Reading about geopolitics is no cure for alarm and despondency, however good the books are. Indeed, the better, the worse. It is the equivalent of small children telling each other ghost stories, so successfully that they are too frightened to go to sleep. Apropos of ghost stories, geopolitics generally leads to the same conclusion. Western Civilisation’s surviving the Twentieth Century was a damned near-run thing. It could easily have turned into a ghost story.

We can divide that century and the early phase of its successor into five periods. The first, up until 1914, was the prelude to what Anthony Beevor has described as the Suicide of Europe. Then came, in Henry Kissinger’s words, the second Thirty Years’ War. We could also call it the second Fall of Man. There followed the Cold War, prevented from turning hot by mutually-assured destruction. It ended in a brief period of Western triumph, succeeded by a tepid peace which now shows signs of becoming a second Cold War. We can only hope that it will remain cold.