Who Will Prevail In World War 3? Exploring The 7 Key Battlefields

Tyler Durden's Photo
by Tyler Durden
Wednesday, Mar 06, 2024 - 10:00 PM

Authored by Nick Giambruno via,

Total war between the world’s largest powers that reshuffled the international order defined the previous world wars.

Total war between the largest powers today—Russia, China, and the US—means a nuclear Armageddon where there are no winners and only losers.

That could still happen despite nobody wanting it, but it’s not the most likely outcome.

World War 3 is unlikely to be a direct kinetic war between the US, Russia, and China.

Instead, the conflict will play out on different levels—proxy wars, economic wars, financial wars, cyber wars, biological wars, deniable sabotage, and information wars.

In that sense, World War 3 is already well underway, even though most don’t recognize it.

Below, I’ll look at the seven domains World War 3 is playing out on and analyze which side has an advantage.

Domain #1: Financial Warfare

Financial warfare refers to the use of financial methods as a strategy to achieve military or political objectives.

One common tool of financial warfare is the imposition of sanctions or embargoes. This can involve freezing assets, restricting trade, or limiting access to international financial systems. The goal is to damage the target’s economy, weakening its ability to pursue certain policies or actions.

Imposing controls on the movement of capital and investments can also serve as a weapon in financial warfare. This could involve restricting foreign investments in specific sectors or limiting the ability of foreign investors to withdraw their funds.

Take, for example, the US government’s actions after the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022.

The US government launched its most aggressive financial warfare campaign ever.

Exceeding even Iran and North Korea, Russia is now the most sanctioned nation in the world.

“This is financial nuclear war and the largest sanctions event in history,” a former Treasury Department official said.

He went on to say, “Russia went from being part of the global economy to the single largest target of global sanctions and a financial pariah in less than two weeks.”

Here’s a brief rundown of what has happened.

The US and European governments froze Russia’s US dollar and euro reserves—the accumulated savings of the nation—worth around $300 billion.

They kicked Russian banks out of SWIFT, the system for sending international wire transfers.

A stampede of Western companies left Russia and banned average Russian citizens from using their platforms.

Popular cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase blocked over 25,000 accounts linked to Russia.

Visa, MasterCard, and American Express have removed Russia from their networks.

These are just a few examples of how NATO & Friends cut Russia off from the US-dominated global financial system.

While BRICS+ countries are trying to build a parallel international financial system, it is not yet ready for prime time.

In financial warfare, NATO & Friends have a clear advantage today, though BRICS+ is eroding it.

Result: Advantage NATO & Friends

Domain #2: Economic Warfare

Countries can engage in economic warfare by controlling access to strategic commodities like oil, gas, rare earth elements (REEs), and major trade routes. A country can exert economic pressure on others by limiting access to these resources or influencing their prices.

BRICS+ dominates strategic commodities.

Take Russia, for example.

Politicians and the media in the US often ridicule Russia as nothing more than “a gas station with nuclear weapons,” an inaccurate cartoonish depiction.

Russia is the world’s largest exporter of natural gas, lumber, wheat, fertilizer, and palladium (a crucial car component).

It is the second-largest exporter of oil and aluminum and the third-largest exporter of nickel and coal.

Russia is a major producer and processor of uranium for nuclear power plants. Enriched uranium from Russia and its allies provides electricity to 20% of the homes in the US.

Aside from China, Russia produces more gold than any other country, accounting for more than 10% of global production.

These are just a handful of examples. There are many strategic commodities that Russia dominates.

In short, Russia is not just an oil and gas powerhouse but a commodity powerhouse.

Then there are REEs.

Many are unfamiliar with REEs, a collection of 17 obscure elements on the Periodic Table, despite their indispensable role in modern life.

In short, the US military and American consumers depend entirely on these obscure elements.

China controls around 60% of REE production and 95% of REE processing. Beijing also consumes about 67% of the worldwide REE supply.

Nobody can seriously challenge China’s REE monopoly, as it can maintain lower prices longer than any competitor can remain solvent.

Then there is Iran, which dominates the Strait of Hormuz, the world’s most crucial energy corridor.

According to the US Energy Information Administration, each day, more than 40% of global oil exports (around 21 million barrels) transit the Strait.

Thanks to its commanding geography and expertise in unconventional and asymmetric warfare, Iran can shut down the Strait, and there’s not much anyone can do about it.

The idea is to level the playing field against a superior enemy with swarms of explosive-laden suicide speedboats, low-flying planes carrying anti-ship missiles, naval mines, and land-based anti-ship ballistic missiles, among other low-cost but highly effective measures.

Analysts believe it would take weeks for the US military to reopen it, but nobody knows if they would succeed.

Military strategists have known about this situation for decades. But no one has found a realistic way to neutralize Iran’s power over the Strait. It’s Iran’s geopolitical trump card.

In the Red Sea, Iran’s allies in the Houthi movement in Yemen have recently shut down shipping in this vital economic corridor to all Israeli, American, and British vessels.

When you put it all together, BRICS+ has the edge in economic warfare.

Result: Advantage BRICS +

Domain #3: Cyber Warfare

Cyber warfare refers to the use of digital attacks by one nation to disrupt the computer systems of another, often aiming to cause damage, disruption, or fear.

These attacks can target various sectors, including government networks, financial systems, and utility services like electricity and water supply. For example, a successful cyber attack on a power grid could leave millions without electricity or clean water.

Attacking a nation’s financial infrastructure, like banks or stock exchanges, through cyber means is another form of cyber warfare. Such attacks can disrupt economic stability, create uncertainty, and potentially lead to significant financial losses.

The goals of cyber warfare can vary from stealing sensitive information, causing economic damage, disrupting essential services, or creating chaos and panic among the population.

Cyber warfare can be just as damaging as traditional warfare but is often cheaper, less risky, and can be conducted anonymously and remotely. This makes it an attractive option for nations wanting to cause harm while minimizing the risk of direct confrontation.

I expect cyber warfare to be prominent as World War 3 evolves.

NATO & Friends and BRICS+ are skilled at cyber warfare. However, I don’t see either side having a decisive advantage.

Result: Uncertain

Domain #4: Information Warfare

Information warfare encompasses a range of tactics aimed at influencing, disrupting, or corrupting the information landscape to affect an adversary’s decision-making process, undermine trust in institutions, or sway public opinion. It aims to influence outcomes both on the battlefield and in public opinion.

This type of warfare leverages the spread of false and misleading narratives, propaganda, and psychological operations to create confusion, sow discord, and manipulate perceptions.

Information warfare can influence elections, shape public opinion on critical issues, and even incite violence or social unrest. The objective is often to destabilize an opponent from within.

With the growing reliance on social media and other digital platforms, the role of information warfare is likely to become even more significant in shaping both military and geopolitical landscapes.

The US has enormous influence over the global mainstream media, entertainment industry, and Big Tech platforms. That gives it widespread worldwide reach in a way that Russia and China do not have.

As a result, NATO & Friends have the advantage in information warfare.

Result: Advantage NATO & Friends

Domain #5: Deniable Sabotage

Sabotage refers to deliberately damaging, destroying, or hindering vital property.

Deniable sabotage is a hostile action carried out so that the perpetrator cannot be conclusively identified or linked to the attack. The identity of the aggressor remains hidden, or there is plausible deniability.

It means that although there might be suspicions or even circumstantial evidence about who is responsible for an attack, there is no concrete proof. As a result, the alleged perpetrator can credibly deny involvement.

Typical targets for sabotage include infrastructure like bridges and railways, communication systems, supply depots, ammunition stores, and essential utilities like power and water supply systems.

The destruction of Russia’s Nord Stream 2 pipeline and the cutting of undersea fiber optic cables around Norway are likely examples of recent deniable sabotage.

NATO & Friends and BRICS+ are skilled at deniable sabotage. However, I don’t see either side having a decisive advantage.

Result: Uncertain

Domain #6: Biological Warfare

Biological warfare is the use of biological toxins or infectious agents such as bacteria, viruses, and fungi to incapacitate or kill humans, animals, or plants.

The disease-causing agents can be spread through air, water, or food sources and are often difficult to trace.

The use of biological weapons dates back centuries. In medieval times, besieging armies would catapult diseased corpses over city walls.

Today, the US, China, and Russia have all signed the Biological Weapons Convention, which is supposed to prohibit biological warfare. However, I don’t expect that will prevent biological warfare as World War 3 escalates.

The Covid hysteria could have been due to an act of biological warfare.

In any case, the US, Russia, and China all maintain robust and secretive biological weapons programs. However, I don’t see any side having a decisive advantage.

Result: Uncertain

Domain #7: Proxy Warfare

Proxy wars are a method by which major powers fight their battles indirectly, using smaller nations or groups as stand-ins rather than confronting each other directly.

Major powers support, equip, and finance smaller groups or nations in a proxy war to fight against a common adversary. This support can include military training, weapons, funding, and other resources. The critical point is that the major powers do not engage directly in combat.

I expect proxy wars will be a decisive factor in who will win World War 3.

There are numerous ongoing proxy wars. However, there are three that I believe will be key in determining which side has the overall advantage.

Proxy War #1: Ukraine

Ukraine has been the arena of choice for NATO & Friends to confront Russia.

As I write this, at the beginning of 2024, the conflict in Ukraine appears to be winding down.

Ukraine has suffered serious battlefield setbacks as its much-touted 2023 counteroffensive has utterly failed.

Further weapons shipments from NATO nations are not going to deliver victory to Ukraine. At best, it will only prolong the conflict without changing the ultimate outcome while depleting NATO inventories.

US funding is also drying up. American and European voters are growing increasingly tired of the war.

When you put it all together, I suspect we will see serious movement toward a settlement this year that will largely be favorable to Russia.

Result: Advantage BRICS +

Proxy War #2: The Middle East

The Middle East is on the precipice of the biggest regional war in over 50 years.

The region is roughly divided into two different geopolitical groups.

The first is the US and its allies—Israel, Turkey, Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, and others.

The second group describes itself as the Axis of Resistance. It consists of Iran, Syria, the Houthis in Yemen, Hezbollah in Lebanon, several Palestinian groups, including Hamas, and an assortment of militias in Iraq. Russia and China are standing behind the Axis of Resistance.

In the context of World War 3 and the global geopolitical situation, the US and its allies represent the interests of NATO & Friends, and the Axis of Resistance represents BRICS+.

If there is a regional war in the Middle East, it will undoubtedly be between these two groups.

Short of a regional war, there will likely be continued geopolitical competition and low-intensity conflict in the Middle East.

When you take a step back and put it all together, it seems clear that the geopolitical momentum is with the Axis of Resistance in the Middle East.

However, a large regional war could turn things around for the US, Israel, and its allies. NATO & Friends might try a full-scale war with Iran as a last-ditch attempt to scuttle the emergence of a multipolar world order.

It’s also more likely, though, that a full-scale war with Iran and the Axis of Resistance would end in disaster for the US and its allies. That’s probably a big reason it hasn’t happened yet, despite no shortage of hostile intentions.

In the meantime, the advantage in the Middle East goes to BRICS+.

Result: Advantage BRICS +

Proxy War #3: Taiwan

China views Taiwan as a breakaway province and has vowed to reunify it with the mainland by force if necessary.

Recently, Xi privately warned Biden that China will reunify Taiwan but that the timing has not yet been decided.

While not explicitly committing to Taiwan’s defense, the US has been a significant supplier of military equipment to Taiwan. A Chinese invasion could trigger a response from the US, though the extent and nature of this response are uncertain.

China has one of the world’s largest and increasingly modern militaries. Taiwan has a well-trained military, though smaller and less equipped than China’s.

It seems to me that time is on China’s side. All Beijing has to do is wait; eventually, it will be able to compel Taiwan to reunify peacefully.

In the case of a military conflict, it seems to me China has the advantage. The only way Taiwan would have a prayer is if the US directly joined the conflict. However, the US is unlikely to risk a full-scale war with China because of MAD.

When you put it all together, it seems China has the advantage.

Result: Advantage BRICS+

There will likely be other proxy wars as World War 3 progresses, but the ones I believe will prove decisive will be in Ukraine, the Middle East, and Taiwan. The other proxy wars are peripheral in comparison.

All three decisive proxy wars are trending toward a defeat for NATO & Friends. Therefore, the advantage in the overall proxy war domain—which I believe will be the most decisive domain in World War 3—is with BRICS+.

Result: Advantage BRICS+

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