The most important single motive shared by the so-called Axis powers was the establishment of empire. To that end, Germany, Italy, and Japan felt unable to subscribe to the prevailing norms of international law and politics. Each power routinely disregarded international treaties and conventions in pursuit of its aims, often dividing the Allied powers in the process. The Axis powers tested the prevailing system to destruction, and it took some time before the international community was able to respond effectively to the challenge.
The Germans, Italians, and Japanese looked towards a glorious, mythical past that they wished to recover. Virulent nationalism was the dominant political force in each one of these countries, and their governments were obsessed with the idea of restoring national greatness. This would be achieved at the expense of so-called lesser races and peoples: Chinese and Koreans (Japan); Abyssinians (Fascist Italy); Jews and Slavs (Nazi Germany). The international order established after World War I militated against the whole notion of overseas empires created by armed force.
This generated a profound sense of grievance in Germany, Italy, and Japan, who felt that they were being deprived of colonial territory that was rightfully theirs. The Axis powers wanted to achieve great power status, but the Allies wouldn't let them. This fanned the flames of resentment and gave added impetus to nationalist dreams of imperial conquest. The Nazis, for example, were especially obsessed with the concept of lebensraum, or living space. This would involve the forced seizure of large tracts of territory in Eastern Europe to make room for hordes of German settlers.