In a recent interview, former Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev declared that the world is once again preparing for a global conflict. Gorbachev’s thoughts are foreboding as instability is rising globally. The Syrian conflict is nearing its sixth full year. Britain voted to exit the European Union, leaving behind a weakened and extremely fragile conglomeration of nations. Refugees from the Syrian civil war continue to flood into Southern Europe. Russia has made many recent moves to reclaim land and influence in Georgia, the Ukraine and other parts of Eastern Europe. US President Trump has officially implemented an executive order banning immigration from Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Syria, Somalia, Libya and Yemen and completely barring America to all Syrian refugees. President Trump also signed orders to begin construction of the Mexican wall that he assures the American people will ultimately be paid for by Mexicans themselves. In the Pacific, China continues its economic rise assisted greatly by America’s withdrawal from the Trans Pacific Partnership, designed to counter China’s dominance in the region. North Korea, meanwhile, advances its weaponry.
2017 European elections are also nerve-racking. Right wing parties in Germany and France are destined for success. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, long-time pro-European Union and liberal democracy advocate, is struggling to alter her message to appeal to a rising wave of angry and scared voters. Terrorism in Europe certainly has not helped her case and has led to even more instability and strong polling numbers for right wing populist parties, like the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) party.
This combination of factors appears too great for diplomacy alone to solve. Gorbachev pleaded with Russian leader Vladimir Putin and American President Donald Trump to sit down and work through these conflicts. The possibility of diplomacy fixing these mounting conflicts and tensions appears very slim. Trump has already signed orders demanding huge investment in a massive rearmament. Putin and Xi Jinping, General Secretary of the Communist Party of China, are building up their respective military forces rapidly as well. As troubling as these facts seem, the similarities between Europe in 1912 and 1935 are striking. The world has been at relative peace for the last seventy-five years, yet this long run of peace and diplomacy seems bound to explode into a new global conflict. The nature of this conflict, however, will likely be far different from anything the world has seen before. Technology is infinitely more advanced than early 20th century. Before World War I in 1912, the machine gun had just been invented. In 1935, nuclear technology remained a distant scientific fantasy. In 2017, however, many superpower nations have nuclear capabilities great enough to destroy the globe multiple times over. Intelligence and drone capabilities allow countries to pin point and strike targets in any location. Cyber weapons can be used to shut down an entire power grid unexpectedly and unannounced. This combination of technological prowess will lead to a completely different nature of conflict that is terrifying to comprehend.