In his 2002 State of the Union address, George W. Bush used the phrase "Axis of Evil
" to describe Iran, Iraq, and North Korea as nations bent on acquiring weapons of mass destruction and sponsoring terrorism. While he was not entirely
wrong, he was off-target, since these countries did not have any kind of alliance. The Axis reference, of course, was intended to evoke the "Axis
" powers (initially Italy and Germany, then Japan) of World War II. The phrase was inept, but the concept is worth considering.
What brought the Axis powers together was a common ideology and goal:
The Axis powers' primary goal was territorial expansion in expense of their neighbors. In ideological terms, the Axis described their goals as breaking the hegemony of the plutocratic Western powers and defending civilization from communism. The Axis championed a number of variants on fascism, militarism, and autarky.
(From Wikipedia) In surveying the current international landscape, one can easily discern the creation of a new, nascent "Axis" along those same lines. Russia, under Putin, is obviously an autocracy masquerading as a democracy, as is Turkey under Erdogan. China, similarly, has made the leap from Communism to Autocracy under Xi. Like their forebears, they are following the path of fascism (by other names), militarism and expansionism. Unlike the "Axis of Evil", however, they are emulating the original Axis powers by coordinating their efforts.
China has been aggressively pushing its hegemony over the Pacific by building artificial islands
and asserting territorial claims over the entire South China Sea
. Russia has acquiesced in these claims and participated with China in military exercises
to show control and solidarity in contravention to Hague declarations over such claims. Similarly, China has run interference for Russia in Syria and Crimea. Turkey, while a member of NATO, has been abetted by Russia in its territorial adventurism in Syria (in part to foment friction within NATO). Erdogan, like Putin, has dictatorial aims, and wants to establish "external borders" within neighboring territory.
The rise of autocratic powers (and influence of right-wing parties in Europe) and expansionist aims of Russia, China, Turkey, North Korea and Iran closely parallel the groundwork that preceded the creation of the original Axis. Like the original Axis, as well, there are minor satellites that are also aligned with their aims, and influencers amidst their neighbors.
This danger is real, clear and present. The liberal democratic order that succeeded WWII is under its clearest threat since that conflict. Coordinated steps need to be undertaken to avoid a repeat of that conflagration.