The objective of the world order created at the end of World War II was to establish a liberal framework for the development of the entire world. This order collapsed with the Russian invasion of Ukraine. What should be done to replace it?
Even before the invasion, many powerful societies had taken an unmistakably illiberal direction. These societies cannot share a liberal objective. Thus, in this new world, you either aim at including all societies in a fully global order, regardless of their liberal or illiberal stance, or you try to sustain and defend an oasis of liberal democratic order in a core of liberal powers, hoping that it will be larger than the illiberal area. You cannot do both.
In an article in Foreign Affairs, Richard Haas and Charles A. Kupchan proposed to aim at an all-inclusive global order, regardless of the degree of liberalism of its components. They propose the creation of a Concert of the Superpowers, using the Concert of Europe of the early nineteenth century as a model. This Concert would include the United States, the European Union, India, China, Japan, and Russia. It would be based on a new realpolitik, which would forget about ideology to open the door for a pragmatic solution of current conflicts.
The Concert of Europe was formed by the five European powers (Austria, France, Prussia, Russia and the United Kingdom) in the Congress of Vienna after the Napoleonic Wars. It was never formalized like the United Nations. Nevertheless, with some exceptions (the Crimean War of the 1850s and the French-Prussian War of 1870) the great powers applied its basic principle of negotiation instead of war until the start of World War I. In this way, the Concert helped to keep the nineteenth century free of major wars.
Yet, the Concert of Europe is not a good example of a council lacking an ideological objective. It was formed by conservative powers with the explicit purpose of defending the conservative order, opposing revolutions, and keeping the balance of power in Europe. These were strongly cohesive interests. The Concert of the Superpowers, in contrast, would not have any cohesive interest, and would include countries, like Russia and China, which have opposed interests to the rest of the members.
In this context, there is no reason to believe that this new institutional framework would have advantages over the United Nations’ Security Council (UNSC), or any different subgroup holding meetings in some empty room. The Foreign Affairs article that makes this proposal mentions that one of the problems of the UNSC is the frequent use of veto. But there is no reason to believe that issues that lead, say, Russia, to veto a resolution in the UNSC would not motivate the same country to issue the same veto in the Concert of the Superpowers.
The problem is not the lack of a place to meet or an institution to analyze different solutions for conflicts, but, instead, the weakening of the liberal international order that restrained the actions of rogue states. Having a new place to meet would not convince Russia that it should get out of Ukraine or forget about rebuilding the old Russian Empire. It is not a problem of communication. It is a problem of power. And it is important to notice that China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, and many others, are taking advantage precisely of the weakening of the liberal social order to violate, or threaten to violate, the existing geographical status quo. They will oppose enforcing any order independent from them.
Given this problem, if a choice must be made between creating an institution that would cover all the great powers and one that would defend liberal democracy, liberal democracies should opt for the second one.
What is needed is a new organization that would respond to the main challenges of the epoch: the rise of China (not yet a fully rogue state like Russia but threatening to become one), several rogue states like North Korea, and the staying nuclear power of Russia. This new organization would be tied together by the common objective of defending a liberal international order as big and powerful as possible. This new framework would have military and economic dimensions. In both, the objective must be to take advantage of the complementarity of the liberal democracies.
The UK 2021 defense review marks a rational path to take militarily. This review proposes the development of high competence in some specific fields that would complement those chosen by other liberal democracies. In the case of the UK, the review recommends specializing in special forces, internet, and space, focused on offensive operations inserted into the general strategies of a larger organization. The review targets its recommendations on the Asia-Pacific region, while resting for territorial defense on the coordination with the military forces that provide the core of NATO. Other countries would specialize in other or the same areas to create a sharp defensive edge against China, Russia, and other rogue states.
Of course, the main problem would be one of trust. Each country would wonder what would happen to them if their allies failed to go to war to defend them. They would be left with an incomplete armed force, which could be easily defeated by a complete and unified army. Yet, the alternative is for each of the liberal democracies to develop a complete, but too small army which would not be tailored to fight under a unified command. As the Russian catastrophic defeat in the first stage of the Ukrainian War confirmed, swift coordination of operations of different branches of military power is key in war. Following the British example, this new military power would be based on specialization, knowledge, and economic power.
Regarding economics, a huge economic area gaining in diversity and efficiency should be created within the liberal democratic powers. To prevent petty interests from blocking the creation of this needed zone, the countries should adopt the model of the Hanseatic League—the establishment of certain rules that countries should meet to become members, which would grant automatic acceptance by the existing members if those rules were met.
This would lead to the creation of a very large common market. Of course, the opposition to this would be enormous. There are many powerful companies that compete only because of the protection they receive from their governments. For this reason, trade between the great economic powers, while much freer than that between developing countries, is full of obstacles, which, in turn, leads to many inefficiencies. The most important of these is the constant friction introduced by the continuous efforts that enterprises and governments make to increase the protection to their own activities and diminish that of their trade partners.
Reducing protection and combining military forces would not be easy. Reaching a perfect integration would not be feasible. Yet, the advantages of advancing in this direction must be examined in the context of the worst threat ever suffered by the liberal democracies and the world in general. In this new world, unification will come one way or the other—either voluntarily to defend freedom, or after having lost it, under the boot of aggressive rogue states.
What we need is a cohesive and powerful group of countries, hopefully a growing one, united by common ideals and visions of defense and economic development, facing the challenges posed by China, Russia, and other states willing to test the West´s resolve to defend the rule of international law. There would not be an order approved by all. But neither would it exist if there was a Council of (all) the Superpowers. And the illiberal powers would not have the explicit power to block the decisions of the group of liberal powers from within.
Of course, like any other international order, this would be subject to risks and opportunities. Some countries may move from one area to the other, and others, as happened during the Cold War with the surge of the non-aligned countries, could cause other divisions within each of the early groups as well. But those are inevitable and would prompt new adjustments. Still, drawing a line to keep liberal democracies together as a single group would be much better than having all countries mixed with the illiberal ones without a close coordination of the liberal ones.
Manuel Hinds is the author of In Defense of Liberal Democracy: What We Need to Do to Heal A Divided America, Imagine!, 2021. His website is manuelhinds.com
 Richard Haas and Charles A. Kupchan The New Concert of Powers: How to Prevent Catastrophe and Promote Stability in a Multipolar World, Foreign Affairs, March 23, 2021. https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/world/2021-03-23/new-concert-powers
 House of Commons, Briefing paper Number 9181: Summary, Defence Command Paper 2021, https://researchbriefings.files.parliament.uk/documents/CBP-9181/CBP-9181.pdf