The Turkish military's shooting down of a Russian jet over Syria's border on Tuesday (24 November) has prompted the Twitterati (those who communicate regularly on Twitter) to speculate on that the latest action is a prelude to World War III.
Around three hours after Turkey announced it had shot down the Russian war plane for violating its airspace, the phrase 'World War III' picked up rapidly and was trending in almost all regions in the world.
A fuming Russia called Turkey a "backstabber" and "accomplices of terror" and warned of "significant consequences." Turkey is a significant member of Nato, to which end it is expected the alliance will back Turkey's position on the jet attack against Russia. Most Twitterati speculate that as a result, Russia will increase pressure on Turkey as the two military powers wage battles on multiple fronts in the region.
While Russia and Turkey have both claimed to be fighting Islamic State (Isis), there is speculation as to their true motives in embattled region. The trend on Twitter highlighted not just Tuesday's jet attack but an array of complications that could extend the global battleground, including ongoing sectarian violence between Shia and Sunni Muslims, political instability in the Middle-East, and of course the rise of a rampaging IS.
While the US made it clear it is united with Russia on the war against the IS, it has also been very clear that it wants to see President Bashar al-Assad dethroned in Syria. The US claims that Russia is in Syria not to fight IS but to save the Assad regime as a permanent Russian ally. American geopolitical experts claim this is Russia's tactic to erode America's standing in the Middle East, advancing Putin's agenda of challenging and defying Washington.
IS has spread its tentacles and executed its brutal operations all over the world. It is also adding more and more franchises and followers to conduct even more deadly attacks. The militant organisation not only controls territory in Syria and Iraq but its followers hold sway in Libya, Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, Nigeria and other parts of Africa.
Despite the panic on Twitter, Russian expert Mark Galeotti, who teaches at NYU, says mounting tensions notwithstanding, a world war is unlikely. "I suspect neither Moscow nor, at the very least, the other European NATO powers will want to let this go too far. Russia cannot fight hot diplomatic wars on too many fronts, and Europe clearly wants Moscow to be part of the solution in Syria and maybe Ukraine, too. And, frankly, there is in many capitals concern about Turkey, its agenda and its role in the region. Much will depend on where Washington falls, of course," he told Vox World.