Russia, China, US: Are WW3 and Cold War 2 on the cards?

Superpowers clashing, tensions mounting in global hot spots, and a call for Russians to return home.

Terror attacks and domestic issues are fuelling distrust and fears that the world is on the brink of World War III are growing by the day.

While the world is no doubt a dangerous place at the moment, how worried should we really be about war breaking out on a global scale?

University of New South Wales (Canberra) Professor Greg Austin said we have every reason to be alarmed with rising tensions across the Middle East, the Korean peninsula and the Ukraine, news.com.au reported.

Prof Austin, who has a 30-year career in international security affairs, said it was fair to say there were worrying signs of conflict everywhere.

However, the Professorial Fellow with the EastWest Institute (EWI) in New York, said the prospect of a large scale military conflict taking place was certainly some way off.

Prof Austin said the world was seeing definite signs of militarisation particularly in regards to Russia and China.

"There may be a new Cold War but not in the same way as the first," he said.

"Russia and China are co-operating over the Korean peninsula but the bad sign here is they are doing a Trump by trying to make things great again.

"That feeling of being victims is undermining this picture."

Prof Austin said Iraq and Syria was also a major flashpoint between the world powers and no one was surprised when Russia sided with the Syrian government in the conflict.

He said the other concern was Turkey's involvement in northern Syria and Iraq with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan pursuing an irrational and conspiratorial agenda.

"The other big concern is Ukraine, which even though the stand-off is stable, Russia remains intent on punishing its government," he said.

Prof Austin said fears of increasing conflict taking place were fuelled by terrorist attacks in western Europe and in the case of the US, police shootings.

He argued while most of these issues were far from Australia, our government could be playing a lot bigger role in helping to ease the world's tensions.

"Successive Labor governments for example did this like [former foreign minister] Gareth Evans did during the Cambodian conflict," he said.

"Our current PM however doesn't seem as concerned with the world's problems."

Ground crew prepares a Mig 21 fighter jet for a flight during the joint Russian-Serbian military exercises. Photo / AP
Ground crew prepares a Mig 21 fighter jet for a flight during the joint Russian-Serbian military exercises. Photo / AP

'COLD WAR TWO'

Writing in the Independent's Voices section, Deputy Managing Editor Sean O'Grady argues the world is facing a dangerous and potentially devastating second Cold War.

"At the risk of sounding a little foolish, there is, sadly, much evidence that World War Three has already arrived, though not quite in the way so many futurologists of the past imagined it, as a clash between superpowers, their tanks chasing each other across the North German plain," he writes.

O'Grady goes on to say that the planet is more kaleidoscopic and asymmetric in its violence and the reality is it's pretty much up in flames already.

"The question is whether all the present (relatively) little wars could actually mutate into, or trigger, a real superpower conflict involving the US, Russia and China, at the least," he writes.

O'Grady said the bigger concern other than a hot WW3 was a second Cold War, which would mean terror groups like Islamic State can never be defeated.

"The Second Cold War will most likely take on that sort of character, as it is already, but in more places, with more deadly weapons, more terrorism, a greater death toll, less respect for national borders and, thus, with more dangers of escalation attached," he writes.

Photo released by Xinhua News Agency, Chinese People's Liberation Army Air Force Su-30 fighter, right, flies along with a H-6K bomber. Photo / AP
Photo released by Xinhua News Agency, Chinese People's Liberation Army Air Force Su-30 fighter, right, flies along with a H-6K bomber. Photo / AP

'MORE LIKE A COLD PEACE'

Brisbane-based observer of international relations Nikolay Murashkin told news.com.au that he believed the use of "cold war" as a metaphor was really all about a feeling of global uncertainty and our inability to grasp it or make sense of it.

However the doctoral candidate at the University of Cambridge and an associate member of RMIT University's Centre for Global Research questioned whether history actually ever repeats itself.

"There are certainly heightening tensions between the US and Russia in Syria and bilaterally, but the situation is very different from historic Cold War, structurally different," he said.

"At present, it is not a competition between two alternative political, economic and ideological systems with rival worldviews and hub-and-spoke alliance systems."

He said while there does appear to be a kind of brinkmanship to a certain extent, as we are seeing it between the US and Russia over Syria, it is not a global-scale standoff that would allow it to qualify it as a "world war".

"It is a matter of great power intervention in other countries and reaction to it from other powers," he said.

"The context of the US election makes this uncertainty appear more acute and mediatised. I would characterise the situation as cold peace."

A man looks at a WWII style famous Soviet era rocket launcher. Photo / AP
A man looks at a WWII style famous Soviet era rocket launcher. Photo / AP

PUTIN ORDERS RUSSIANS HOME

It remains clear global uncertainty and tensions remain high with the west paying particular attention to Russia.

Reports surfaced just days ago that the Russian leader reportedly told officials to fly relatives living abroad back to Russia.

The call extended to elderly relatives overseas and children, even if they are in the middle of the school year, raising concerns over the urgent call back to the fatherland.

Russian political analyst Stanislav Belkovsky told The Daily Star it was part of the package of measures to prepare elites to some "big war."

It comes as more than 40 million Russians took part in three days of extensive drills to prepare for a nuclear or natural disaster earlier this month.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter speaks during a news conference at the Pentagon. Photo / AP
Defense Secretary Ash Carter speaks during a news conference at the Pentagon. Photo / AP

EXTENDING MILITARY REACH

There's no doubt Russia is also extending its military reach.

Strategic forecasting and global intelligence company Statfor, Russia is reportedly considering restoring Soviet-era bases in Egypt, Vietnam and Cuba.

Its latest Geopolitical Diary blog said Russia's intentions remained fairly clear.

"When locked in a multi-theatre confrontation with the United States, what better way for the Russian bear to trample the US security umbrella than with a growing military footprint?"

- news.com.au

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