World War 3, The notion of a third World War was of real concern during the Cold War between the U.S.A. and the U.S.S.R. Both sides had nuclear weapons, and acronyms like M.A.D. (mutually-assured destruction – the idea that if either side started, both sides would be wiped out) and an “arms race” kept tensions high but real actions at bay.
The World War 3 trope ran through out movies. The villains in films in America had Russian accents. The color red, bears, sickles, hammers, and big coats with furry hats were all anathema to Yanks until the late 1980′s when Sting convinced us that the Russians surely must love their children, too.
We watched Ronald Reagan shake hands with Mikhail Gorbachev, felt sure that we had SDI (a “strategic defense initiative”, commonly called “star wars”), and relaxed a bit. Turns out we didn’t have SDI at all. We bluffed, and the Soviets bought it. Then the big, red giant developed some money problems. America was left to stand alone as the only superpower that mattered.
Hell, we even went to Russia for the Olympics.
For a while after 9/11, the notion of a World War 3 sparked by rogue nations or groups that had obtained nukes (always from someone in Russia) got traction. We still see movies with that plot. Sometimes they have Korean accents now, too, though most Americans snicker at the idea of North Korea ever getting within spitting distance of an American flag, much less our homeland.