World War III and Third World War are names given to a hypothetical third worldwide military conflict subsequent to World Wars I and II. The term has been in use since the end of World War II, and was also applied somewhat sarcastically, to describe broad conflicts indirectly involving many countries from different parts of the world, such as the Cold War or the War on Terror.
The War on Terror, also known as the Global War on Terrorism, is a metaphor of war referring to the international military campaign that started after the September 11 attacks on the United States.
World War I, also known as the First World War, or the Great War, was a global war originating in Europe that lasted from 28 July 1914 to 11 November 1918.
The Cold War was a state of political and military tension after World War II between powers in the Western Bloc and powers in the Eastern Bloc.
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Because of the development and use of nuclear weapons near the end of World War II and their subsequent acquisition and deployment by many countries, the potential risk of a nuclear devastation of Earth's civilization and life is a common theme in speculations of a Third World War.
A nuclear weapon is an explosive device that derives its destructive force from nuclear reactions, either fission or a combination of fission and fusion.
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Another major concern is that biological warfare could cause a very large number of casualties, either intentionally or inadvertently by an accidental release of a biological agent, the unexpected mutation of an agent, or its adaptation to other species after use.
Biological warfare —also known as germ warfare—is the use of biological toxins or infectious agents such as bacteria, viruses, and fungi with the intent to kill or incapacitate humans, animals or plants as an act of war.
High-scale apocalyptic events like these, caused by advanced technology used for destruction, could potentially make Earth's surface uninhabitable, what prompts many to believe that after the war, humans would live either in underground facilities or in colonies in space.
World War I was regarded at the time as the "war to end all wars," as it was believed there could never again be another global conflict of such magnitude.
World War II proved that to be false, and with the advent of the Cold War in 1947 and the adoption of nuclear weapons, the possibility of a third global conflict became more plausible.
The perceived threat then decreased with the end of the Cold War in 1991 when the Soviet Union collapsed, leaving the United States as the sole global superpower.
The United States of America, commonly referred to as the United States or America, is a country composed of 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions.
The Soviet Union, officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, abbreviated to USSR, was a socialist state on the Eurasian continent that existed from 1922 to 1991.
A Third World War was anticipated and planned for by military and civil authorities in many countries.
Scenarios ranged from conventional warfare to limited or total nuclear warfare.
Conventional warfare is a form of warfare conducted by using conventional weapons and battlefield tactics between two or more states in open confrontation.
Nuclear warfare is a military conflict or political strategy in which nuclear weaponry is used to inflict damage on the enemy.