On December 12th of last year, the Economist cover featured a picture of Donald Trump, Marie Le Pen, and Viktor Orbán. The image and title ‘Playing with Fear’  referred to the rise of a particular brand of populist politics that combines ethnic-nationalism, conservative moral values, and xenophobia. The rise of these movements in previously democratic states can be intrinsically linked to the success of the Putin regime in Russia and its construction of an illiberal state. The Putin government, which has ruled Russia for sixteen years now, has managed to successfully construct a model that other nations can imitate. This model combines authoritarian political tendencies - though admittedly of a softer variety, economic prosperity - either through state capitalism or populist spending measures, and a diminished civil sector.
This is in great contrast to the notion put forward by Francis Fukuyama in his 1992 book The End of History which extrapolated that the end of the Soviet Union and the discrediting of the Communist economic model would lead to the universal adoption of free market capitalism and liberal democratic values. Domestically, Illiberal states reject these notions. In the realm of security and foreign policy, it was assumed that a world of liberal democratic states would embrace a liberal international system built around the concept of international law and institutions such as the World Court and the United Nations. Illiberal states instead base their international relations around Realist international principles. While nations that embrace liberal international principles accept the confinements of international law and adhere to the recognized norms of human rights, Realists focus solely on foreign policy which benefits their nation.
Again, Putin's Russia provides the best example of the contrast and clash between these ideologies. The Russian invasion of Georgia in 2008  , the annexation of Crimea and destabilization of Ukraine in 2014 were both actions that were undertaken with purely realist motivations. In the wake of the Georgian war, Russia controls both the Roki Tunnel and coastal road. By extension, this provides Russia with a direct route into the southern Caucasus and the Middle East. Control of Crimea, meanwhile, secures Russia Sevastopol, the headquarters of its Black Sea fleet. The breakaway Donetsk region prevents Ukraine's accession to the European Union or NATO, thus stunting both organizations eastward expansion and maintaining Russia’s sphere of influence.
If only Russia practiced such a foreign policy, then that would be worrying enough. However, the impotence demonstrated by the established Liberal order in the face of Russian aggression serves to embolden states elsewhere to buck the international norms. China had until recently sought to confine its rise to prominence within the existing international order. It has in recent years begun to move in a more Realist direction. China's construction of artificial islands in the disputed South China Sea can in some ways be viewed as a further deterioration of the international order. It can perhaps be argued that until Russia moved against Crimea, China saw no way to assert its claim over the South China Sea outside the context of military bluster and drawn out negotiations with ASEAN and the US. Putin's method of occupying first and then staying put long enough for the world's attention to shift elsewhere could have embolden them.
Currently, there are a number of nations which have been or are beginning to imitate Putin's illiberal domestic system. This includes Turkey where the former Prime Minister and now President Recep Erdogan has used many of the same tactics used by Putin to secure his power, and that of his ruling Justice and Development Party. Hungary’s ruling PM Viktor Orbán openly admires the Putin regime and actively seeks to remake Hungary along more nationalist and authoritarian lines. Most recently it is Poland, previously a model of post-soviet democracy, that has moved to adopt an illiberal state. The recently elected Law and Justice Party has already begun to neuter the judiciary and consolidate government control of the press. Across Europe and even the US, support for politicians who are sympathetic to illiberal views is rising. Some good examples are the French National Front and its leader Marie Le Pen’s record breaking number of votes in the first round of France's regional elections, and the sky high polling among some sectors of the electorate for the American presidential candidate Donald Trump.
Although thankfully most illiberal states with the exception of Russia have thus far not actively sought to step outside the international order, their continued multiplication is worrisome, as is their attitude. Illiberal states should not be mistaken for a monolithic block acting in concordance with one another. In fact, many are deeply at odds with each other, while Hungary and Russia maintain close ties, both Poland and Turkey are openly hostile to Russia and Vladimir Putin. A major plank in Poland's Law and Justice Party's platform is the widely discredited belief that Russia caused the 2010 crash of Poland's presidential jet killing the then President Lech Kaczynski. Turkey’s downing of a Russian jet that overflew its territory while conducting operations over Syria, further helps to illustrate the problem. While eventually cooler heads prevailed, the bombast of both governments was worrying and by all acounts Turkey and Russia have begun to work more at odds in Syria.
As the Liberal order breaks down and is supplanted by a illiberal one, the world faces the grim prospect of sliding back to an international order akin to the late 19th century when states settled issues not in drawn out negotiations, but short, sharp conflicts and through gunboat diplomacy. This would be an unpleasant turn of events for all, not the least because of the rise of the non-state actors such as international terrorists, which could begin to supplant weaker states as ISIL has done in Iraq. Though flawed, opaque, and occasionally untenable, Liberal democratic values both domestically and in foreign affairs represent humanity's best chance for peace and prosperity in this century. Illiberal values appeal to governments because it makes agendas easier to manage, and they appeal to voters because they speak to a sense of national pride and purpose. It was these same values of ethnic nationalism, ardent patriotism, and realist foreign affairs that led the world into two world wars and an extended cold war. Though patriotism and national pride have their place, they should not be the bases for foreign policy. If the world is to survive this century, it would do well not to repeat the mistakes of the last.
 Francis Fukuyama (1992). The End of History and the Last Man. Free Press. ISBN 0-02-910975-2