Time and again over the last century, the United States and the other liberal democracies in Europe, East Asia, and elsewhere have found themselves on the same side in grand struggles over the terms of the world order. This political grouping has been given various names: the West, the free world, the trilateral world, the community of democracies. In one sense, it is a geopolitical formation, uniting North America, Europe, and Japan, among others. It is an artifact of the Cold War and U.S. hegemony, anchored in NATO and Washington’s East Asian alliances. In another sense, it is a non-geographic grouping, a loosely organized community defined by shared, universal-oriented political values and principles. It is an artifact of the rise and spread of liberal democracy as a way of life.
This essay is part of the upcoming Fall 2023 print issue on the most important alliances in the world now. Subscribers can ask G. John Ikenberry questions ahead of an FP Live about shifting power blocs, including the G-7 and G-20. FP Live | Sept. 5