Many factors today mirror those that led to World War I

“Virtually nobody believes World War Three will be triggered by recent the military conflicts in Ukraine, Iraq or the China seas, yet many factors today mirror those that led to the catastrophe in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914.

The truth, as the world discovered in 1914 and is re-discovering today in Ukraine, the Middle East and the China seas, is that economic interests are swept aside once the genie of nationalist or religious militarism is released. Russia has in past conflicts withstood economic losses unimaginable to politicians and diplomats in the Western world, and the same is true of Iran and China. Thus the U.S. strategy of “escalating economic costs” cannot be expected to achieve major geopolitical objectives, such as preserving Ukraine’s borders or Japan’s uninhabited islands. Either territory must be open to renegotiation or the West must be prepared to fight to protect the “sanctity” of borders, which shows the really unsettling parallels with the world of 1914.

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Though historians continue to debate World War One’s proximate causes, two key destabilizing features of early 20th-century geopolitics created the necessary conditions for the sudden spiral into all-consuming conflict: the rise and fall of great powers, and the over-zealous observance of mutual-defense treaties. These features are now returning to destabilize geopolitics a century later.

First War Was Impossible, Then Inevitable