Ukraine Is Not World War III

War gets the blood up. Gary Kasparov—former world chess champion turned dissident against Putin’s Russia—claimed on March 3 that “this is already World War III.”

“Putin started it long ago & Ukraine is only the current front,” Kasparov argued. He will escalate anyway, and it’s even more likely if he succeeds in destroying Ukraine because you have again convinced him you won’t stop him even though you could.”

Kasparov has warned about Putin’s aggression for years, and his book Winter Is Coming largely predicted what we’re witnessing today. But sayijeng we are already fighting World War III is the classic never-appease-aggressors logic by which any authoritarian is likened to Hitler in 1939: if we don’t stop him now, he will only be emboldened to invade the next country, and the next, until he is knocking on our front door with an armored division or two. Better to accept reality and start World War III now than wait for Putin to initiate it and force us to fight it on his terms.

The logic is familiar and the danger is plain, which is why some people seem more willing to risk general war against Russia in an all-out effort to stop Putin now, before he invades the next country. Kasparov’s argument has been echoed by other commentators who warn Putin will not stop at Ukraine, or who insist the U.S. and NATO must militarily intervene in the war in Ukraine. The head of the European Council on Foreign Relations openly called for regime change in Russia. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called on NATO to impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine, an idea former National Security Adviser John Bolton partially endorsed. A no-fly zone, of course, would involve NATO aircraft shooting down Russian warplanes over Ukrainian skies. To put it plainly: A no-fly zone is a declaration of war against Russia and the first step on a path that would lead to general war.

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