International politics is not always a dynamic field of study. It is typically a field dominated by long-term trends and time-lapse analyses. Yes, there are always wars to examine and global geopolitical moves to analyze, but they are usually incremental affairs, and rarely ever threaten to upend the wider international political order. Thus, America might invade Vietnam to prevent the spread of communism, and Russia might invade Ukraine or Georgia to exert its power in its perceived strategic neighborhood. Neither move, however, greatly altered the international political order, and both were carried out within the confines of that same order.

The international political order has, in fact, pretty much remained unchanged since the end of World War II, with the exception of the collapse of the Soviet Union, which was significant, though not fundamentally order-changing. Again, that collapse fit nicely within the existing order, which in large part sought to bring it about.

The current order of the world’s political and economic system came about after the end of World War II, which saw the reorganizing of international politics and economics to reflect the outcome of the war. Thus we have the United Nations, with its five permanent, veto-wielding members of the Security Council (the war’s victors); the World Bank; the International Monetary Fund (IMF); the European Union (EU); and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). The latter institutions have come to define international affairs over the last 70-plus years, along with other regional treaty and economic groupings.

That order is now under a growing strain, which could conceivably lead to its future collapse.