What would WW3 look like?

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Steve Shannon

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My old friend and Rocketry Planet moderator, Aaron Head, posted this in the Ukraine War thread:
I know Estonia has already joined NATO so if Russia attacks them, that'll activate article 5, which would mean WW3. I haven't looked up the other 2 to see if they're in NATO but I wouldn't be surprised.

It got me thinking; if Russia were stupid enough or suicidal enough to launch a military attack against a NATO country, what do you think would happen? What would be the extent of the retaliation? Measured or overwhelming? Would it truly result in WW3, or a quick and decisive non-nuclear destruction of select Russian interests and a ceasefire? How long would such a war last in either case? Would China or North Korea join in? Why would they?
There’s no doubt the potential could be terrible, but would it really play out that way?
 

Antares JS

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I think it would depend on what the attack consisted of. A few missiles lobbed over the border would demand a response but probably a measured one. Something like a ground invasion would trigger an overwhelming response and full-blown war.

I do not have the knowledge to predict how long such a war would last and whether it would become a true world war 3. I suspect that China and others would only join on Russia's side if the war dragged on, because of China's response to the Ukraine invasion. They are not giving full-blown support to Russia, nor are they participating in any sanctions.

If the war was over and Russia subdued quickly, China would have little to gain and a lot to lose by participating since with Russia down, NATO's wrath would be squarely focused on China. However, if the war drags on, unless China remained entirely neutral, providing Russia no economic or material support, I see them inevitably being dragged in.

There is also the simple fact that Russia is extremely likely to use nukes in the case of a NATO ground invasion, as it would be the government's only chance at survival and they know it.

Even in the absence of nuclear conflict, the aftermath of such a conflict with Russia could also be troublesome. Russia is HUGE. There is far too much sheer land mass for an occupier to militarily control, which is part of Russia's strategy to defend against invasion. It seems likely to me that unless NATO could find a way to occupy and control all that territory as was done to Germany and Japan at the end of WW2, the end of the war would result in Russia crumbling and becoming like China during the civil war, with different warlords occupying chunks of former Russian territory, and NATO would be stuck fighting them off, or leaving and allowing one of these warlords to gain control of the country and/or possible years of civil war, and who knows what the end result of that would be, but I doubt it would be a free and democratic Russia.

Kind of a lot of somewhat disjointed ideas in this post but there are a lot of factors to consider, possibly more than one person could think of on his own.
 

heada

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Assuming a non-nuclear war, I think it would be short and decisive. It would last a few weeks at most.

Within the first 24 hours, all Russian air assets would either be shot down or destroyed on land. The SAM sites (S300 and below) would be removed by F-35s as they're nearly invisible to their RADARs. Not sure about the S400 based systems but since the S400 is a missile upgrade but not a RADAR upgrade, it would more than likely be ineffective against the F-35 as well. In the first week, all naval assets would be attacked and either damaged or sunk. That leaves cruise missiles and land attack. The land attack would be very short if at all because of full air superiority. Cruise missiles could be effective against locations without a SAM network but everything that Russia lobbed at NATO could be returned 5 fold and they know it.

In the end, Russia would lose horribly and they know it. They would never risk an attack against a NATO country unless they're willing to go nuclear and then all population centers world-wide would be glowing ash heaps.

"The only winning move is not to play."
 

Zeus-cat

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Actually fighting wars is damned expensive. What has the US paid for Vietnam, middle east and Afghanistan? Serious money and very little to show for it. Russia has no way to pay for a major, prolonged conflict. I suspect that the Ukraine debacle will hamper their military readiness for a very long time.

Can the Chinese afford to have the world stop buying their stuff by starting a war or supporting one against the west? The west is addicted to cheap Chinese goods and I suspect the Chinese are just as addicted to selling us that stuff.
 

heada

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I think in a WW3 situation of Russia v. NATO, China would remain neutral. The risk of trade sanctions is too great to their economy. I think it is 100% of the reason they haven't supported Russia now. They have done nothing to protect their economy if sanctions were imposed and it would take years if not decades to get to the point where they would be prepared.

N.Korea may want to try to get into things but if we (The US) were to park an aircraft carrier off their coast, they'd calm down right fast.
 

boatgeek

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I think that it's highly unlikely that NATO would send ground troops across the border. That would be a request for the buckets of instant sunshine to start flying. That said...

I think the big thing that we would see is the difference that an effective air force and combined arms assault can make. Given the performance of Russian forces so far, I can't see it ending well for Russia. I would also expect that NATO ground troops and air power would enter the war in Ukraine and fairly rapidly turn the tide there. Any Russian air defense systems, supply dumps, or command headquarters within a hundred or so miles of a NATO country (or Ukraine) would be at extreme risk from air attack. Any Russian troops within a dozen or so miles of a NATO country (or Ukraine) would be at extreme risk from air attack. I would not want to be in a ground forces division entering a NATO country.

NATO would suffer losses too, but I'd guess that they would be far less than the Russians' mainly because of the technological difference in the armed forces.

End game-wise, I think it's likely that Ukraine would regain Crimea and the rest of its territorial integrity. I think it's likely that Russia's armed forces would be humiliated and substantially destroyed. At that point, Putin has very few options. He might get deposed (and likely shot) by the generals. The generals might refuse to launch nukes if ordered (likely leading to the first option). Or they might launch nukes and God help us all.

I don't see China entering the war or trying to invade Taiwan. China can see which way the wind is blowing right now, and it's not in their favor to back a losing horse. The war in Russia will primarily be a land and air war, and a hypothetical defense of Taiwan will be a naval war. A couple of carrier groups and a few Seawolf subs would make a hash of a naval force trying to cross to Taiwan. That said, I wouldn't rule out loss of a carrier or other major combatant. I just don't think that would lead to a successful invasion.

This opinion worth exactly what you paid for it.

We'll be home by Christmas. [Yes I know how many wars that was applied to and how rarely it was accurate]
 

dhbarr

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I think we'd find out just how many weapons systems are already on orbit, but I could die happy never knowing.

It's nice, however, to hope there's a response somewhere between "let them have Tallinn" and "let them have Trinitite".
 

cwbullet

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I think that it's highly unlikely that NATO would send ground troops across the border. That would be a request for the buckets of instant sunshine to start flying. That said...

I think the big thing that we would see is the difference that an effective air force and combined arms assault can make. Given the performance of Russian forces so far, I can't see it ending well for Russia. I would also expect that NATO ground troops and air power would enter the war in Ukraine and fairly rapidly turn the tide there. Any Russian air defense systems, supply dumps, or command headquarters within a hundred or so miles of a NATO country (or Ukraine) would be at extreme risk from air attack. Any Russian troops within a dozen or so miles of a NATO country (or Ukraine) would be at extreme risk from air attack. I would not want to be in a ground forces division entering a NATO country.

NATO would suffer losses too, but I'd guess that they would be far less than the Russians' mainly because of the technological difference in the armed forces.

End game-wise, I think it's likely that Ukraine would regain Crimea and the rest of its territorial integrity. I think it's likely that Russia's armed forces would be humiliated and substantially destroyed. At that point, Putin has very few options. He might get deposed (and likely shot) by the generals. The generals might refuse to launch nukes if ordered (likely leading to the first option). Or they might launch nukes and God help us all.

I don't see China entering the war or trying to invade Taiwan. China can see which way the wind is blowing right now, and it's not in their favor to back a losing horse. The war in Russia will primarily be a land and air war, and a hypothetical defense of Taiwan will be a naval war. A couple of carrier groups and a few Seawolf subs would make a hash of a naval force trying to cross to Taiwan. That said, I wouldn't rule out loss of a carrier or other major combatant. I just don't think that would lead to a successful invasion.

This opinion worth exactly what you paid for it.

We'll be home by Christmas. [Yes I know how many wars that was applied to and how rarely it was accurate]

I agree. Russia is no Match for the US. China would have a tough time, but sheer numbers might hurt us badly.
 

shockie

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My old friend and Rocketry Planet moderator, Aaron Head, posted this in the Ukraine War thread:


It got me thinking; if Russia were stupid enough or suicidal enough to launch a military attack against a NATO country, what do you think would happen? What would be the extent of the retaliation? Measured or overwhelming? Would it truly result in WW3, or a quick and decisive non-nuclear destruction of select Russian interests and a ceasefire? How long would such a war last in either case? Would China or North Korea join in? Why would they?
There’s no doubt the potential could be terrible, but would it really play out that way?
If Russia is stupid enough( and they just might be) to attack any of the Baltic 3 with conventional weapons, Nato would probably respond in kind.

Based upon their non-performace militarily against Ukraine, it seems to me this would be the 2nd stupidest thing they've done recently.

But in today's world, stupidity abounds,( just look at the USA), stupid is as stupid does.

If the tactical nukes start flying g, it will just be a matter of time before the city busters start flying, and then it's all over.

The roaches will survive and roach people will then evolve and rule the earth.
 

boatgeek

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The roaches were the only thing to survive the dinosaur extinction supposedly, so we are roach people.
Sharks, horsetail, and ginkgos all made it through the last dinosaur extinction. I'm pretty sure we're descended from small mammals that survived as well.
 

Woody's Workshop

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If the USA got into another global conflict, we would, shortly into it go to drastic measures like we did at the end of WWII to shorten the war, save lives and of course, save printing money at light speed. I would expect first strike would be either germ or chemical, followed by storm bombing. And if that didn't result in the end, the end would start for us all.
Our technical advancement has way surpassed our global equality, and the only winners there will be are the owners of the companies that manufacture war materials.
All the while our political leaders give orders from secure bunkers under a mountain where they can view everything in real time.
We are all just pawns of power by money...
 

teepot

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My concern about nukes flying has to do with Putin's health. Both mental and physical. I had a conversation with a psychiatrist about Putin. He agreed with me that Putin is a psychopath. There are also reports that he is sick physically. If he goes completely crazy or is going to die, he might decide to take everyone with him. If Putin attacked a NATO country I think that what ever forces are at the point of contact would do the fighting mostly themselves with air support. It would be over quickly. I doubt we would even fire one cruise missile into Russia for fear of a nuclear response.
 

Dotini

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Violent conflict at a global level is probably inevitable due to irreconcilable differences in government (democracy vs authority) and religion. But I think strategic nuclear war, a la Dr Strangelove, has become impracticable and obsolete for a variety of reasons. So I see WW3 as already taking place in the forms you see: regional military conflicts and global economic conflicts.

An unconfirmed Russian cyberattack resulting in a Texas LNG facility going down for months:
https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/did-russian-hackers-blow-up-a-texas-lng-pipeline
 
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PhilC

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NATO's doctrine is one of flexible response, i.e. response in kind. In the first couple of days I'd expect to see delaying actions by in-situ forces to blunt the attack. After that I'd expect to see a lot of conventional forces reinforcing them to eject Russian forces. There would be lots of cyber activity by Russia on critical national infrastructure to try to degrade NATO & allies, and inevitably similar measures by NATO countries on Russia.
I think it very likely that, after full warnings to Russia, air attacks would be sanctioned inside Russia (and probably Belarus) on strategic targets such as HQ, airfields, transportation hubs and supply dumps. This might be the moment of maximum risk as Russia would see its sovereignty and territorial integrity under threat (which is rich given the way they've kicked other nations around for years).

After a few weeks, with allied forces showing numerical and technological superiority, Russian forces will have been ejected. I suspect that NATO leaders will call a halt at the Russian border rather than play into Putin's hands.

I don't think a nuclear exchange is likely, or even the use of tactical nuclear weapons. Putin seems to calculate his moves and I think he knows that it would be a no-win scenario. I rather think that China will come down firmly on the fence as they have nothing to gain, but a lot to lose, by choosing sides.
 

Arnie

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Actually fighting wars is damned expensive. What has the US paid for Vietnam, middle east and Afghanistan? Serious money and very little to show for it. Russia has no way to pay for a major, prolonged conflict. I suspect that the Ukraine debacle will hamper their military readiness for a very long time.

Can the Chinese afford to have the world stop buying their stuff by starting a war or supporting one against the west? The west is addicted to cheap Chinese goods and I suspect the Chinese are just as addicted to selling us that stuff.
Interesting you mentioned Vietnam. After North "unified" (their words) Vietnam in 1975, I don't remember them (the North) using that as a stepping stone to rampage all through southeast Asia.
 

Arnie

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My concern about nukes flying has to do with Putin's health. Both mental and physical. I had a conversation with a psychiatrist about Putin. He agreed with me that Putin is a psychopath. There are also reports that he is sick physically. If he goes completely crazy or is going to die, he might decide to take everyone with him. If Putin attacked a NATO country I think that what ever forces are at the point of contact would do the fighting mostly themselves with air support. It would be over quickly. I doubt we would even fire one cruise missile into Russia for fear of a nuclear response.

I wonder if your psychiatrist had any other "off the cuff" analyses about other current politicians
 

Zeus-cat

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Interesting you mentioned Vietnam. After North "unified" (their words) Vietnam in 1975, I don't remember them (the North) using that as a stepping stone to rampage all through southeast Asia.

My point was that we didn't win and the cost at home was tremendous. I won't say it wasn't worth it as the situation is/was incredibly complex. Was the Domino Theory ever a communist plan, or western propaganda?

The good news is that Vietnam is slowly turning to at least limited capitalism and we are holding small scale naval operations with them to counter Chinese aggression in the South China Sea.
 

teepot

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No. We were only talking about Putin's mental health. Our talk didn't include politics. This particular psychiatrist is nationally recognized as one of the top in his field. I doubt his comment was " of the cuff ".
 

Arnie

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My point was that we didn't win and the cost at home was tremendous. I won't say it wasn't worth it as the situation is/was incredibly complex. Was the Domino Theory ever a communist plan, or western propaganda?

The good news is that Vietnam is slowly turning to at least limited capitalism and we are holding small scale naval operations with them to counter Chinese aggression in the South China Sea.
My point is this. No matter how horrifying Putin's approach to foreign policy is I seriously doubt that he has any designs beyond "uniting" all the former breakaway republics that constituted the old Soviet Union AND Russia, which if you measure it is no more "horrifying " than North Vietnam "uniting" Vietnam by overrunning the South in 1975. Just think how much United States treasure and blood was spent to fruitlessly prevent that: it ought to make you reconsider the billions that the U.S. has sent to Ukraine
 
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Steve Shannon

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My point is this. No matter how horrifying Putin's approach to foreign policy is I seriously doubt that he has any designs beyond "uniting" all the former breakaway republics that constituted the old Soviet Union AND Russia, which if you measure it is no more "horrifying " than North Vietnam "uniting" Vietnam by overrunning the South in 1975. Just think how much United States treasure and blood was spent to fruitlessly prevent that: it ought to make you reconsider the billions that the U.S. has sent to Ukraine
I forked this discussion from the Ukraine War discussion so that the Ukraine war discussion would be separate. Please demonstrate similar respect and keep your Ukraine war discussion there.
 

Arnie

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I forked this discussion from the Ukraine War discussion so that the Ukraine war discussion would be separate. Please demonstrate similar respect and keep your Ukraine war discussion there.
Okay. Since I'm restricting from posting to that section of the forum, (restricted without a reason given) I guess I'll just smugly watch events enfold in silence
 

teepot

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I think if WW3 was in the opening stage. That is before missiles start flying. There would be cyber attacks. All the state sponsored hacking going on that we hear about is likely only the tip of the ice burg. Probably some dormant stuff left behind or back doors made. Take away the other guys eyes and ears. Turn off the electricity. Just reek havoc with anything computerized. Cause enough trouble and you might not have to use nukes. You might be able to hold a whole country that way. If WW3 turned into a nuclear exchange I think there would be areas that were untouched. Countries or parts of countries that survive initially because the fallout was washed out of the air by rain. Russia has more than 7000 warheads, the US more than 6000, China a few thousand I think. I don't see even 10% of the total being used. More like 2 or 3%. That is still enough for it to be a global catastrophe, but I don't think it would mean extinction of the human race. The human race might be knocked back to the early 1800's but would survive. Maybe something between Mad Max and The Postman.
 

Marc_G

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I think if WW3 was in the opening stage. That is before missiles start flying. There would be cyber attacks. All the state sponsored hacking going on that we hear about is likely only the tip of the ice burg. Probably some dormant stuff left behind or back doors made. Take away the other guys eyes and ears. Turn off the electricity. Just reek havoc with anything computerized. Cause enough trouble and you might not have to use nukes. You might be able to hold a whole country that way. If WW3 turned into a nuclear exchange I think there would be areas that were untouched. Countries or parts of countries that survive initially because the fallout was washed out of the air by rain. Russia has more than 7000 warheads, the US more than 6000, China a few thousand I think. I don't see even 10% of the total being used. More like 2 or 3%. That is still enough for it to be a global catastrophe, but I don't think it would mean extinction of the human race. The human race might be knocked back to the early 1800's but would survive. Maybe something between Mad Max and The Postman.
Oh, god. Anything but The Postman.
 
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