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There is plenty of speculation going on in the world right now that Donald Trump has or will start World War III. The events of the past few weeks, i.e., Trump ordering the assassination of Iranian general Soleimani has done nothing but added fuel to this line of thinking. The thing is, humans have been speculating about World War III since the end of World War II. World War II ended in 1945, yet we’ve been thinking about World War III for 75 years now. The point of this article is to look at other incidents throughout history that were supposed to start World War III. There have been quite a few close call and world-altering events that some people aren’t aware of. I will highlight on what I consider the top 4 incidents.
1. The Korean War 1950–1953
The Korean War was a war between two coalitions fighting for control of the Korean peninsula. On one side, you had a communist coalition consisting of North Korea, China, and the Soviet Union. On the other side was the United States and the United Nations Command. Many, at the time, thought the war would .spill into a larger scale alternate war between China, U.S.A, and the U.S.S.R. CBS war correspondent Bill Downs stated this about the war, “To my mind, the answer is: Yes, Korea is the beginning of World War III. This is only the first battle in a major international struggle, which is now engulfing the far east and the entire world.” Luckily, for us, Downs’s predictions did not come true, and the Korean War only led to the Korean Peninsula being split into North and South Korea. The outcome of this war is still felt today, as North and South Korea are two very distinct countries that are viewed differently by the world.
2. Berlin Crisis 1961
The Berlin crisis was a military confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union at Checkpoint Charlie. Checkpoint Charlie was a crossing point between East Berlin and West Berlin during the cold war. During this crisis, there were numerous American and Soviet tanks and troops at stand off from each other only 100 yards away. The crisis started when the U.S.S.R launched an ultimatum, demanding a withdrawal of all troops from Berlin, including West Berlin, which was the western Allied part. The conflict ended peacefully with an agreement between the U.S. and the Soviets to withdraw troops and decrease the tensions. This standoff ended up in the construction of the Berlin wall, a wall that separated East and West Berlin. The Berlin wall is one of the most iconic images of the cold war period.
3. Cuban Missile Crisis 1962
The Cuban Missile Crisis was another confrontation between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. This confrontation was over the U.S.S.R installing missiles in Cuba. U.S.S.R mounted the missiles because of the U.S. failed bay of pigs invasion. The Bay of Pigs invasion was the U.S. attempt to overthrow Fidel Castro, who was the leader of Cuba at the time. The crisis peaked on October 27, 1962, when three separate incidents occurred all on the same day. All of the events were started by the U.S. military.
a. A Soviet submarine nearly launched a nuclear-tipped torpedo in response to having been targeted by American depth charges in international waters. The nuclear torpedos were not launched due to the cool-headed thinking of Soviet Naval Officer Vasily Arkhipov.
b. The Soviets shot down an American U2 plane that violated Cuban airspace.
c. The near interception of another American U2 plane that strayed into Soviet airspace over Siberia, This airspace violation nearly caused the Soviets to believe the U.S, was about to start bombing the U.S.S.R.
After several days of tense negotiations, an agreement was reached between U.S. President John F. Kennedy and Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev. Publicly, the Soviets would dismantle their weapons in Cuba and return them to the Soviet Union. Secretly, The U.S. agreed to dismantle missiles they installed in Turkey that were pointed at the U.S.S.R. Many believe this incident was the closest the world has ever come to nuclear conflict.
4. Pristina Airport Incident 1999
At the end of the Kosovo war, some 250 Russian peacekeepers occupied the Pristina airport ahead of the arrival of NATO troops. The goal was to secure the arrival of reinforcements over the air. American NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe General Wesley Clark ordered the use of force against the Russians. British Army General Mike Jackson, who was in contact with the Russians during this episode, refused to enforce Clark’s orders. Jackson told Clark, “I’m not going to start the Third World War for you.” Captain James Blunt, who was the lead officer in front of the NATO column, received the order from Clark. Blunt, instead, followed Jackson’s orders to encircle the airfield. Blunt later stated in an interview that even without Jackson’s intervention, he would have refused to follow Clark’s orders.
Mistakes were Made:
These are just four of numerous times that World War III was almost started. In each incident named the U.S. and Russia were involved. There have been other incidents where both nations weren’t directly involved but were involved in a secondary background role if things popped off. If World war III is to occur, eventually, the smart money would say the U.S. and Russia would play some part in the war starting. Given the history, I don’t think the current attack on Iran will lead to World War III. Advanced Nuclear weaponry plays a big key. Nuclear weapons are more readily available now than they were back in World War I and II. Countries don’t want to be responsible for the annihilation of our planet.
We can look throughout history and see that any skirmish or incident that the U.S. and Russia are somehow involved in gets the World War III label. I think the world can calm down with all the World War III memes. Then again, I never believed Trump would be elected U.S. President in the first place, so what do I know.
Originally published at https://mwmblog.com on January 14, 2020.