Third world war

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The Third World War is the name of a feared, probably as a nuclear war led war , which by nuclear holocaust much of the humanity could destroy in a relatively short time. It is prophesied by many as the last world war, because after such a war the world would change drastically, with unpredictable consequences for humans, but also for other living beings.

Fear of a third world war was widespread in view of the Cold War that soon flared up after 1945 and was suddenly updated in 1950 on the occasion of the outbreak of the Korean War (the " Korean shock"), noticeable in the immediate hamster purchases by private households.

Understanding of the term

Possible attack scenarios of the Warsaw Pact in West Germany

Even before the end of the Second World War , there was talk of a Third World War. The British, for example, thought of a renewed war in Germany, if a similar development was allowed as after the First World War . This term was also included in the illusions of the National Socialist rulers in the final phase of World War II that they could still turn against the Soviet Union together with the Western Allies (see Operation Unthinkable ).

In the period between 1945 and the revolutions in 1989 that led to the collapse of the Eastern Bloc , the apocalyptic scenario of a Third World War was seen primarily as a possible confrontation between the superpowers USA and the Soviet Union .

Several times during this period, the superpowers found themselves on the verge of direct military conflict:

The fact that World War III could play a role as a global catastrophe became clear when an officer of the Soviet missile forces , Stanislaw Petrov , reported a message from the early warning system to his leadership as a false alarm on September 26, 1983 .

Different use of the term

According to James Woolsey , George W. Bush's advisor and local governor in Iraq , “World War III ” is a synonym for the Cold War and was declared over around 1990.

In the context of the increasingly important conflict between Orient and Occident , the term Third World War has recently been used more frequently . The main theaters of war would be the Gaza Strip and the West Bank as centers of the Middle East conflict , Chechnya , Syria , Iraq , Libya and Afghanistan .

The war on terror is sometimes referred to as the Third World War or, depending on your perspective, the Fourth World War (if the Cold War is referred to as the Third World War) or the World War of the 21st century . However, this use is highly controversial as terrorism and its control do not reach the scope of a world war. Even Pope Francis used the phrase in this connection after the terrorist attacks in November 13, 2015 Paris from .

In February 2017, Robert Kagan wrote an article in American Foreign Policy magazine in which he was concerned about the possible entry of World War III in the face of excessive territorial expansionism, growing militarism and Russian hegemonic policies: in (Eastern Europe and) China (via the Spratleys, Paracels and Senkaku Islands), assimilated to "revisionist powers" like Nazi Germany or Japan, which were responsible for World War II . In his opinion, those powers that are dissatisfied with the established international order use the weakness and negligence of Western democracies to adopt a nationalist, militaristic and increasingly warlike stance, and regret the alleged weakness of the Obama administration in front of the Russians and the Chinese.

Third World War in the media (literature, film, computer games)

General Sir John Hackett , former British general and Commander in Chief of Army Group North, created the fiction of a Third World War, which he published in his book The Third World War . It is based on precise knowledge of the defense strategies and simulation games of the Western allies and the weapon systems of both blocs.

The idea of ​​a Third World War has also been used as a basis by numerous artists for books, films and other works of art. For example, Arno Schmidt repeatedly sets the plot of one of his novels in the period after a third world war, in 1951 in Schwarze Spiegel , in 1960 in Kaff .

In the filmed novel The Mars Chronicles , the earth is contaminated and uninhabitable after the uniqueness has been lost because Mars was colonized.


  • The British secret agent James Bond , invented by the author Ian Fleming , averts a nuclear exchange of blows in several novels, some of which are filmed.
  • The Day After shows the dire consequences of a what-if ...? -Scenarios of a “hot war” instead of a cold war by NATO and the Warsaw Pact , which starts conventionally and eventually escalates with a global nuclear war. In the end, the earth is largely destroyed and contaminated.
  • In the fictional Star Trek universe, World War III takes place from 2026 to 2053 between some of the former Western powers, the Eastern Coalition of Nations and numerous other, dynamically changing state alliances. Over 600 million people lose their lives in this nuclear conflict, many more are contaminated with radioactivity, most states and cities are destroyed and large parts of the world are ravaged by a nuclear winter for decades.
  • The Third World War ” is the title of a fictional ZDF documentary from 1998 under the direction of Guido Knopp . It describes a fictitious chain of events that in 1989 could have led to nuclear annihilation instead of the peaceful end of socialism .
  • The background story of the computer game series Fallout is based on the post - apocalyptic post - war period of a Third World War from the year 2077, in which the whole earth was devastated by a nuclear holocaust within two hours.


  • Albert Einstein replied to the question with what weapons World War III will out: "I'm not sure with what weapons World War III fought [me], but in the fourth world war they are fighting with sticks and stones." Whether the quote however, it really comes from him, and he not only paraphrased it, is not proven.
  • The Briton Simon Singh puts the Third World War in connection with the increasing importance of computers and cryptography as follows: “It is said that the First World War was the war of the chemists because mustard gas and chlorine were used for the first time, the Second World War the war of the physicists because the atomic bomb was dropped. World War III would become the mathematicians' war because mathematicians would control the next great weapon of war, information. "
  • Michael Ende stated in a note: “After 1945 the question arose again and again whether it was conceivable that a third world war could ever occur. I think we're already in the middle of it. But apparently nobody notices because this war is not being waged territorial but temporally. We have unleashed a merciless war against our own children and grandchildren, against future generations. We will leave them a devastated world where life will be very difficult for them. But since they cannot strike back, we continue with it - we can no longer do otherwise - and calm our conscience (unless it can be completely silenced) with the assumption that something will occur to them to solve our meanness to make amends. "
  • Der Spiegel translated an interview of the then US Republican presidential candidate and current President Donald Trump in October 2016 with Reuters as follows: "The Syria conflict will end in a third world war if welistento Hillary Clinton ." Trump appealed in the interview to himselfto focuson the fight against the " Islamic State " and not to act against the Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad . Otherwise you will no longer only fight against Syria , but also against Iran and Russia.

See also


The author Werner Riegel created the term finism , Klaus M. Rarisch the ultimism . The terms refer to the literary epoch before the supposedly imminent end. In the series “ Space Partisans ” by Mark Brandis ( Nikolai von Michalewsky ) is the climax of the Third World War in 1991, it ends in the series with the merger of all states into three countries.

Special works on the subject of World War III are:

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Hansard. (No longer available online.) Formerly in the original ; accessed on February 9, 2019 .  ( Page no longer available , search in web archives )@1@ 2Template: Dead Link /
  2. "... why then still live!" In: Der Spiegel . No. 3 , 1966 ( online - January 10, 1966 , Hitler's briefing on April 23, 25 and 27, 1945).
  3. Heike Vowinkel: Atomic Alarm: The silent hero who prevented the third world war. In: . February 29, 2012, accessed February 9, 2019 .
  4. ^ Pope: Attacks in Paris "part" of the Third World War. In: Mercury . February 9, 2019, accessed February 9, 2019 .
  5. a b Backing Into World War III. In: Foreign Policy . February 6, 2017, accessed January 6, 2018 .
  6. Alice Calaprice: The new quotable Einstein. Princeton University Press, 2005, ISBN 0-691-12075-7 , p. 173.
  7. World War III - Wikiquote. Retrieved April 6, 2017 .
  8. Simon Singh: Secret Messages . The art of encryption from ancient times to the Internet.
  9. Michael Ende : Zettelkasten: Sketches & Notes . Munich 1994, ISBN 3-492-71380-7 , pp. 320 .
  10. Trump on Clinton's Syria Policy "Then There Will Be a Third World War" , accessed October 30, 2016