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- The novel Dark Mirror comments that 40 million lives were lost in the Third World War which contradicts Encounter at Farpoint.
The possibility of a third global war following the first and second was feared for decades, particularly during the Cold War, when geopolitical tensions between Earth's nuclear-armed nation-states were at their height. Part of the mission of Aegis agent Gary Seven was to prevent these tensions from erupting into full-scale warfare. (TOS episode: "Assignment: Earth"; TOS - Assignment: Earth comic: "Too Many Presidents")
One side was composed of the United States and the European Union; the other side was an alliance known as the Eastern Coalition. The detonation of nuclear weapons over cities such as London, New York City, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Mecca, Riyadh, Karachi, and New Delhi killed nearly half a billion people instantly. The post-atomic horror that followed severely destabilized global civilization; terrorist organizations and rogue states often detonated small-scale "suitcase nukes," while toxins and biogenic weapons were released. Drug-addled soldiers were often sacrificed in conventional battles on the ground after much of the planetary computer systems failed; numerous small-scale conflicts created chaos throughout the globe as warlords fought over the scraps of civilization. (TLE novel: The Sundered)
Despite the end of actual hostilities, the after-effects of the war—refered to as "the post-atomic horror"—lingered for decades to follow. Rule of law broke down in many places, and legal systems were abolished, with the suggestion to "kill all the lawyers" from Henry VI being taken literally in some places. Asia was particularly devastated. (TNG episode: "Encounter at Farpoint")
Much of the United States economy was ruined, with the population reduced to standards of living less than that of the victims of the Great Depression a hundred and twenty years earlier. So great were the horrors that human genius Zefram Cochrane had himself implanted with a pain-inhibiting chip in order to cope with the world around him. Nonetheless, his Project Phoenix was able to secure backing, and led to first contact only ten years later. (TNG novelization: First Contact)