World War 3 Rumors: Vladimir Putin Could Be Using Syria Airstrikes As Way To Confront U.S., Some Fear

World War 3 fears are rising after Russia launched a series of airstrikes in Syria, boosting its presence in the volatile region and possibly coming into conflict with the United States.

Russia and leader Vladimir Putin have been building up its forces in an effort to help leader Bashar Assad to fight ISIS. The United States has also fought ISIS, but opposes Assad and instead has been working with rebel groups. The United States has called on Assad to step down from power, but Syria’s long civil war shows that he has no intention of leaving.

There are reports that the targets hit by Russian airstrikes are not actually ISIS positions but U.S.-backed rebels. The strikes were targeted in the area of Homs, a stronghold of the Free Syrian Army that is fighting to overthrow the Assad regime.

These groups have also been on the offensive against ISIS, which has attracted U.S. support in the past.

Many people who lived near the Russian airstrikes took to social media, sharing pictures and video of the aftermath of the attacks and noting that they appear to hit non-ISIS positions.

There are other rumors stoking fears of World War 3. Some outlets reported that Russia planned to send ground troops to Syria, but it now appears that could be the result of a misinterpretation of a report from the Russian media outlet Kyivpost.

And at least one presidential hopeful is stoking fears of World War 3 as well. Republican frontrunner Donald Trump said on Friday that his GOP opponents want to “start World War 3 over Syria” and said that the U.S. should step back in the region and let Russia take on ISIS.

“They want to start World War III over Syria. Give me a break,” Trump said at the State Fairgrounds in Oklahoma City (via the Hill).

“You know Russia wants to get ISIS right. We want to get ISIS. Russia’s in Syria. Maybe we should let them do it?” he continued. “Let them do it. What the hell are we crazy?”

Trump, who had struggled in matters of foreign policy in the past, also took a bold stance on Iraq.

“I said don’t go into Iraq. I’m the most militant person here, the most militaristic person you’ll ever meet. I believe in the military strongly but I didn’t want to see us invade Iraq,” he said. “We spend $2 trillion dollars, thousands of lives, wounded warriors all over the place that I love by the way… we got nothing. We can’t even go over there.”

But it is not just Donald Trump worried that the events in Syria could end up sparking World War 3. Many conspiracy theorists have speculated that Vladimir Putin may be trying to spark a larger conflict in order to distract from domestic problems within Russia.

The Rand Daily Mail noted as follows.

“Opinion polls also show Russian voters have little appetite for a long campaign, with painful memories of the Soviet Union’s 1979-89 intervention in Afghanistan, in which thousands of Soviet troops were killed, still fresh.

“But as Russian real incomes fall for the first time since Putin came to power, the spectacle of the country flexing its military muscles overseas, could also be a useful distraction for the Kremlin.”

It is not clear how much credence there could be to the World War 3 rumors. Last year, many people feared that Russia’s increasing military exploration — including a submarine found in the Baltic Sea — could be leading to a region-wide war, but ultimately the incidents quieted and the reports went away.

[Picture by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images]