Russia's President Vladimir Putin and US President Donald Trump shake hands Mikhail Metzel\TASS via Getty Images

The West’s Crisis of Confidence

Even barring worst-case scenarios, the West will be facing a new world with new aspirants making new demands about the future. So it would be a fateful mistake to abandon the ideas and institutions that delivered prosperity and stability in previous decades.

STOCKHOLM – In an age defined by US President Donald Trump’s rage, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s revisionism, and Chinese President Xi Jinping’s unbridled ambition, the international order is becoming increasingly disorderly, dysfunctional, and even dangerous. How did we arrive at this state of affairs? And how can we leave it behind?

Until recently, the era following World War II was a time of benevolent liberal internationalism. The postwar order had begun to take shape as early as 1941, when US President Franklin D. Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill drafted the Atlantic Charter on a ship anchored in Canada’s Placentia Bay. Though Hitler had been victorious on the battlefields of Europe, Churchill and Roosevelt were determined not only to defeat the Nazi onslaught, but also to lay the groundwork for a future of peace and democracy.

They succeeded beyond what they probably imagined was possible. After the Atlantic Charter came the United Nations, the Bretton Woods institutions, the global trade system, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and much more. During the postwar decades of decolonization, many new countries emerged, and former enemies united under new alliances and an overarching structure of integration.