Vincent Lyn
13 min readDec 14, 2023

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IS THE THIRD WORLD WAR ALREADY UNDERWAY?

By Akmaral Batalova and edited by Vincent Lyn

An abridged interpretation of an article published in The Theory Journal (Turkey)

Causes of Wars

In summarizing the developments of 2023, it is evident from compelling evidence that new centers of power are emerging amid ongoing global changes, signaling the decline of the unipolar world. The inception of these power dynamics is instigating and will continue to fuel conflicts. The root of these tumultuous processes lies in the United States’ reluctance and incapacity to acknowledge the erosion of its global hegemonic role.

Prominent nations such as Russia, China, Iran, India, along with regional leaders like Turkey and Saudi Arabia, as well as the governments of Africa and Central Asia, are no longer content with merely aligning with the United States’ global interests, as outlined in Washington’s doctrinal documents. Instead, they aspire to assert their independent voices in addressing international issues and demand recognition of their national sovereignty. This inherent contradiction lays the groundwork for potential wars or a second, and hopefully conclusive, wave of decolonization.

The ongoing wars are fueled by competition for global resources and spheres of influence among the emerging power centers. Regrettably, these conflicts have become the regrettable yet seemingly inevitable means of addressing longstanding issues that persist despite the advancements of modern technology and AI. Even in this era, the resolution of matters still, unfortunately, relies on the application of military force.

Illustrating this point is the conflict in Transcaucasia, exemplified by the war between Azerbaijan and Armenia concerning Nagorno-Karabakh. Additionally, the ongoing tensions include the conflict between NATO and Russia in Ukraine, and the sustained hostilities between the Israeli army and Palestinian resistance forces in the Gaza Strip.

A notable instance of protracted disregard for UN resolutions is the situation in Azerbaijan, where Armenian-Karabakh troops have occupied seven regions for over 30 years. The failure to implement the UN resolution, which calls for the immediate, complete, and unconditional withdrawal of occupying forces, coupled with the challenge of repatriating Azerbaijani refugees and the persistent deferral of addressing the core issue — the status of Nagorno-Karabakh — has led to a situation where Baku, backed by strong support from Turkey, has been compelled to pursue a forceful resolution to the Karabakh matter.

The West’s persistent disregard for Russia’s apprehensions regarding escalating threats to its national security from NATO, along with Ukraine losing its neutral status following the 2014 coup orchestrated by the United States, prompted Moscow to initiate a special military operation, subsequently evolving into a conflict in the heart of Europe.

Similarly, in the case of the Gaza Strip, Israel’s neglect of the Palestinians’ aspirations for their own sovereign state, the absence of substantial improvements in the enclave’s conditions post the Abraham Accords, provocations at the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the forced displacement of Palestinian families from East Jerusalem, and Netanyahu’s UN General Assembly speech in September, where he presented a map of the Middle East excluding Palestine, compelled HAMAS to elevate the issue of establishing an independent Palestinian state to the realm of practical politics.

The end of the unipolar world and the threat of nuclear war

Regarding the parties involved in the conflict, it appears that once a war is underway, halting it becomes nearly impossible. Negotiations typically commence only when one of the parties starts facing setbacks. Until then, there exists a prevailing illusion of victory. However, eventually, all parties will need to come to the table and establish the rules for the game in the new world. Meanwhile, the ongoing process of determining these rules is in progress.

The military conflicts witnessed since the start of the twenty-first century have the potential to escalate from local disputes to a global scale, possibly leading to the outbreak of the third world war. A growing concern is the increasing number of countries expressing intentions to acquire nuclear weapons. Beyond military experts, ordinary individuals reading news about countries withdrawing from arms control treaties may harbor an unconscious fear and a sense of anxiety. The perception that the world has become unhinged due to an unlimited proliferation of weapons is exacerbated by a plethora of opinions and forecasts, not always professional, circulating on the internet and social networks. Official news does little to alleviate concerns.

For instance, on the same day that the Russian State Duma passed a law annulling the ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, information surfaced on the internet about the US Department of Energy reporting underground tests conducted at the Nevada test site, previously used for nuclear weapons testing. Preceding this, the US military declared its intent to develop a new nuclear bomb, surpassing the power of the one dropped on Hiroshima in August 1945 by more than 20 times.

Nevada National Security Site tunnel where nuclear weapons test took place

Indeed, the United States conducted examinations of the global monitoring system, equipped with seismic sensors capable of swiftly detecting indications not only of earthquakes and natural disasters but also of human-made disasters and emergency incidents. These tests aim to simulate a nuclear explosion, allowing for the anticipation and prevention of its potential consequences. It appears that the inaccurate information about the supposed nuclear test at the Nevada test site may have stemmed from such simulations. Had an actual test occurred, the global response would likely have been different, with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) playing a significant role.

In a similar vein, during the onset of the Ukrainian war last year, certain individuals in Russia, led by a controversial State Duma deputy, issued threats to the world involving an inflatable Sarmat rocket. More recently, Israeli Heritage Minister Eliyahu openly acknowledged Tel Aviv’s possession of nuclear weapons, even suggesting the possibility of deploying a nuclear bomb on the Gaza Strip. Upon encountering such news, an ordinary individual may perceive the looming inevitability of a nuclear catastrophe.

Recently, the Turkish president has urged for the control of Israel’s nuclear weapons “before it is too late,” thereby intensifying the discourse on the public acknowledgment of Israel’s possession of nuclear arms. Erdogan’s statement coincided with the UN conference on establishing a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East, held in New York. Regrettably, Israel remains indifferent to discussions regarding the prohibition of weapons of mass destruction.

View of the Israeli nuclear facility in the Negev desert outside Dimona

Nonetheless, there is a crucial ongoing dialogue aimed at fostering trust among the countries in the region. Initiated in 2018 under the auspices of the United Nations after years of unsuccessful attempts, this dialogue seeks to advance a ban on the use of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East. Achieving this objective is undoubtedly challenging without the active participation of Israel and the United States, both of which have repeatedly blocked the adoption of relevant resolutions in the UN Security Council. However, the difficulty of the task does not diminish its significance. Furthermore, it’s evident that the UN’s agenda may not be featured prominently in the news consumed by individuals such as a Turkish businessman or a Kazakh livestock breeder. Nevertheless, this doesn’t imply a lack of concern for the future. The collective sentiments, whether positive or negative, contribute to a general tension since we all inhabit the same interconnected energy space of the Earth, ultimately influencing events and the course of history.

Nuclear war must not happen

The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), a pivotal agreement in the realm of international security and strategic stability, has effectively maintained peace for several decades since its signing in 1968. Presently, 190 countries are party to the NPT, with notable exceptions including Israel, India, Pakistan, and South Sudan. North Korea withdrew from the NPT in 2003, citing it as a protest against the violation of its sovereignty. The nuclear powers stemming from the USSR, including Russia, and the United States have ratified the NPT.

However, there have been recent developments challenging the commitment to non-proliferation. Russia, for instance, withdrew its ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), while the United States has not ratified it at all. Moscow’s decision was a response to the U.S. withdrawal from various bilateral treaties and the cancellation of the “nuclear deal” with Iran. Consequently, this has led to an increased temptation for other countries to pursue nuclear weapons. The central tenet of the NPT, focused on curbing the nuclear arms race, appears challenging to enforce. Nevertheless, this does not imply that the international community lacks mechanisms to mitigate such risks.

Hence, building upon the framework of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), over 93 countries signed and 69, constituting more than one-third of the world’s states, ratified the Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone (NWFZ) agreement — the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in 2017. Under this treaty, signatory nations commit to “never and under no circumstances” develop, test, produce, or stockpile nuclear weapons. Additionally, they pledge not to use or threaten to use such weapons and are barred from hosting nuclear weapons of other states on their territories.

It’s noteworthy that the “nuclear club” members — the United States, Russia, China, Great Britain, France, India, Pakistan, North Korea, and Israel — opted not to participate in developing this document. In fact, the United States, Great Britain, and France jointly declared their intention never to become parties to the treaty. Russia, too, declined to sign, citing that it contradicts the national interests of the country.

The United Nations General Assembly First Committee meets to discuss the historic 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. “Nuclear club” members — United States, China, Russia, Great Britain, France, India, Pakistan, North Korea and Israel — opted not to participate.

Regrettably, the simultaneous dismantling of nuclear weapons alone will not address the challenges of global strategic security. Despite their terrifying capabilities, it may seem paradoxical, but the possession of nuclear weapons by two major powers, the United States and the USSR, served as a deterrent, helping humanity avert World War III in the 20th century.

It is evident that the contemporary international relations system operates not on trust and a sense of responsibility but rather on the display of military might and the fear of mutual destruction. However, this reality should not undermine the exploration of mechanisms and concepts that can contribute to halting the nuclear arms race in the future. As nuclear powers, currently engaged in the reconfiguration of spheres of influence, inevitably come to the negotiation table, discussions must revolve around determining the future structure of the world, the role of weapons of mass destruction, measures to deter their use, and, more broadly, the establishment of a global architecture of indivisible security.

The War of Meanings

The growing number of global military conflicts, the disregard for international laws by various actors, and the rapid dissemination of battlefield information to the public contribute to a heightened fear of an impending Third World War. Simultaneously, there is a sense of inevitability surrounding it.

In reality, the conflict is already underway, but it takes the form of a war of meanings. This is evident in the widespread involvement of countries, global media coverage, and numerous mass demonstrations worldwide in support of Palestine.

In the past, Israeli authorities supported the establishment of HAMAS, initially presented as a charitable organization focused on religious education and social assistance. Tel Aviv perceived the Palestine Liberation Organization, led by Yasser Arafat and encompassing both Muslims and Christians with the goal of national independence, as a greater threat to Israel. Consequently, HAMAS was created and empowered in the Gaza Strip by the CIA and Israel to splinter the national movement for the liberation of Palestine. In essence, Netanyahu and the far-right Zionists he represents have consistently needed an enemy to justify the demolition of Palestinian villages and the construction of new Jewish settlements in the occupied territories.

Simultaneously, one cannot dismiss Elon Musk’s statement during his interview with Lex Friedman, where he mentioned that “by killing one child in Gaza, you have made several people HAMAS militants at once, who will then die just to kill an Israeli.”

This perspective also applies to the victims of HAMAS, as each casualty can fuel a desire for revenge among Jews. Even in Israeli media outlets like Yedioth Ahronoth and Haaretz, unsettling investigations have been published, revealing instances where Israeli security forces were implicated in shooting and causing harm to Israeli settlers in kibbutzim and attendees of music festivals. Unfortunately, these revelations have not halted the escalation of the spiral of hatred.

“Am I for the tank or for the child?”

We also observe condemnation of Israel’s actions from Sunni Turkey, Shiite Iran, the Catholic Vatican, and Orthodox Russia. The resonance of the Palestinian issue worldwide, involving people of diverse nationalities and faiths, goes beyond considerations of land, nationality, religion, or statehood. The Palestinian cause has become a universal moral benchmark, a matter of justice. The image of a child with a stone confronting an Israeli tank, symbolizing Palestinian resistance, now serves as a litmus test for human ethics. For any rational individual, the question isn’t “Am I for HAMAS or for Israel?” but rather, “Am I for a tank or for a child?” The prevailing choice leans towards the child.

Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan rightly pointed out that “Remaining silent in the face of Israel’s lawlessness in Gaza is tantamount to giving the green light to violations of the law in other parts of the world.” He is correct; impunity breeds corruption. Although expectations were high for the joint summit of the Arab League and the OIC, the presence of an American flotilla with over 60 ships and three aircraft carriers in the Mediterranean at that time made it unrealistic to anticipate a positive, pro-Palestinian resolution from the “Arab brothers” under such coercive circumstances.

Changes in public opinion

The only factor capable of influencing the situation in Gaza is the global populace’s reaction, manifested through widespread protests numbering in the thousands. Shifts in attitudes towards Israel are also noticeable in the United States. Even before October 7, major corporate media outlets, traditionally viewed as not entirely impartial, began adjusting their tone in discussions surrounding the Palestinian issue. Presently, Palestinian perspectives find space on the front pages of publications like “The New York Times” and “The Washington Post,” and Palestinian voices are featured on television channels.

Globally, organizations with names akin to “Not On My Name” are emerging, predominantly comprising young Jews who are incensed by Israel’s policies. It appears that following the conflict in Gaza, their ranks will likely swell.

Over the past three to four years, prominent international human rights organizations like Amnesty International and The Human Rights Watch, alongside key Israeli human rights entities such as B’Tselem and others, have increasingly addressed the Palestinian issue. They have concluded that Israel is in violation of the international Covenant and anti-apartheid laws. These organizations have acknowledged that Palestinian refugees or exiles, residing globally and denied their internationally guaranteed right to return to their homes, are also victims of the crime of apartheid.

This acknowledgment has had a profound impact on public opinion within the media, among members of Congress, and among the clergy. The rise of the Jewish Voice for Peace movement is also noteworthy. It is currently the fastest-growing movement, boasting around 20,000 subscribers and approximately 300,000 regular supporters online, an unprecedented development that carries significant importance.

The brutal actions of the Israeli Defence Forces against the civilian population of Gaza have galvanized legal associations from around the world, forming an army of over 300 lawyers and human rights defenders. They are gearing up to accuse the Netanyahu government of war crimes, a move mirrored by certain states.

In the midst of this, Palestinian Christians are urging their Muslim compatriots to unite and avoid turning the struggle for a national state into a religious war, recognizing the potential harm to their common cause. Within Israel, there are factions both in favor of and against the continuation of the war. Those advocating for a just and peaceful resolution for both peoples, calling for an end to the endless and senseless violence that is undermining the future of both Israelis and Palestinians, exist on both sides. The destiny of living side by side with mutual recognition of their human and national rights seems to have been overshadowed by a prevailing sentiment reminiscent of Cain, the biblical figure who was the first to shed his brother’s blood thousands of years ago.

Numerous countries worldwide endorse adherence to the UN resolution calling for the creation of two states and the return of Palestine to its 1967 borders. However, practical questions arise. Would Jordan and Egypt be amenable to altering their current borders in this scenario? Additionally, how would the more than 700,000 foreign settlers, residing in illegally constructed Israeli “kibbutzim” for decades, be addressed? Some Palestinians and Israelis suggest an alternative approach: establishing a single state, named the Holy Land, with Jerusalem as its capital — a proposition that resonates with the shared heritage of three world religions.

“Gaza is not a humanitarian crisis, it is a crisis of humanity”

“Gaza is not a humanitarian crisis; it is a crisis of humanity,” asserted China’s representative to the UN, and his words hold truth.

The rapid and dramatic global transformation necessitates the urgent establishment of a new system of international relations and treaties. This system should ensure that current circumstances leading to the outbreak of wars do not result in irreparable consequences. There is a pressing need to restore and fortify moral norms across all aspects of human activity, including in the realm of international relations and mass media. It is particularly crucial to institutionalize ethical values within politics.

The resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict holds the potential to shape the historical trajectory of human development. The choice between continuing down the path of hatred, financial gain, and war or opting for the path of peace, forgiveness, and healing is critical. It appears that Judgment Day is unfolding on Earth at this very moment, and the destiny of the entire world hinges on the inner choices made by each of us.

Akmaral Batalova

Akmaral Bаtalova is an expert in the Middle East, a film producer and a humanitarian activist. Akmaral was born in Almaty, Kazakhstan, graduated from the Mass Media Faculty of Kazakh State University, the Diplomatic School of Madrid and has a Master’s degree in International Relations from the Complutense University (Spain)

Vincent Lyn

CEO & Founder of We Can Save Children

Deputy Ambassador of International Human Rights Commission (IHRC)

Director of Creative Development at African Views Organization

Economic & Social Council at United Nations (ECOSOC)

Rescue & Recovery Specialist at International Confederation of Police & Security Experts

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Vincent Lyn

CEO-We Can Save Children. Director Creative Development-African Views Organization, ECOSOC at United Nations. International Human Rights Commission (IHRC)