and functioning IACS system acting cross-checks for payments rural EU support.
    Because the competent European Commission not replied , i resorted on 11 July 2014 to the Ombudsman 01253/2014/ANA to mediate to answer my questions.
    So far I have not gotten any response.
    Is this ordinary for Europe ?



    • avatar

      I’m sure you and your friends will volunteer to have your incomes reduced by 50-70%, you know in order to share things around a bit more equally on this planet.

    • avatar
      Bert van Santen

      @Dirk Schönhoff Dream on lovely daydreams, but do not look outside Your window. The EU and Euro has divided the beautifull continent more then ever before, since 2002

  13. avatar
    Pan Sol

    EU start allready a war with russia in east ukrain covering and supporting the kiev ragime to attack russian speaking citizens

  14. avatar

    World War 3 has been over since 1991. It was a proxy war, with lots of small hot conflicts throughout Latin America, Africa and South East Asia.

    World War 4 is going on now, with medieval maniacs seeking to bring everyone into a virtual Middle Ages.

    But large scale land wars like WWs I and II are a thing of the past. Simply the horrors of the WW II alone were enough to stop anyone from trying again. That and NATO + the MAD between the USA and the then Soviet Union prevented a large land war in Europe. The EU and its predecessors had and have preciously little to do with preventing wars. The idea behind the EU is to sever the link between the voter and legislation.

    Well, until 1992, after the Soviet Union disappeared, EEC (later EU) diplomats told Milosevic to try and prevent the breakup of Yugoslavia. We all know what happened next. OK, technically it wasn’t a big land war, but it still was, until today, the most recent conventional land war ‘we’ had in Europe.

    • avatar

      To add: apart from the medieval maniacs trying to bring everyone to bow down to their psychopathing 7th century warlord, the very real threat is a war over fresh water and resources. After all, it would be quite impossible to get the whole world up to ‘western’ living standard because the resources simply do not exist.

      Our disproportional wealth REQUIRES their disproportional poverty. Now there’s a nice subject for the dinner table.

  15. avatar
    Frank Ryan

    For evil and terror to succeed, all it takes, is for good people, nations, to remain silent. Gaza is a typical example.

  16. avatar

    I believe the next WW will not be between the West and the East but rather a war between the Civilized World and Islam, we are already seeing suicide bombers in Europe, and Jihadits killing Jews etc., I believe that under certain circumstances and if the weapons are available that e.g. a Syria Szenario may be possible in Europe including Western Europe!, such a Szenario would be a prelude to or a WW in itself, we must also understand that Russia cannot sit by while Islamists take over Europe and its ABC Weapons, neither can the USA.

  17. avatar
    Arshid Mahmood

    I still see it possible. Russia and USA are potentially on another brinkmanship but not quite as intense as during the cold war. You look at their stance on ukraine. U look at their stance on Syria, Iran. The vibes are still there its just that USA dont have a strong personality as there president

  18. avatar
    Karel Van Isacker

    The UN is a toy in the hands of big states that use vetos… especially the USA who decide themselves unilaterally when war is needed. See Iraq…

  19. avatar
    Mahfuzul Alam Chowdhury

    Hope to all of EU & Asia Pacific nation parliamentarian members as sincerely request to take necessary action against Israel as a war crime in the Gaza please:

    • avatar
      Bert van Santen

      Humans? You mean politicians?

  20. avatar
    catherine benning

    There would be if the people were just as uneducated and easily persuaded to line up and be fodder for the USA/EU/UK war machine. But, the people are no longer falling so easily for the propaganda those SOB’s put out on a daily basis.

    Although, look at Israel and Gaza, Ukraine and the Western backed lunatics who started this face to face bull with Russia, you can never tell how gullible these Eastern block stooges can be. They are still back there in the revolution not realising even today how their men were duped by the idea that affinity with the West was contingent on them giving up their lives for it in a coup.

    But, what the US fears more than anything is war in their own back yard. Where a nuke may fall from the sky directly on the White House and their own Washington DC. Likewise the EU of Belgium.

    I can’t understand how the Israeli Europeans in that country have fallen for the propaganda of the Knesset bunch of today, and those before them, to allow their sons and daughters to be called up to massacre a starving people on their doorstep. And they are supposed to be smart. Mind you they are denied input from outside their sphere added to the traitor name and stones hitting the heads should they weep for the killing they impose on others, meets the conscience of their souls.

    However, if you read their historical religious teaching, you realise ‘their God’ will strike when he’s mad enough with his ‘chosen people’ to bump them off en masse when they get too far out of hand. Look out for the hands of fate on that bunch of maniacs in the very near future. The turn is already seeded and the common man is leaving them in their droves.

    So, isn’t the world already at war? Stirred up by the superpower, run and manipulated by the few that stay well hidden from sight in case piles of dung should fall in their pathway.


    This clip of our House of Commons was the first time I felt satisfied that the British have not completely lost their decency in that place.

    Why the US doesn’t offer the Israeli people a homeland in the vast empty areas of their States and let them call it Israel, I don’t know. It would not cost them or us nearly as much as it has buying them an endless and spreading state in another peoples land. If they did that they would not have further worries about their surrounding neighbours being out to annihilate them. Would they?

  21. avatar
    catherine benning

    Now, back to war of the world. This clip opens the mind to how wartime propaganda works. So, what I wrote above is pretty much on the button. We are already engulfed a world war, only it’s a world war of the 21st century style.


  22. avatar

    “Like” 1914 or 1939? No- that’s history!

    Without a crystal ball- one need to guess the probabilities & reasons of future major global confrontations. Hopefully, none will trigger the most ghastly in the repertoire of Homo sapiens, sapiens!

    * The UN’s inability to resolve any serious conflict in the 21st century is evident.

    * The serious Gaza/Israeli tragedy is in effect a conflict between the Arabs/Muslims & the West- pitting Arab Palestinians & Israelis against one another.

    * The US backs & meddles alternatively between radical Muslims, to secure the West’s oil supply, the next day they back the opposing Muslim factions- all being kept spellbound by the magic of the Dollar.

    * The planned ongoing EU enlargement driven by questionable desires.

    * The expansionism of US lead NATO under the pretext of bringing security &
    prosperity to a handful of former, by communism financially destroyed,
    estranged from competition and a modern economy, but still hopeful Eastern
    European communities. Triggering foreseeable counter measures by the ever
    alert Russian Bear.

    * The constant questionable meddling in Arab and in other nations affairs by the US- trying to protect its No.1 position. Even risking war or going bankrupt in the process! In real “I did it may way”-Las-Vegas casino fashion!

    * The rest could be by global accidents.

    The burning problem- a neutral presentation of Israel’s history by:

    A presentation by an ex Russian Jewish person named Mr. Shamrak:

  23. avatar

    David, it is by now well known the EU helped fund this socalled ‘popular’ uprising. Of course, they still try to gloss over that a significant minority within that uprising consisted of neo-nazis from the Right Sector and Svoboda who provoked the government hoping it would use violence back (which it foolishly did).

    EU/US want the resources of Ukraine, they want them cheap and have told the new Ukraine government to impose mass austerity. Standard method of operation by the ‘free west’. Install some government, tell it to screw its own people and hand over natural resources at knockdown prices, usually by involving the IMF and the World Bank.

    Liberia is another example, it is extremely rich in resources yet it is the poorest country in the world in terms of income. Why? Because western governments and corporations bribed successive Liberian governments to hand over the resources very cheap with concessions lasting up to 100 years. They pay maybe 1% of what its worth.

    This happens all over the place in Africa. Especially but not exclusively in former French colonies. The western governments and corporations benefit, western people indirectly benefit, the local elites in African countries benefit but the people at large in Africa are kept perpetually in abject poverty.

    The western world, since 1945 has consistently supported dictators who were willing to sign resources over cheaply, and as soon as they stopped wanting to sign them over, the west would declare the dictator was ‘communist’ or a ‘human rights violator’, invade, overthrow and install the next dictator who would sign the new contracts.

    Human rights is of no concern to any corporation or the politicians they own.

  24. avatar
    Dim Zev

    I expect answers from the case Ares (2014) 1502108.
    On 12 May 2014, registered the above case involving questions-clarification for start and functioning IACS system acting cross-checks for payments rural EU support.
    Because the competent European Commission not replied , i resorted on 11 July 2014 to the Ombudsman 01253/2014/ANA to mediate to answer my questions.
    So far I have not gotten any response.
    Is this ordinary for Europe ?

  25. avatar
    Nikolaos Sotirelis

    Look at your stupid contradiction here. To own nuclear weapons, it means, they are afraid that the threat of a World War exists! On the other hand, if a WW was being committed, the use of nuclear weapons would be totally destructive!
    Either way, in peace or in war, nuclear weapons are from useless until catastrophic and they surely do not prevent wars.
    They didn’t do it in the Middle East, they didn’t do it in the Pakistani-Indian war.

    • avatar
      willy lyncg

      War, war never changes

  26. avatar
    Eli Gerus

    Just a little bit of logic: just because there may not be another W.W that does not mean that because of that the scenario would be impossible

  27. avatar
    Popov Andrey

    The all European countries now ought and obliged to spend more and more money to rescue their best friend – Ukraine. Ukraine can not provide their soldiers even with the warm dress because generals and officers of Ukrainian army has stolen all the money of the military budget. The details You can see here just from Ukrainian site: (several Ukrainian generals and deputy of defence minister are arrested just now) http://112.ua/glavnye-novosti/genprokuratura-provodit-obyski-u-sluzhebnyh-lic-minoborony-145726.html Also, If the Ukrainian President Poroshenko will not attack the Donbass cities Donetsk and Lugansk in November, then he will have a problem with inquiries about the perpetrators guilty of the crash the flight MH-17 … And he will be involved in the internal political crisis due to financial and energy problems. If the Ukrainian officials are so good and are not involved in the death of the aircraft, then why did they interfere with the investigation of the accident, conducting arttillery-attacks in the zone of the collapse of the Euro-Plane?
    Why Americans and Europeans ignored this fact and did not take any sanctions against Ukraine? Your, European passengers were killed, the criminals swept the traces and why NATO was silent???
    What did the Ukrainian military jet Su-29, near the Malaysian Boeing just before the moment of the crash that was recorded by Russian radars ???
    Why Ukrainian dispatchers ordered the fliers of the passenger plane down to 500 meters down and turn towards the combat zone?

  28. avatar
    Clever cloggs 1993

    No one is a super-power we are all the same, Russia and the USA are said to be the 2 main super-powers this is due to the amount of nukes they actually have. just France alone or England or the USA, Germany, Korea or anyone could destroy the human race single handed. I don’t see the point in building more and more and more. this just increases the chance of nuclear fallout.
    America has so many nukes if Russia shot one at them shorly all Americas nukes would fallout and vapourise the planet.

  29. avatar

    Yes, It is possible. Look What’s Happening Now. U.S and Russia are having a proxy war in Ukraine. IS acting like a madman. Seems like they are killing people just for fun or what. But the biggest threat is Ukraine for Europe. Ukraine won’t be member of EU or NATO. That’s something that Russia won’t allow if Ukraine become member of EU. Ukraine has to be some kind of ”buffering zone” between NATO and Russia. I belive that Nowdays, only this conflict can create a War in Europe again.

  30. avatar
    Ivan Burrows


    The anthem as changed from ?Horst-Wessel-Lied? to ‘Ode to Joy’ and the colour of the flag from red to blue but the anti democratic lust for power and control over the peoples of Europe is the same.

    Forced European federalism is creating a democratic deficit not seen since before WW2 so yes, ‘Europeans’ are heading for war.

  31. avatar
    Ulf Skei

    There is The north/south conflict. A risk with certain eastern tendences. The vacuum after Soviet disappeared. Let’s hope reason and good powers keep it at bay…

  32. avatar
    Roberto López Gallardo

    I don’t think we are more antidemocratic today than we were 30 years ago. The key issue here is a model (Capitalism) that is about to end as we know since capital accumulation is no longer possible as we know it due to resource escarcity (fossil fuels and minerals) with an unsatiated increasing world demand and most likely climate change combined with overpopulation in some places. Financial distress is just the tip and the proxy manifestation for all that but the causes are deeper as I was explaining. We are all on the same ship on this one but it looks like some prefer to keep BAU and exploiting others till the end of times.

  33. avatar
    Andrew Lally

    Like La Belle Epoque and Les Trentes Glorieuses and the Great Gatsby Era, we are experiencing the calm before the storm of war, during which a small disembodied elite carries on partying in incredible wealth and feeling no connection/solidarity/pain with the rest of society’s body, an interlude between the 1929/2008 crash and the Second World War/democratic collapse. Everybody is at each others’ throats: Japan and China, Russia and Europe, Europe within and without, Greece and Germany, Scotland and England, Catalonia and Spain, Flanders and Wallonia, Ukraine and Russia, gay and straight, Christian and Muslim, Muslim and Jew, atheist and believer, Brussels and national capitals, wealthy and poor, ISIS versus western democracy, North Korea and the USA, immigrants and settled, political elites and disconnected citizens.
    So … much … hatred …
    So … little … compassion …

  34. avatar
    Vári László

    NO! The age of national states, and the capitalist economic organizing system are far over, we are (citizens, humans, homo sapiens sapiens) struggling under the self interest driven elites who are using the method of “divide and conquer” by culture, economical inequality, stupid national ideas etc. to ensure their short time power….. ….nowdays not just the survival of humanity, but the life on earths is rather based on interhuman cooperation, rather than killing each other. In other words with any war everybody can only lose everything.

  35. avatar
    Nando Aidos

    If we keep wondering, we will.
    If we keep asking and doing nothing, we will.
    If we do what we all need to do, we will NOT!
    If we cultivate peace, we will NOT!

  36. avatar
    Karel Van Isacker

    If the EU keeps on following the USA rethorics and policies, we definitely will end up in another conflict. Time the EU takes a credible and autonomous stand. Starting with establishing a European army, whose budget should be taken from decreasing the enormous wasting of money by the EP and the EC and its satellite organisations.

  37. avatar
    Jorge Qoqe

    If it would be a next World War, for sure that who is our ally it will be the enemy in the right moment the war finish. Look, our ‘ally’ de Soviet Unin really stoped nazis in the east… Who was in Moscow remebering that sacrifice??

  38. avatar
    David Fernandes Coelho

    The war has started already its just a matter of time before it to realy spread the richer want to rget icher and if they cant do it in an economical way they take over other markets by force.

  39. avatar
    Ferenc Lázár

    If the elite of U.S.A., E.U. and Israel are pushing further on Russian interests in their zone of life, to export their business and “demoxracy” yes, it possibly will lead to 3-rd world war!

  40. avatar
    Costi Ciudin

    it is immoral to celebrate one’s victory or defeat, all we can celebrate on May 9 is the end of slaughter

  41. avatar
    Nate Yonke

    Remember the First World War began from a terrorist attack and nations’ interdependence.

  42. avatar
    Seán Rohan

    Yes unless we wipe out Israel and their ally Wahhabism (Saudi. ISIS. al-Qaeda etc)

  43. avatar
    Ioanna Geor

    I think in some ways we still make the same mistakes in Europe,especially when it comes to ethnicism

  44. avatar
    George Titkov

    Not on European soil this time, thank you. Let the US and Russia settle their issues somewhere else. US is always ready for war, as long as it’s in Europe.

  45. avatar
    Giorgos Hatzidakis

    Let’s HOPE YES!!! War is the only solution to bring the ISLAMIC THREAT to an end, otherwise they will CONQUER us “with their offsprings” as their LEADERS claim!!! WE SHOULD WAGE WAR TO ISLAM, TURKEY AND ALBANIA TO SAVE THE PLANET, CIVILIZATION AND OUR RACE!!!!

  46. avatar
    Cyera Montelongo

    This is a great discussion of the concept people always be prepared for the worst.

  47. avatar

    Not in nuclear era, except of totally insane humanity.Because Earth will be destroyed entirely

  48. avatar

    Civil wars in Western countries are more likely, if the left continues to push its totalitarian agenda.

  49. avatar

    Yes it will. And it will not take long, if the politicians don’t get their $h|# together. Besides all nonsense in Politics, there’s also Climate change which will create tensions like we never seen before.

  50. avatar

    Yes… and NATO is working hard to make war happen.
    Strong EU has never been good for USA.

  51. avatar

    soldiers died, and what good came out of it…

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