This backgrounder explains the significance and risks of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. See each question and answer included in this backgrounder on the Russian invasion of Ukraine at the bottom of this post.

Is This The Beginning of World War III?

No. But anything could happen.

A foundation of the post-World War II order was the predictability of rational actors. That predictability facilitated a level of stability that allowed for increased prosperity and liberalization across the globe, albeit in varying measures. The Russian invasion of Ukraine broke that order, and it is difficult for world leaders and experts to determine what happens next.

The primary motive of every nation and government is its own security. This is true for all world leaders, from President Biden in the US to President Abdel Fatah al Sisi in Egypt. The method of preservation and the meaning of security varies from nation to nation, but the priority for preserving it does not.

Each day the war in Ukraine continues the pressures on that security increase globally. Rising energy prices. Food prices and inflation. Refugees. The spread of insurgencies. Cyberattacks. Sanctions. Rising nuclear threat levels. These and other risks within this conflict discussed in other parts of this backgrounder are now spreading across the globe. As each nation responds to these risks differently, with a primary focus on preserving their own security, new risks develop for their neighbors.

We are entering into a phase in which the contagion of risk and instability is more likely than ever before. Each nation’s response to these growing uncertainties will present new levels of risk and uncertainty for its neighbors.

This weekend the US announced the deployment of 7,000 more troops to Europe in light of the growing threats presented in the Russian invasion of Ukraine. As of February 10, the US had 80,000 troops stationed in Europe. It is unlikely that any of these troops will engage Russia in Ukraine. President Biden has confirmed this.

But as each day goes on and new variables enter the crisis, the risk of new conflicts emerges. Rising energy prices create a new threat to Europe’s national security. Food prices in the Middle East and North Africa are already a national security threat. Among America’s top concerns today is Russia’s potential cyber attacks on American economic or defense establishments. This is a tool Russia has used repeatedly over the last 15 years in eastern Europe. What would a cyber attack on US interests translate to when it comes to American preservation of national security?

We, the world, are not on the verge of World War III, but we are in a place of risk and uncertainty that could escalate instantly as these risks manifest in the form of new threats to the security of different nations worldwide.


Learn more about the background and facts behind the Russian invasion of Ukraine through this set of backgrounds and explanations. Subscribe to the blog to stay up to date when new backgrounders are posted.

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JB Shreve is the author of "How the World Ends: Understanding the Growing Chaos." He has been the host of the End of History podcast since 2012. He has degrees in International Relations and Middle East Studies. His other books include the Intelligence Brief Series. Regular posts and updates from JB Shreve are available at