World War III is inevitable. Peace has lasted this long because of nuclear deterrence; war would have been too destructive. But nuclear deterrence needn't be permanent. Already, new technology promises to end it. The twenty-first century will witness a new age in which war is again thinkable, and meaningful victory possible. Even if SDI isn't feasible, the trend toward smaller, more accurate bombs and counterforce targeting rather than MAD will eliminate the specter of nuclear holocaust, hence nuclear deterrence, the sole guarantor of peace. When war becomes thinkable again, one will be amazed how quickly it breaks out. Both superpowers will attempt to do what they've always longed to do; cut their opponent's throat.
Negotiations are futile because the US and USSR are fundamentally opposed and prefer victory over lasting accommodation. Even now, cheating by both sides on SALT demonstrates the impossibility of permanent "agreement" among rivals.
WW III will not wreck civilization. As long as war means annihilation, even rivals will refrain from initiating it. When war no longer means doomsday, then they'll start it, but civilization will survive.
WW III will result in Western victory. After nuclear deterrence is gone, victory or defeat will depend upon conventional might, which in turn rests upon numerical, technological and industrial strength. Although Russia will remain roughly equal to any single foreign state, like Germany, she will be overwhelmed by the combined might of her numerous enemies. History shows that the USSR is doomed. If Germany in 1941 almost destroyed Russia by herself, all the western states can surely overwhelm the Soviets — that is, after they become dictatorial, and hence better able to mobilize their greater resources for war. Moreover, the Russians will be hamstrung by unreliable "allies" in eastern Europe and by a China front. In much the same way that Russia tied down and decimated the German Army in WW II, thus making an Allied victory possible, a modern China could tie down so much Soviet strength that the western nations can again win in Europe. Far from being limited to a defensive role, the West will be in a better position to finish off Russia than the Nazis in 1941.
WW III will destroy democracy. Communism will be eliminated by military defeat, but democracy will also vanish during the great war crisis. WW III won't destroy civilization, but it will still be a tremendous national emergency and democracy withers under such conditions. Even in WW II, the US became essentially a dictatorship, and WW III's impact will be far greater. Not only will democracy be wrecked by tremendous wartime stresses, it will have no place in the postwar world. To insure permanent peace, a bonafide World Government will be established, unlike the pathetic League of Nations or UN, and national sovereignty eliminated. Such a culminating global empire can no more be a democracy than its predecessors. Like them, it will require the utmost of authoritarian centralization — Caesarism.