What would a Third World War look like? Would it be conventional, or end in Nuclear Holocaust? Would it look like World War II, plus new technology? Would tens of millions perish, or would it be akin to a large low-intensity conflict like what we have seen in the Middle East? For decades analysts and military brass have theorized what a global conflict would look like.
Tom Clancy’s Red Storm Rising from 1986 presents what many experts believe it would have looked like in a conventional war with the Soviet Union. A large ground war in Europe, a massive Second Battle of the Atlantic with smaller theatres in the Pacific and southern Asia. But the Soviets are no more. So who would be our new enemy? Where would the flashpoint be?
War has changed much, and yet it has changed little. Men still die in firefights, air power can still strike ground units, and ships can still be sunk. Technology has advanced, yes. But so have countermeasures to such technology.
Still, the threats have not fully disappeared, and now many believe a rising China and resurgent Russia to are viable threats to world stability.
Global Arms Race
As I have covered in a recent article, a new naval race has begun between all the great powers and many of the smaller ones. New carriers are being built in numbers not seen since the Cold War, and even new classes of missile cruisers have been launched or are on the drawing boards. New and deadly anti-ship missiles are being brought into service and stealth technology is in vogue today. Quieter and larger submarines are being built, and again the deadly game of cat and mouse is increasing in intensity below the ocean waves.
Air Forces around the world are racing to dominate the skies as next-generation fighters enter production and service. The F-35 is one of the most costly defense expenditures in history, and Russian and China are racing to counter it with Generation 5 fighter aircraft.
Ground and Marine forces also have seen a new modernization push. Russia and China have introduced new tanks, armored vehicles, and even new infantry weapons. The United States is slowly rebuilding after fighting the Global War on Terror for 18 years. The building of light tanks and reforming of armored brigades causes many experts to believe that the next war will start out as an expeditionary conventional war between near-peer adversaries. The push to rebuild heavy armored forces presents the idea that an expeditionary action is expected to escalate.
Same Game, Same Players
The Russians for one, have not been one to sit idle. Inheriting a large and very corrupt Soviet Military, The Russians took over 20 years to rebuild and restructure their military. Slowly, as Russia’s financial situation improves, modernization has been possible. As Russia rebuilds its forces, the Kremlin has continued to project power throughout all of Asia and even into former Soviet states such as Ukraine. Russia’s territorial expansion has led to great concern within NATO of Russian incursion into Europe. It remains to be seen what exactly Russia plans to accomplish over the next decade. There are many who believe the Kremlin longs to regain the power and influence the USSR once had.
China is the other major player that has openly challenged US foreign policy and has now emerged as the world’s 3rd largest economy. China has been aggressively looking to expand her reach and influence over the Asia-Pacific region of the world and that has been visible in China’s aggressive naval expansion and military buildup. The incursion into territory claimed by the Philippines and threats against Taiwan and Japanese owned islands have resulted in China’s neighbors joining the arms race. Taiwan seeking to build a fleet of advanced submarines, and Japan building its first aircraft carriers since World War II. South Korea too has joined the flat top race and is building its second carrier.
The North Korean threat seems to have quieted down for now, but it certainly has not gone away. The regime of Kim Jong-un continues to test weapons and threaten their southern neighbors. It is anyone’s guess if the Korean Peninsula will go hot, and if such a war could be a cause for a larger conflict.
Tensions also remain high in the Middle East as the Civil War in Syria enters its 8th year and Iran continues rattling the saber. Israel, Turkey and other nations have all embarked on a mini-naval race. The Israelis are building 4 new corvettes and have ordered new submarines from Germany. The Turks are moving towards commissioning their first carrier.
For now, the eyes of the world are locked on three prospective flashpoints, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia-Pacific (namely Taiwan). War could come tomorrow, or 30 years from now. Similar to our previous 2 world wars, there is a naval race and global arms race underway and even rebuilding of militaries. It is anyone’s guess as to what the results of such arming and rebuilding.
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