The Doomsday Clock is now set at two and one-half minutes before midnight by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. This is the closest the Doomsday Clock has ever been to midnight, which shows the grave concerns held by the scientists about the future of the human race.
The 2017 Doomsday Clock report noted that the United States and Russia are still antagonistic which each other and there are no serious discussions about nuclear arms control. In fact, a nuclear weapons buildup is happening in both countries. The United States is advancing the development of tactical nuclear weapons and Russia has made the world’s most powerful nuclear weapon that is capable of destroying any European country or a vast part of the United States.
Additionally, threats to use nuclear weapons by North Korea and continuing conflicts between India and Pakistan over Kashmir were part of the reason the clock moved thirty seconds closer to midnight since last year.
It seems as if the human race is on a one-way course, racing towards its own annihilation by World War III with little that can be done to stop it.
Here are fifteen things that could start World War III and what can be done to avoid them.
15. India and Pakistan Fight Over Kashmir
Both India and Pakistan have nuclear weapons. There has been a long dispute over the territorial rights to Kashmir, which is an area between the two countries. This conflict has lasted over 69 years. During that period, there were two wars fought over the region before the countries gained nuclear weapons.
Both India and Pakistan won independence from Britain during 1947. At that time, Kashmir had the option to be ruled by either country. The choice made by the ruler of Kashmir was to join with India. This caused the first war in 1947 that lasted for two years. Another war happened in 1965 and a brief conflict occurred during 1999. About 60% of the population in Kashmir is Muslim. This is the only province in India where a majority of the population is Muslim. Many of the people in Kashmir want to either join Pakistan, which also has a Muslim majority or to gain independence.
Potential Solution: Kashmir deserves the same right of independence enjoyed by both India and Pakistan. Kashmir should be granted its independence from India. This would end this conflict once and for all.
14. Israeli War With Iran
Even though the United States advanced a program of appeasement and got Iran to sign a treaty, Israel remains steadfast in its determination that Iran does not gain nuclear weapons. If Iran breaks the treaty with America or is perceived by Israel to have restarted its nuclear weapons program, Israel may attack Iran. Iran has repeatedly threatened to annihilate Israel and has more than 100,000 non-nuclear missiles aimed at Israel.
Israel has conducted many pre-emptive strikes against other countries in the past and may attack Iran at any moment, even if this goes against the desire of the United States. If Israel uses a nuclear weapon to attack Iran, it would draw the retaliation by Russia, which is allied with Iran. Israel would then try to force the United States to respond to the conflict.
Potential Solution: The United States needs to lessen its full support of Israel and be more critical of Israel’s military actions in order to put Israel on warning that it cannot unilaterally start such a conflict with Iran and expect unconditional support from the United States. Iran needs to be kept in check with nuclear inspections and sanctions for any violations of the treaty signed with the U.S.
13. Russian Border Conflicts and Invasion of Other Countries
Russia’s aggressiveness in recent years towards its neighbors, such as Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea, has made other countries on Russia’s border uncertain about their future. Both Latvia and Lithuania share a border with Russia and they are part of NATO. Any Russian aggression or invasion of those countries would force a NATO response to protect them. There are already medium-range nuclear “self-defense” missiles strategically deployed near Russia’s border, which causes tension to be very high in the region.
Russia recently announced its near-term completion of the RS-28 Sarmat “Satan 2” intercontinental ballistic missile that is armed with 10 independently guided warheads. This nuclear bomb has the destructive power equivalent to 2,000 times greater than the atomic bombs dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima during World War II. The Sarmat missile is capable of destroying the entire country of the UK and Wales or an area in America the size of Texas. Engaging Russia in a nuclear war now means having to accept this heightened level of retaliatory response.
Potential Solution: If President Trump’s overtures to make peace with Russia play out in a good way, then there is a possibility of reducing tensions between the United States and Russia. On the other hand, many believe that Trump’s accommodation of Putin’s agenda with embolden Putin to become even more aggressive. Detente is the delicate balance between the two positions.
Pope Francis has said that we are already in World War III against jihadist terrorism. The continued and more frequent attacks on European capitals by terrorists and the flooding of Europe with refugees from Syria have already negatively impacted Europe.
Can ISIS cause World War III directly? No, it does not have sufficient resources to do this. However; because the civil war in Syria is in the same area as some ISIS-occupied territory, it can accidentally cause a confrontation between the superpowers that have military operations in the region. Russia backs the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The United States supports the opposition forces. ISIS is somewhere in the middle of all of it. This makes a confrontation between the United States and Russia likely unless President Trump is able to get Vladimir Putin to agree to work together with the U.S. to eliminate ISIS.
Potential Solution: The war in Syria is complex because of the involvement of many groups including rebels that are against the Bashar al-Assad government, ISIS, and unaligned forces. There are also those sponsored by foreign governments, including a coalition led by the United States, those supported by Iran, and Russian forces. This regional conflict may not end soon. Russia has been instrumental in negotiating a cease-fire between the Assad forces and the Free Syrian Army, which may put an end to the civil war. If the U.S. and Russia avoid direct confrontation, this conflict will not expand into World War III.
11. Conflicts in the South China Sea
China is moving to control the shipping routes through the South China Sea that are vitally important. Japan disputes the Chinese claim to islands in that region. China is building military bases on artificial islands it constructed for that purpose. The United States has said publicly that it will not allow the Chinese to control these shipping lanes. China responded that the U.S. should mind its own business. Clashes have already occurred between Chinese and U.S. naval forces doing reconnaissance in the area.
The territorial disputes in the South China Sea involve many countries. Besides Japan and China, claims to some of the islands and reefs are made by Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Taiwan. The main contentions are over the rights to exploit the significant amounts of oil and natural gas found in the area and freedom of ocean navigation in the region.
Potential Solution: A coalition of nations needs to convene to negotiate rights for mineral exploitation and unrestricted ocean passage through the area. Efforts by the United Nations may lead the way to diplomatic solutions before the outbreak of armed conflict, which seems almost inevitable and may be triggered by accident.
10. Iran Provocation of American Forces in the Persian Gulf
Even though Iran signed a treaty with the United States to put its nuclear weapons development program on hold, this has not stopped Iran’s naval vessels from provocative acts, such as coming dangerously close to U.S. naval vessels transiting the Persian Gulf region.
In January 2017, a U.S. navy ship fired warning shots at Iranian ships that approached the American vessels several times and at high rates of speed. This confrontation lasted some nine hours, as the Iranian vessels shadowed three U.S. navy vessels passing through the Strait of Hormuz that connects the Gulf of Oman to the Persian Gulf. The Iranian vessels ignored radio warnings, audible alarms, and visual warnings to stay clear. It was not until the warning shots were fired that the Iranian vessels backed off. There were 35 such incidents of this kind during 2016. Each one could easily have escalated into a serious armed conflict
Potential Solution: The United Nations and countries that are U.S. allies as well as the United States need to reinstate the sanctions on Iran if they fail to stop these unwarranted provocations on U.S. navy vessels.
9. Biological Attack
If America, Europe, China, or Russia suffers a major biological attack that can be blamed on another superpower, this would invite retaliation. The problem with a biological attack is that it is not easy to determine the source of it. It could be caused by natural phenomena or a biological agent that is produced in a laboratory.
Terrorists can be responsible for such an attack; however, the superpowers also have biological weapons of mass destruction. These biological agents can be used for a false flag operation (discussed separately in this article) with the intent to place the blame on a foreign power, even if created by a government to secretly be used on its own people.
Potential Solution: The problem with biological agents is that if they get out of control they can harm more people than those being initially targeted. This is one of the reasons these agents are not easily used; however, there is no guarantee against accidental release, so research into biological warfare and weapons needs to be stopped by international treaties.
8. Fighting Over Water
Because of the ever-increasing human population, fresh, clean water is becoming scarcer. After the air that we breathe, water is the most precious resources we have. The scarcity of water and fighting over the rights to it may someday become the reason for WW III. The United Nations predicts a global shortfall of water by the year of 2030.
In many places in the world, the underground water is being used up so quickly that the ground is sinking. Cities like Beijing, China, and Mexico City are facing disruption of the transportation systems and building foundations as the ground sinks when the underground water is depleted.
Not a part of popular knowledge is the fact that water scarcity and the fighting over water was part of the reasons that led to the Syrian civil war. Moreover, since many Syrian refugees fled to Jordan, the water reserves in that country also are being depleted at a rate that is not sustainable.
The most stressed underground water source is the Arabian Aquifer. This water source supports 60 million people that live in Saudi Arabia and Yemen. The second worst place for underground water supplies is the Indus Basin aquifer located in the northwestern part of India and shared by Pakistan. This area is also the source of the conflict over Kashmir, which makes the problem worse. In northern Africa, the Murzuk-Djado Basin is the third most threatened water supply in the world.
Potential Solution: This is not a solution, but more of an inevitable result. Drought in these areas will cause famine and lead to the starvation deaths of millions due to lack of water. The only possible solution to the freshwater crisis is desalinization of ocean water, which is still too expensive for any poor people to access.
7. Cyber War
With the current revelations coming from the WikiLeaks Vault 7 information, it is clear that advanced cyber warfare and surveillance programs exist, that they are being actively used, and that the cyber warfare tools are proliferating.
Chinese government hackers penetrated America’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program to steal the designs and used them to create a virtually identical copy of the plane called the J-31.
Russia’s hacking efforts that resulted in stolen emails being published by Wikileaks with the intent to influence the U.S. presidential elections was seen by the far right Neocons in America as an act of war. Russia has threatened to cut the trans-Atlantic fiber optic cables, which would stop all Internet communication to and from North America to Europe.
Potential Solution: Not only are their government hackers involved in cyber warfare, there are also criminal elements making use of the exploits possible for illegal purposes. It is not possible to stop cyber warfare, only to increase defenses to try to reduce the potential harm.
6. Space Warfare
Because of the significant reliance on satellite communications, it is highly likely that space warfare will be part of World War III. It is estimated that about 80% of NATO allies communicate via satellite transmissions. This means that these satellites are huge targets for disrupting military communications relied upon by NATO and the United States. China already has advanced satellite attack systems and Russia is working on using weapons to attack NATO’s satellite communication infrastructure. American allocated US$ 5 billion this year for space war operations. Many of the space warfare capabilities are clandestine and could be used in a surprise attack.
Potential Solution: The world needs an international treaty that bans the use of space weapons to attack global telecommunication infrastructure combined with increased sharing of satellite capacity amongst all nations to deter any country from damaging global communications.
5. United States Orders a Nuclear Strike
President Trump has said that since America has so many nuclear weapons, why is it not able to use them? Clearly, President Trump thinks using nuclear weapons is a strong possibility. Perhaps he orders their use against North Korea, Iran, or ISIS?
The problem with these scenarios is that even a limited attack of nuclear bombs can throw up so much dust into the atmosphere to create a global nuclear winter that could cause a worldwide famine that could end up killing billions of people.
President Trump has made clear his intent is to increase the U.S. military and especially its nuclear capabilities.
Potential Solution: A decision to launch nuclear weapons is something that is solely in the hands of President Trump. If he gives the order, there is nothing and no one that can stop him. This is one of the main reasons why the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists moved the Doomsday Clock to the closest time to midnight that it has ever been in the past seventy years since it was first published. The only solution is to take away this power to launch nuclear weapons by the decision of a single person.
4. False Flag Operation
Many a war has been started based on a “false flag” operation. A false flag operation is when a government uses a fake event or fabricated information to trick its people into getting behind a war effort with popular support. An example of this was the Gulf of Tonkin incident, which was used by the United States government as the excuse for entering the Vietnam War. This incident was the supposed attack on an American navy vessel off the coast of Vietnam. The problem was that this event, which was widely reported in the news media and was the subject of a televised speech made by President Johnson to the nation, never happened. It was a complete lie and the Vietnam War cost over fifty thousand American solder’s lives as well as perhaps up to one million Vietnamese people.
Potential Solution: The information available on the Internet makes it more difficult to keep false flag operations a secret. However, the claim of Saddam Hussein in Iraq having weapons of mass destruction that led to the war in Iraq, while blamed on faulty intelligence information had the same outcome as a false flag operation would have achieved. Those in any position of governmental authority who produce and disseminate false flag information should be criminally prosecuted. However; this would be ineffective if WW III already started because of a false flag operation.
3. U.S. China Trade War Escalates into Real War
President Trump has made his position about the Chinese very clear with statements such as, “China has been taking out massive amounts of money and wealth from the US in totally one-sided trade.”
Since President Richard Nixon and the Secretary of State Henry Kissinger normalized trade relations with China in the 1970s, there has been a growing interdependence between China and the United States. China’s embracing capitalism caused an economic boom that improved the conditions of millions of people in China. China also invested heavily in U.S. government debt securities. If President Trump starts a trade war with China by imposing prohibitive import tariffs, then the economic ties between the two countries will be weakened. This could lead to a military war.
Potential Solution: Trump needs to soften the political rhetoric against China and become more realistic about what caused all the manufacturing to move to China. This happened because it was in the best interests of the multinational corporations. Trump needs to focus his efforts on changing the behavior of the multinational corporations, making it less profitable for them to take jobs out of the United States and stop blaming China for all the problems in the U.S.
2. Accident with Nuclear Weapons
Human error and equipment malfunctions may cause an unintended nuclear catastrophe. The world has already almost accidentally had a nuclear war on more than one occasion.
Nuclear bombs have been accidentally dropped, transported while armed without anyone being aware of this, and defense systems have falsely reported nuclear attacks.
In June 1980, a computer chip failure caused the alert of ballistic missile launches from a Soviet submarine at the U.S. Strategic Air Command and that a number of intercontinental ballistic missiles were heading towards the USA. It was only because NORAD could not confirm the existence of the incoming missiles that a nuclear retaliation caused by a false alarm was prevented.
During September 1983, the early detection warning system of the Soviet Union went off signaling the imminent attack by the United States. The computers reported that several missiles had launched from the USA and were headed toward the U.S.S.R. The response would normally have been immediate retaliation, if not for the clear thinking of the Soviet officer Stanislav Petrov, who single-handedly decided it was a false alarm and did not report the supposed attack to his superiors.
Potential Solution: There have been dozens of such false alarms and the computer reliability of these systems is not trustworthy, especially now that some of the computer software and systems have not been updated for decades. The solution, on the American side, is a complete upgrade of the missile defense systems; however, that will cost many tens of billions of dollars. There is no indication that the Russia systems are in any better condition and no known serious effort in Russia to upgrade them.
1. North Korean Nuclear Threat
The leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-un, continues to threaten Japan, South Korea, and the United States with an attack using a nuclear weapon. Kim Jong-un has said he wants to turn America into dust. North Korea’s recent missile tests that landed in the ocean dangerously close to Japan caused Japan to start the process to change its laws in order to allow a pre-emptive strike on North Korea in self-defense. The United Nation unanimously condemned the actions of North Korea, including China, which had previously shown strong support for North Korea.
Potential Solution: If China, which already has a full nuclear bomb program, simply took over the North Korean defense, moved all of the nuclear weapons out of North Korea in a verifiable way and stationed them on the Chinese side of their shared border with a guarantee to protect the sovereignty of North Korea, this would diffuse the current situation. If China did this, China would look like the good guys for once.
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