World War 3: Seven times it has been wrongly declared or predicted

Moscow’s remark echo a string of previous sinister predictions

Emily Atkinson
Tuesday 06 September 2022 09:29 BST
Russian state TV presenter says war in Ukraine 'has already escalated into World War 3'

The day after Moscow suffered a symbolic defeat with the sinking of its Black Sea fleet flagship, Moskva, a prominent Russian state TV presenter said: “One can safely call what it has escalated into World War III. That’s absolutely for sure.”

In a bitter diatribe seemingly aimed at explaining away Russia’s slow progress in Ukraine, the Rossiya 1 star and household propaganist Olga Skabeyeva implored her viewers to “recognise” the country was now “fighting against Nato infrastructure, if not Nato itself”.

She added: “Many are saying ‘could it not be done more quickly?’ Everyone wants it to happen more quickly. Everyone would like a conclusive victory. Everyone would like all the objectives set to be implemented.

“Otherwise, on the whole, it’s impossible to accept the special operation which we started - Russia’s special operation in Ukraine.”

The loss of the Moskva - claimed by Ukraine to have been struck by its Neptune missiles - dealt a fresh blow to the Kremlin’s offensive as it prepares for a new assault in the eastern Donbas region, which has been touted as the defining moment for the outcome of the conflict.

But Ms Skabeyeva’s dire conjecture of Western intervention inciting the next major international conflict echoed a string of previous sinister predictions of world war, from Cold War propaganda to Elon Musk citing artificial intelligence as the harbinger of global fighting.

Here is anabridged timeline of the world wars that were not.

16th Century: Followers of Nostradamus claim World War III to arrive ‘within the next several years’

Yes, surely the earliest supposed prediction of World War Three predated the first two by several hundred years.

Devotees of the 16th century astrologer, physician and reputed seer Nostradamus claim that his book, Les Prophéties - a collection of 942 poetic quatrains - claimed to foresee future events and predict that WWIII could erupt “within the next several years”.

His supporters also claim that the Frenchman envisioned both of the world wars in the 20th century.

Nostradomus specialist, Bobby Shailer, told WION News last year: “Nostradamus believes it will be a great protracted war, 25 to 29 years, followed by lesser battles.”

Academics, however, have long poured cold water on the supposedly ‘prophetic’ writings of Nostradamus.

1950: US poll finds half of Americans consider World War III to have started

Amid simmering tensions between the US and the Soviet Union, a Gallup poll in December 1950 found that more than half of Americans considered World War III to have already started.

The alarming survey arrived during during the height of the Cold War, from around 1948-53, and a year after the Soviets exploded their first atomic warhead in 1949, bringing an end to America’s monopoly on the atomic bomb.

2016: Trump predicts US will end up in WWIII over Syria if it ‘listens to Hillary Clinton’

Just days before his 2016 US presidential election victory, Donald Trump warned: “You’re going to end up in World War III over Syria if we listen to Hillary Clinton.”

Ms Clinton’s suggestion of implementing a no-fly zone to protect its beleaguered civilians was criticised by Mr Trump as risking confrontation with “nuclear” Russia.

“You’re not fighting Syria anymore, you’re fighting Syria, Russia and Iran, all right?” Trump explained.

“Russia is a nuclear country, but a country where the nukes work as opposed to other countries that talk.”

2017: Elon Musk claims AI could prompt next global conflict

Following comments from Russian president Vladimir Putin on the future of artificial intelligence, Elon Musk warned that AI could be humanity’s greatest existential threat, this time by starting a third world war.

Tweeting at 2.33am Los Angeles time on 4 September 2017, Musk hailed the beginning of a potential end to the world.

It followed a statement from Mr Putin, in which he claimed “artificial intelligence is the future, not only for Russia, but for all humankind … It comes with colossal opportunities, but also threats that are difficult to predict. Whoever becomes the leader in this sphere will become the ruler of the world.”

Musk continued: “China, Russia, soon all countries w strong computer science. Competition for AI superiority at national level most likely cause of WW3 imo.

“May be initiated not by the country leaders, but one of the AI’s, if it decides that a prepemptive strike is most probable path to victory.”

2019: Trump suggests Obama’s handling of North Korea would have led to ‘World War III’

Yes, him again. During a period of heightened tension between North Korea and the United States, then-president Donald Trump talked up his relationship with its supreme leader and claimed that Barack Obama would have lead the US into a world war had he still been in office.

“I’m possibly the only one he has that kind of relationship with in the world. They call it the Hermit Kingdom. I know a lot about his Hermit Kingdom,” Mr Trump proclaimed during Nato summit in London.

“But I have a very good relationship. If you would’ve listened to President Obama, we’ll be in World War III right now.”

Speaking at a meeting with the the military alliance’s secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg, Trump was asked about recent missile tests conducted by the east Asian country and revived his old nickname for Kim Jong-Un.

“I have confidence in him. I like him, he likes me, we have a good relationship. We’ll see what happens. He definitely likes sending rockets up, doesn’t he? That’s why I call him Rocket Man,” the president said.

“But we have a very good relationship and we’ll see what happens. It may work out, it may not, but in the meantime it’s been a long time.”

2022: Former Ukrainian PM claims World War III has already begun

Almost three weeks into Russia’s invasion of its neighbour, Ukraine’s former prime minister told The Independent that a third world war had “already started” and countries must impose full sanctions on Russia and enforce a no-fly zone.

Speaking from his hometown of Vinnytsia, central Ukraine, Volodymyr Groysman also claimed that his country was the “only defence” for Europe against Russia’s advance west.

“This has already been started by Putin and right now there is only Ukraine in his way [stopping him from] marching east to west,” Mr Groysman said.

“Thanks to Ukrainian soldiers he is being defeated for now. But Putin hates all democratic countries; his aim is to diminish us all. He has started moving from east to west. Ukraine just happens to be the first country on his way.”

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