How likely is war between Major Powers in the next few years?

I have always rubbished claims that wars were imminent between NATO and Russia, or a conflagration flaring up in the South China Sea, but my faith in war being an impossibility is beginning to be pierced by doubts, there seems to be a slow but consistent solidification of two blocs, one being the USA and NATO, the other China and Russia.

Now with Trump in charge, there is hope of a wind down of tensions in Europe, but I’m of the opinion that far from ensuring further peace, Trumps election will make Putin think he has a free pass in remnants of the Soviet Union and thus making war more likely. As for China, obviously the Taiwan issue and South China Sea could see Russia and China making a military alliance based on two territorial grievances on opposite ends of the globe.

So this combined with a lack of consensus between the major powers in agreeing that there should be clearly defined spheres of influence (However much we don’t like it) How long will it take before the balloon goes up?

I think there could be a proxy war in a third world country but not a direct war–which would be too deadly. For example Hillary with her proposed no-fly zone in Syria could lead to Americans and Russians shooting at each other. And Trump is a lot crazier than Hillary.

Second vote for proxy war here. We’ve ALREADY seen these in the first half of the decade. Much of the fighting in Iraq was a proxy war for Iran’s interests in Iraq. Russia’s activity in eastern Europe could be called that except that no major power showed up to stop them. Even the fighting in Syria has elements that look like a proxy war - it’s not quite a simple as US vs Russia, but they do have different objectives for the final outcome.

There’s always the possibility that things could go pear-shaped in Kashmir causing conflict between India and China.

NATO countries, even the U.S., aren’t likely going to be willing to fight and die for small islets claimed by one or the other Southeast Asian country in the South China Sea. If China does something particularly stupid like try to restrict and control all shipping activity within the entire claimed exclusive economic zone of the small islands, that’s one thing. But China has been famous/infamous for its relative gradual approach and they know that such a measure would invite a military response and either open defiance or potential war if ships being escorted by military vessels were stopped and boarded.

Trump is playing with fire when it comes to Taiwan, but so long as Taiwan’s government plays it cool, the only consequences will be increasingly bitter and unstable U.S.-China relations.

As for any real, substantial across-the-board Russia-China political alliance, that is unlikely. Despite Russia’s recent successes, China does not view Russia as an equal power and knows that Russian power and its population is actually declining. While giving a tepid response, China has not officially recognized Crimea as Russian territory and abstained when the issue came up for a vote in the UN Security Council and non-binding General Assembly. Since even the U.S. (ante Trump) maintains a one China policy, Russia doubling-down on its already official support for China’s control of Taiwan would not be any gain for China.

Russian ‘power’ may be declining, but their ‘population’ isn’t (at the very least, it’s set for slower decline than China). The Russian fertility rate in 2016 is estimated at 1.83, quite healthy by European or North American standards. (Some people seem to still think it’s 1999, when the Russian fertility rate hit its nadir of 1.17, which was thought to be irreversible). Russia also attracts a large amount of net immigration. China’s fertility rate on the other hand is variously stated as 1.05 and 1.66 children per woman. The first of those seems unbelievable to me, but even choosing the higher number, it’s still lower than Russia, and China (unlike Russia) also loses more people to migration than it gains.

I think a proxy war in Eastern Europe between Russia and the United States is not unlikely, but since the wars in Vietnam and Korea didn’t go nuclear there’s no necessary reason why a war in eastern Europe would.

China is unlikely to go to war with its largest trading partner and upset their own growing middle class. They would not take kindly to being thrown out of work and back into poverty again.

I don’t know. If Chinese sovereignty is made an issue (see Taiwan, South China Sea), I think the nationalism of China will not allow its leaders to do nothing.

I’m afraid of exactly the opposite: Putin will be encouraged to escalate in Ukraine, and experiment with interference with the Baltic Republics. (And, as someone else pointed out, Georgia also. Is Georgia in Europe?)

Anyway, no, Trump is not pouring oil on the waters; he’s pouring oil on the fire.

As I said in the OP;

but I’m of the opinion that far from ensuring further peace, Trumps election will make Putin think he has a free pass in remnants of the Soviet Union and thus making war more likely.

I do not understand why China and Russia would be on the same side.

China is a densely populated country, vulnerable to disruptions and strongly in need of natural resources. Many of the people in charge can probably still remember the last armed conflict between the two countries in 1969.

Russia is a sparsely populated country close to 1/10 of Chinas population and economy, which is squatting on Outer Manchuria, a vast and presumably resource-rich territory that used to be Chinese.

The US is Chinas biggest trading partner. I think they have less trade with Russia than they do with Belgium. They seem to have nothing to gain and much to lose in a conflict with the US, whereas they have less to lose and more to gain from conflict with Russia.

So what? Britain and the US were Germany’s biggest trading partners before WWI, and they still went to war. Population doesn’t matter, even the most powerful nations still need allies and friends to promote their influence.

Nations normally do risk-reward analysis though. They ally where they see gain, not where there is mostly downsides. And they are said not to have friends but interests.

Its been my impression that the idea of a modern Russia-China alignment generally originate in technothrillers where the only rationale is “Neither is on OUR side!” and everyone who isn’t with us must necessarily join up against us regardless of any individual interests they might have.

So I am genuinely curious as to what kind of reasons there might be for Russia and China to align. I am aware of the Chinese Far East immigration issue, but I don’t think Russia is entirely positive to that.

They both have authoritarian systems of government which they view the Western powers attempting to undermine and overthrow, so it stands to reason that they’d align this time.

Or both of them being earlier Communist countries. But Clancy had them at war.

The better quality of technothriller:)

I’m not so sure of that. I mean, I can entirely believe that Russia believes that the Western powers are trying to undermine them. They could be in the “feeling persecuted” Olympics, after all. However I doubt they trust China more. Having the same type of governemnt means they have a pretty clear idea of what they are like, and consider them as trustworthy as themselves.

Meanwhile, I suspect China has a more nuanced worldview. Also, they are much more powerful than Russia and growing. I think they would have Russia as a client, but don’t see any long-term equality there.

Russia would have a better shot at aligning with India I suspect. Which is a democracy, but actually likes Russia and doesn’t have any troublesome border disputes or recent wars with them.

India vs Pakistan, with nukes, is very likely indeed.

Do we consider them “major powers”? I’ve always considered them more of “regional (nuclear) powers”.

China is certainly aging, but due to their vast population size, that will be more of an issue for their economy rather than their military. As of 2015 (page 139), Russia is still estimated to have 10+ million fewer citizens in 2050 than today. This estimate appears to be based on a variety of figures from the late 2000s to 2014. But life expectancy issues are another factor besides birth rates that will impact Russia’s population size.