World War III: what might happen?

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AThird World War it is a conflict that could be unleashed at any time and would involve several countries of two or more continents. Thinking about a current geopolitical context, the war between Russia and Ukraine and the recent threats of the use of weapons Nuclear weapons put the world on high alert for a potential conflict escalation that could involve the United States and others. countries of nato and also of European Union. Analysts predict a Third World War would be marked by the use of nuclear warheads, which would result in a catastrophe unprecedented in human history.

Read too: Why did Russia invade Ukraine in 2022?

Topics of this article

  • 1 - Summary of the Third World War
  • 2 - What can happen if there is a Third World War?
  • 3 - Which countries could be involved in a Third World War?
  • 4 - Which countries have nuclear weapons?
  • 5 - Possible consequences of a Third World War
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Summary of World War III

  • The war between Russia and Ukraine, which broke out in 2022, raised fears of a Third World War.

  • A new war on a world scale would take place through the use of nuclear weapons, as some analysts predict.

  • Countries such as Russia, Ukraine, U.S and other NATO members, as well as member nations of the European Union. The involvement of Asian countries, such as China, is uncertain.

  • There are 13,080 nuclear weapons in the world today, 90% of which belong to just two countries, which are Russia and the United States.

  • In the case of the use of nuclear weapons, the consequences of a Third World War would be catastrophic for humanity, given the destructive potential of these devices.

What might happen if there is a Third World War?

A occurrence of a Third World War has long been theorized by several researchers and political analysts who are dedicated to the study of the geopolitics, as well as politicians and authorities responsible for international relations in their respective countries. Since the end of Second World War (1939-1945), moments of tension experienced in the world put everyone on alert about a possible escalation of conflicts, as in the case of the korean war (1950-1953), da Vietnam War and the Cuban Missile Crisis.

The recent war fought in Europe between Russia and Ukraine has made this issue even more evident, and the way the conflict unfolds raised fears about the outbreak of disputes on a global scale involving countries from different continents, with devastating consequences.

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Before thinking about possible events in a context of World War III, it is important to point out that Some analyzes consider that the Cold War played the role of a third war involving different nations. Conflicts, however, were more restricted to the ideological field, strongly affecting international diplomacy, rather than involving actual war disputes.

The conflicts that today develop on a local scale, more specifically in Ukraine and in areas of bordering Russian territory, can gain traction and scale quickly, thus including others European countries and the other continents. The attack on nations would trigger the reaction of allied countries, which would cause the clashes to reach the status of a new world war.

Nuclear missiles aimed at the sky.
World War III would be marked by the use of nuclear weapons.

Recently, several mentions and threats have been made regarding the use of nuclear weapons. by Russia, leaving nations like the United States on high alert. So countries have been taking these threats seriously, not just taking them as the Russian president's bluff. Note, moreover, the continuous tests of missiles that have been carried out by North Korea.

Although experts believe that the weapons that can be used initially are those of low power and action located (the so-called tactical weapons), nothing guarantees that more powerful resources with greater destructive capacity will be employees. Like this, a Third World War would be characterized by the widespread use of nuclear weapons, like ballistic missiles, with great destructive potential.

Read too: Effects of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki

Which countries could be involved in a Third World War?

Taking into account the current scenario of international geopolitics, the Russia and Ukraine would be the two countries that would certainly be involved in World War III, as a result of local conflicts that arose in 2014, with the annexation of Crimea, and have currently escalated to war between these two nations.

Although Ukraine is not part of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), members of that organization, such as the United States, UK, Poland, France, and also from the European Union and other European countries, such as Belarus, could enter the conflict as a form of defense or even to try to contain the escalation of actions.

There is also the Chinese support given to the Russians, as well as diplomatic tensions that have arisen between China and the United States due to a recent visit by a US policy to Taiwan, which could cause the Asian country to become involved in a potential conflict in case of violation of its national sovereignty. Taking into account the way China has acted in international geopolitics since its economic opening, however, participation in world-scale confrontations does not seem likely.

In addition to Russia and the United States, the outbreak of a war using nuclear weapons could result in the involvement of other nations that still maintain this type of resource in their territory.

Which countries have nuclear weapons?

We have gathered in the table below all the countries that have nuclear weapons and the respective quantity according to data provided by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN, for its acronym in English).


Number of nuclear weapons it owns

















North Korea

40 to 50

Altogether, there are 13,080 nuclear weapons in the world today.. In addition to the countries presented, however, there are also those that store weapons belonging to other nations. Are they:

  • Türkiye (50 weapons);

  • Italy (40 weapons);

  • Belgium (20 guns);

  • Germany (20 guns);

  • Netherlands (20 guns).

Read too: Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPAN)

Possible consequences of a Third World War

To get an idea of ​​the destructive power of nuclear weapons, ICAN has laid out an alarming estimate that if a nuclear weapon were launched at this time towards the city of New York, in the United States, the number of lives lost would be 583,160, almost 7% of its population. Then, a Third World War with the use of nuclear weapons would have devastating consequences for humanity.

Analysts indicate that it would be a quick but catastrophic conflict, with millions of fatalities and an equal or greater number of areas completely destroyed.

The Third World War would also have as a consequence the deepening economic, health and supply crises, notably food, affecting mainly the less economically developed nations. The diplomatic rupture between countries and the creation of disputes that did not exist until then would happen, leading to the isolation of certain nations and the imposition of political and economic sanctions against them, a measure that has already been adopted in this type of confrontation, usually before or after being triggered.

The number of survivors who would be forced to leave their place of origin would be quite high, as well as the number of refugees of war who would seek asylum in other territories.

By Paloma Guitarrara
Geography Teacher
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