In a world without nuclear weapons is it possible that world war 3 could have been avoided?

Most timelines I have seen that use the idea of nuclear weapons never existing use it as a way for world war 3 to happen some time during the Cold War. No I was wondering if this was necessarily always going to be the case. Imagine a world where nuclear weapons didn’t exist yet the Cold War carries on mostly as it did in our world. Now the obvious question is why would this happen? If world war 3 between the communist block and the west would break out even with only conventional weapons it would be by far the most bloody conflict the world has ever known and the fear of such a war breaking out may serve the same deterrence factor the nukes did IOT. Is this a realistic possibility?
Also how would the Cold War change if it didn’t have nukes and assuming WW3 doesn’t break out?
 
Most timelines I have seen that use the idea of nuclear weapons never existing use it as a way for world war 3 to happen some time during the Cold War. No I was wondering if this was necessarily always going to be the case. Imagine a world where nuclear weapons didn’t exist yet the Cold War carries on mostly as it did in our world. Now the obvious question is why would this happen? If world war 3 between the communist block and the west would break out even with only conventional weapons it would be by far the most bloody conflict the world has ever known and the fear of such a war breaking out may serve the same deterrence factor the nukes did IOT. Is this a realistic possibility?
Also how would the Cold War change if it didn’t have nukes and assuming WW3 doesn’t break out?
No. Its not possible. WW3 will most definitely happen in the absence of Nuclear Weapons. I'll go even further and say that WW4 would be on the horizon as well.
 
It is extremely implausible if not ASB that ther e is not nukes. But if on whatever reason they are not exist, there probably is WW3. Perhaps alternate Cuban Missile Crisis is that what causes new great war assuming that history goes about same as in OTL.
 

CalBear

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Not a chance in hell, unless some other equally dramatic WMD is substituted. Chemical and especially biological weapons can be just as deadly as nuclear weapons, but they lack the "eye candy" of a nuclear weapon and the devastation a single weapon can cause.

There is, however, a shall chance that a future war might be confined to the North Atlantic, Eastern Seaboard of North America, and European Peninsula. The Chinese would not be in position to seriously threaten anywhere but the ROK until, at least, 1960, possibly later, as their failure in the 1962 War with India demonstrated. Logistics is King

Without the threat of Nuclear Weapons it is reasonable to assume that at minimum a major European War takes place as soon as Russia has licked it's wounds, perhaps even before the death of Stalin, but certainly by 1960-65. Assume another, possibly truly Global War by 1985, another before 2010, at best, and another war brewing by this date in the altered T/L. That had been the general pace of wars in Europe for centuries, with the pause between the end of the Napoleonic Wars (1803-15) and Crimea (39 years) being something of an outlier (it was proceeded by followed by major European conflicts 1666, 1689, 1702-13, 1742-48, 1756-63, 1776-83, and followed by major conflicts in 1866, 1870, 1914-18, 1939-41). You could damned near set a watch by it.

Each war grew larger, with combat happening over increasingly large theaters. Without the moderating effect of nuclear Weapons there is no reason to expect the pattern to change.
 
Unless they end up in the hands of terrorists, nukes are a good thing as they keep wars small and mostly out of the wealthy countries.
 
Most timelines I have seen that use the idea of nuclear weapons never existing use it as a way for world war 3 to happen some time during the Cold War. No I was wondering if this was necessarily always going to be the case. Imagine a world where nuclear weapons didn’t exist yet the Cold War carries on mostly as it did in our world. Now the obvious question is why would this happen? If world war 3 between the communist block and the west would break out even with only conventional weapons it would be by far the most bloody conflict the world has ever known and the fear of such a war breaking out may serve the same deterrence factor the nukes did IOT. Is this a realistic possibility?
Also how would the Cold War change if it didn’t have nukes and assuming WW3 doesn’t break out?
As a Professor of mine put it: "Nuclear Weapons made us sit around the table and agree that there are some rules because if there were not, we would collectively commit suicide" and I wholeheartedly believe this statement.

A World without nuclear weapons is plagued by increasingly more bloody conventional wars because the last resort to any conflict crisis, sending in the troops, is one that you can sort of justify. Nobody can justify nuclear war enough to start it first, unless they are clinically insane.
 
Chemical, biological and radiological warfare will still exist, and might serve the same deterrent role.
The slaughterhouses of WW1 and WW2 would also mean people (and nations) wouldn't be thrilled to start another world war. When you lose you lose big, and even if you win it may you may get off worse.
 
The slaughterhouses of WW1 and WW2 would also mean people (and nations) wouldn't be thrilled to start another world war. When you lose you lose big, and even if you win it may you may get off worse.
But of course either you are not going to lose or if you think that you might then you are in so much trouble that winning the war will get you out of it.
 
Not a chance in hell, unless some other equally dramatic WMD is substituted. Chemical and especially biological weapons can be just as deadly as nuclear weapons, but they lack the "eye candy" of a nuclear weapon and the devastation a single weapon can cause.

There is, however, a shall chance that a future war might be confined to the North Atlantic, Eastern Seaboard of North America, and European Peninsula. The Chinese would not be in position to seriously threaten anywhere but the ROK until, at least, 1960, possibly later, as their failure in the 1962 War with India demonstrated. Logistics is King

Without the threat of Nuclear Weapons it is reasonable to assume that at minimum a major European War takes place as soon as Russia has licked it's wounds, perhaps even before the death of Stalin, but certainly by 1960-65. Assume another, possibly truly Global War by 1985, another before 2010, at best, and another war brewing by this date in the altered T/L. That had been the general pace of wars in Europe for centuries, with the pause between the end of the Napoleonic Wars (1803-15) and Crimea (39 years) being something of an outlier (it was proceeded by followed by major European conflicts 1666, 1689, 1702-13, 1742-48, 1756-63, 1776-83, and followed by major conflicts in 1866, 1870, 1914-18, 1939-41). You could damned near set a watch by it.

Each war grew larger, with combat happening over increasingly large theaters. Without the moderating effect of nuclear Weapons there is no reason to expect the pattern to change.
Interesting.

Here's my guess for lineups in three out of your four world wars.
WWIII = western allies vs Soviets/Warsaw Pact over say Korea?
WWIV = rerun of WWIII, in say late 70s(Post-mao hardliner?) but with China as the communist leader(revived/siberia-central asia focused USSR as second partner)
WWV = possibly rerun of WWIV, maybe?
Don't even have the faintest clue for sides in WWVI.

Maybe if we're having no nukes because of cultural blindspot -- simply have some physicists have the notion nuclear weapons somehow don't actually work so you still get civilian nuclear power the atl's showstopper WMD could be kinetic weapons from orbit. Losing a city would be a big deal for sure.
 
I think the chances of WW3 breaking out without nuclear weapons is overrated. It's not impossible, but at the end of WW2 every side had (more or less) found a modus vivendi: The Soviet Union was happy with its cake, the US was happy with theirs. Even WW2 wouldn't haven broke out if it wasn't for Hitler.
 

Garrison

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As appalling as they are nuclear weapons do have a deterrent value. No one is going to deliberately start another global war but its not hardy to see how various proxy conflicts around the globe could escalate without the threat of nuclear destruction. How long before someone misjudges the will and resolve of their opponents and sets of a chain of escalation? The Middle East, Asia, the Balkans, we've seen plenty of conflicts in those regions that stayed limited because the price of escalation was too high, take your choice of any one of them as the flashpoint for WWIII.
 
Well if the invasion of Japan winds up being anywhere near as horrific as discussions imply, then could America (under public pressure), become rabidly isolationist? So no NATO (at least with the US as the “big daddy”), no Marshall plan, etc. Europe would become an economic mess. Then there’s Uncle Joe (and Mao) looking at easy pickings. So yeah, things could go pear shaped pretty quick.

ric350
 

CalBear

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I think the chances of WW3 breaking out without nuclear weapons is overrated. It's not impossible, but at the end of WW2 every side had (more or less) found a modus vivendi: The Soviet Union was happy with its cake, the US was happy with theirs. Even WW2 wouldn't haven broke out if it wasn't for Hitler.
The Soviets were ANYTHING but happy. They had to spend time recovering from WW II, but Stalin was actually a beliver in the "World Socialist Revolution" and had every intentions of doing everything possible to expand Marxist-Leninism across Eurasia and then into Africa and eventually North America.

All one need to do is look at the funding provided by Moscow, which did not cease after the death of Stalin, to "Liberation Movements" dedicated to expanding the Revolution.

Even beyond the long term goal of World Revolution (with Moscow as the leader) there was the German Issue. The WAllies were determined to retain their sectors of Berlin, Moscow saw that a direct affront. the USSR was not sufficiently recovered to actually strap on the West at the time of the Berlin Airlift, so it ran a bluff. By the mid 50s that would no longer have been the case. and unlike IOTL, where the West, especially the U.S. entrusted Western Security to B-36 and B-47s, along with the just arriving B-52, there would have been a robust SACEUR command (with, among other things, a BAOR that actually deserved the second initial). The only thing, all the way to the end of the USSR that kept the Soviets from trying the Fulda Gap was the certainty of MAD

Well if the invasion of Japan winds up being anywhere near as horrific as discussions imply, then could America (under public pressure), become rabidly isolationist? So no NATO (at least with the US as the “big daddy”), no Marshall plan, etc. Europe would become an economic mess. Then there’s Uncle Joe (and Mao) looking at easy pickings. So yeah, things could go pear shaped pretty quick.

ric350
There is not much possibility of a true Isolationist movement returning. The vast majority of the American electorate saw Isolationism as why Hitler and the Japanese got too big for their britches.

Throw in the fairly rabid anti-communism of the U.S. body politic post war, and Isolationism seems to be a low probability.


Interesting.

Here's my guess for lineups in three out of your four world wars.
WWIII = western allies vs Soviets/Warsaw Pact over say Korea?
WWIV = rerun of WWIII, in say late 70s(Post-mao hardliner?) but with China as the communist leader(revived/siberia-central asia focused USSR as second partner)
WWV = possibly rerun of WWIV, maybe?
Don't even have the faintest clue for sides in WWVI.

Maybe if we're having no nukes because of cultural blindspot -- simply have some physicists have the notion nuclear weapons somehow don't actually work so you still get civilian nuclear power the atl's showstopper WMD could be kinetic weapons from orbit. Losing a city would be a big deal for sure.
Major European War in the mid 50s starting over Berlin and expanding into Germany. Best chance of Expanding outside the European Peninsula would be Iran and into the Middle East. Other possibility (lower likelihood) Soviet move to take control of the Black Sea access. In a "no nukes" scenario, U.S. occupation forces in Japan, South Korea, and possibly China or Formosa would likely preclude a move against either in the Pacific.

That is likely followed by an expanded conflict where the previous losers look to "right the wrong", now with a much better chance of serious Chinese involvement. Interesting possible event here is a Sino-Indian theater, with massive implications to India's "third path" foreign policy. How far this expands in the Pacific is entirely dependent on how successful the Soviets (or Chinese) have been in producing a legitimate Blue Water Naval presence that can rival the USN. This is likely a "World War"

After that it is very much a matter of tech. There are any number of possible avenues, but, to be frank, nuclear weapons not being developed and validated by the early 1980s is utterly ASB.
 
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So you see the late 70s to early 80s fourth world war as very likely to go nuclear? Makes sense.

You could get one or both sides having developed nukes before the war, thinking they've got an advantage and now with missile delivery systems...
 

CalBear

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So you see the late 70s to early 80s fourth world war as very likely to go nuclear? Makes sense.

You could get one or both sides having developed nukes before the war, thinking they've got an advantage and now with missile delivery systems...
More likely you wind up with the MAD scenario in short order.

Worst case the side that develops the capacity first decides to use it in a major surprise attack and takes a commanding position until the other side can develop their own capabilities and you wind up with a full exchange. Best case the side who gets it first demonstrates the capability, scares the shit out of one and all, the other major power(s) start a crash program and the nuclear stand-off/taboo that exist IOTL develops.
 
The Soviets were ANYTHING but happy. They had to spend time recovering from WW II, but Stalin was actually a beliver in the "World Socialist Revolution" and had every intentions of doing everything possible to expand Marxist-Leninism across Eurasia and then into Africa and eventually North America.

All one need to do is look at the funding provided by Moscow, which did not cease after the death of Stalin, to "Liberation Movements" dedicated to expanding the Revolution.
Playing the long game is another thing than risking direct confrontation. The USSR had no intention of fighting another destructive World War. They saw themselves as the future, so the only thing they had to do was to go slow and steady - no need to rush.
Even beyond the long term goal of World Revolution (with Moscow as the leader) there was the German Issue. The WAllies were determined to retain their sectors of Berlin, Moscow saw that a direct affront. the USSR was not sufficiently recovered to actually strap on the West at the time of the Berlin Airlift, so it ran a bluff. By the mid 50s that would no longer have been the case. and unlike IOTL, where the West, especially the U.S. entrusted Western Security to B-36 and B-47s, along with the just arriving B-52, there would have been a robust SACEUR command (with, among other things, a BAOR that actually deserved the second initial). The only thing, all the way to the end of the USSR that kept the Soviets from trying the Fulda Gap was the certainty of MAD
The USSR wouldn't have thrown millions of soldiers just to get West Germany. Hell, IOTL they were ready to give up East Germany to secure a neutral Germany (Molotov offered that in 1947/1948).
 

Riain

Banned
The British believed that even with nuclear weapons WW3 was likely to break out , and that 1957 was the year of maximum danger. It wasn't until the introduction of ballistic missiles and thermonuclear weapons that WW3 became impossible, as they couldn't be defended against and could destroy entire regions rather than just cities.
 
Interesting.

Here's my guess for lineups in three out of your four world wars.
WWIII = western allies vs Soviets/Warsaw Pact over say Korea?
WWIV = rerun of WWIII, in say late 70s(Post-mao hardliner?) but with China as the communist leader(revived/siberia-central asia focused USSR as second partner)
WWV = possibly rerun of WWIV, maybe?
Don't even have the faintest clue for sides in WWVI.

Maybe if we're having no nukes because of cultural blindspot -- simply have some physicists have the notion nuclear weapons somehow don't actually work so you still get civilian nuclear power the atl's showstopper WMD could be kinetic weapons from orbit. Losing a city would be a big deal for sure.
Another war that we most likely have seen , would have been the Russian/China clash that almost happened in our timeline in the late 60s
 
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