The West is such a vague, artful term. What is it, really? Western Europe and the United States constitute the bulk of what is commonly referred to as The West.

The West are countries which have a fairly close set of shared values, heritage, and interests, referred to as Western interests, primarily security and economic, but cultural as well.

[Note: The West as used in this brief informal paper is not referring to the western portion of the U.S. or the western portion of any other country or region. The context is strictly international.]

The West can also be defined as the countries and institutions which derived their political, economic, social, religious, and philosophical beliefs primarily from the traditions of Western Europe, primarily the UK, France, and Germany, with influences from Spain and Italy as well. And further back, Greece.

Countries with a similar heritage, values, and interests would be included as well, such as Canada.

Australia and New Zealand would generally be considered part of the West as well, due to their British heritage, even though they are geographically in The East rather than The West.

Japan, India, and South Korea would not quite fit this definition of being integral with the West, but India did have a strong British colonial influence and Japan and South Korea have a strong alliance with Western interests and responded enthusiastically to Western influence, especially after World War II.

Eastern European countries are more of a gray zone, sometimes closely associated with Western interests but sometimes no so much.

Ditto for Austria, Greece, and Turkey.

Eurasian countries are an even grayer zone, with some ties to Western Europe and Western values, but not as strong as their own regional character. This includes Russia and the countries of the former Soviet Union.

Israel is in a category of its own, sometimes having a strong alignment with the West, but sometimes putting its own peculiar security, religious, and cultural interests first.

The Group of Seven (G7) countries generally represents Western interests, primarily security and economics. Membership is limited to the U.S., UK, France, Germany, Italy, Canada, and Japan. Russia was added at one point to form the G8, but that was problematic, so we’re back to the G7, which represents distinctly Western interests.

Generally speaking, the West refers primarily to American and Western European interests.

In truth, the West, like democracy, is more of an idea, an ideal, rather than some fixed, stationary, geographic region.

The West is also closely associated with the so-called Liberal World Order. Technically, the two are distinct but overlapping, with the Liberal World Order being global and all-inclusive by definition, although in practice the values and institutions of the Liberal World Order get their overall character, direction, and marching orders from The West, the U.S. and the EU or Western Europe.

Other countries, frequently China and Russia, act as spoilers for Western Interests when they also participate in the institutions of the Liberal World Order. Having non-Western countries participate in the Liberal World Order has been a decidedly mixed bag. It may indeed be best to try to keep them in the fold, but they add very little value otherwise.

See also my companion paper, Elements of the Liberal World Order.

Anyway, that’s The West in a nutshell.

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Freelance Consultant

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