After Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, many people are wondering whether this indicates a prelude to a Third World War. Considering that Russia is a regional power and an important country in the geopolitical context, and that NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) has a crucial and antagonistic role to the Eurasian country in the security of the Western world, it is normalthat those fears arise.
But those on the possibility of a World War III arising are divergent.
According to Frank Gardner, security correspondent for BBC News, we're not there yet.
As bad as the situation on the border between Ukraine and Russia seems, it does not necessarily involve a conflict between Russia and NATO. The idea that a conflict between the powers would spiral out of control is understood by world leaders with clarity:
"It would be a world war when Americans and Russians start shooting at each other," said U.S. President Joe Biden, who continues to say, as does NATO, that he will not put troops in Ukraine under any circumstances.
Explosions were heard in the capital Kyiv and several other parts of the country throughout Thursday (Feb. 24), and Russian forces are already in Kyiv at this time.
Some experts believe that the conflict is indeed capable of triggering a Third World War. President Vladimir Putin stated in a video that, should any third country decide to interfere in his "special military operation" and attack Russia directly, he will face consequences never before seen in its history. Russia holds one of the largest stocks of nuclear weapons in theworld - a factor also cited by the president before the invasion began - then it is possible to understand what the president's threat might mean.
Young man protesting against the war in Ukraine.
The president further explained that his intention was to "denazify" Ukraine - claiming that the country was being controlled by Nazis and carrying out genocide against ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine, so far without presenting any evidence of this.
The accusation was massively rebuffed. The president of Ukraine himself, in a video declared to Russian citizens, questioned how he could be a Nazi when he is, in fact, a Jew and descendant of Jews.
The Holocaust Museum's twitter account also responded:
"In justifying this attack, Vladimir Putin misrepresented and misappropriated Holocaust history by falsely claiming that Ukraine needs to be "denazified. "The museum's president, Ambassador Stuart Eizenstat, noted that the organization "stands with the Ukrainian people, including the thousands of Holocaust survivors still living in the country."
"These survivors are remnants of one of the largest Jewish populations in pre-war Europe that was almost completely decimated by the Germans in World War II. Having suffered terribly as victims of both Nazism and Communism, Ukrainians today are seeking to realize their democratic yearnings," Eizenstat added.
The Auschwitz Memorial also condemned the Russian invasion.
"At this moment, the free and democratic world must show whether it has learned its lesson after the passivity of the 1930s. Today, it is clear that any symptom of indifference is a sign of complicity," the memorial said in a tweet.
Why didn't NATO strike back?
NATO is a defensive military organization composed of Western countries, created during the Cold War to counter the risk of conflict with the Soviet Union, which was the other great power of the time alongside the United States. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, several republics that were part of the bloc defected to NATO, such as Lithuania, Estonia, Romania, Hungary, Poland andLatvia.
The prospect that Ukraine could also become part of NATO is one of the reasons, according to Putin, why this attack was initiated. The president believes that Russia would suffer an existential risk if Ukraine were accepted into NATO, as this would bring the organization's military troops to its edge.
What could cause the start of World War III?
So far, no NATO country has been directly attacked. If that were to occur, the scenario would escalate, as Article 5 of the NATO treaty obligates the entire Western military alliance to defend any member state that is under attack.
NATO contains 30 countries, among them the United States, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom, Poland, Portugal and Turkey. If one is attacked, all the countries are at war at the same time against the offending country - in this case they would all be against Russia and its possible allies.
Eastern European countries and NATO members such as Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia and Poland are worried that Russian soldiers will not stop in Ukraine. The fear is that the Baltic countries will be attacked under the pretext that Putin is "coming to the rescue" of ethnic Russian minorities. As a means of slowing down the process, NATO has been increasing the number of troops in Eastern European countries.
Doubt about facing a Third World War was also cited within the British parliament. MP Richard Drax felt that in the event of the worst case scenario starting, if Putin decides to bring back the edges of the Cold War, the Baltic countries will be severely threatened.
And as members of NATO, this will trigger a military reaction from the other countries in the association, which would ultimately bring about World War III.
He acknowledges that the possibility is a distant one, but it cannot be disregarded.
"The question is, how far will Putin go? None of us can answer that."