The world is less stable than at any time since 1991. Francis Fukuyama’s predictions of the end of history with liberal democracy coming out on top have been relegated to the dustbin. Although the genocide in Bosnia and Rwanda, al-Qaeda terrorism or the Russia-Georgia war should not be downplayed, today’s world is at the brink of two world wars at the same time. Andrei Illarionov, a former adviser to President Vladimir Putin of Russia, has called Russian aggression in Ukraine a prologue to World War Four. No one can predict whether Ukraine is the prelude to a Russian war against the whole world. God forbid that it is. But preparations must be made. 
If there’s talk of World War IV, World War III must have occurred at some point. World War III is none other than the war waged by extremist Islam against the rest of the world. And it is indeed appropriate to term it a world war. Terrorism doesn’t just strike in the West, but China, Russia, India, African countries and, to top it all off, Islamic countries themselves. No one is safe from terrorism. Everyone must be prepared for the possibility that terrorism will come home to their respective countries. We can only try to pin a date on when World War III started – whether it was the Gulf War, the first Russian war in Chechnya, 9/11, the toppling of the Taliban and Saddam, Arab Spring and the Syrian civil war or the rise of the Islamic State. But it’s clear that World War III is happening.

In an asymmetric war, there are often no fronts and lines, the soldiers bear no insignia, and some countries even deny they are in a war. Yet the war is a fact – a bloody one. Today’s unofficial and irregular combatants are well-trained and wield powerful, modern weapons. They are equipped with intelligence about their adversary. But they don’t bear any responsibility in the sense of the international rules of warfare. They are not bound by any international covenant and don’t acknowledge anyone else’s sovereignty. No rules apply; people cannot be sure about what will happen to them if captured by such belligerents.

Yes, World War Three and Four could happen at the same time. Perhaps even in the same place. And the participants in one world war might be allies, while in another, they are enemies.

Top leadership appears to lurch erratically from one crisis to the next, and there is no effective cure for the situation. At least talk of NATO no longer being necessary because the world is done with warfare has been deleted from the agenda now. NATO is essential in precisely the same form and with the same objectives as when it was founded in 1949. The relationships governed by the Washington Treaty must be complemented with asymmetric warfare provisions covering cyber war, information warfare, partisan warfare, green men and disclosing aggression in cases where it is hard to prove that a given aggressor is involved. Euro-Atlantic cooperation is more salient today than it ever has been since the end of the Cold War. President Obama’s visit to Estonia and his vow that NATO will defend all of its members with all of its means is just as important a world war deterrent as it was from the 1950s to the late 1980s. It is with this mind that we dedicate this issue primarily to Euro-Atlantic topics.

Mart Nutt 

Mart Nutt PhD is Editor-in-chief of Maailma Vaade since 2014