The differences with the 1930s are obvious. No one expects war to break out today. There is no Imperial Japan, Nazi Germany nor fascist Italy egging each other on to plunder the old order. Nor is the US standing aloof. But the parallels are too troubling to ignore. In Europe, the forces of disintegration are on the march. The status quo is struggling to come up with a defence.
Only in France, where Emmanuel Macron is firmly in charge, does populism seem contained. But France’s president and Germany’s embattled chancellor may not be enough to shore up an order that America’s president is actively trying to undermine. This week, a frustrated Mr Macron channelled his inner Melania Trump with the statement: “They [the populists] are saying the most provocative things and no one, no one, is outraged,” he said. “We are getting used to all kinds of extremism from countries that a few years ago were just as pro-European as we are.”
The coming days could prove equally vertiginous. Next week Ms Merkel will attempt to keep her coalition together by asking her counterparts to agree to a common EU quota allocation system for migrants. Giuseppe Conte, Italy’s prime minister, has already dismissed her initial proposals. Horst Seehofer, the interior minister and former Bavarian premier whose Christian Social Union party is in coalition with Ms Merkel, wants to turn migrants back at the German border — just as Austria and Hungary have been doing for years.