| Automatons led by a lunatic|
Charlie Chaplin imitator
|First as tragedy|
|Then as farce|
- Note: This article is not about basis vectors or anything related to any coordinate system.
Their stated goal was to oppose both internationalist capitalist powers (the Allies) and communism (the Comintern). Axis countries generally preferred an authoritarian "state capitalism" which somewhat resembled mercantilism under absolute monarchists.
The three main countries in the Axis were:
- Germany (and Austria) under the Nazi rule of Adolf Hitler
- Italy under the Fascist rule of Benito Mussolini
- Imperial Japan under a military dictatorship (Emperor Hirohito was nominally the leader but more of a figurehead during WWII, at least until the very end)
Other countries in the Axis included:
- Croatia, under the rule of Ante Pavelić and the Ustaše (close allies of Fascist Italy) between 1941 and 1945 (the rest of Yugoslavia was invaded and divided among Germany, Italy, and Bulgaria.)
- And several puppet governments set up by Germany, Italy, and Japan in occupied countries such as Thailand, Manchuria, and Albania.
 Not officially part of the Axis
Vichy France between 1940 and 1944 was in name only "neutral". In reality, it collaborated with the Nazis and other Axis powers. Phillipe Pétain capitulated to Hitler's demands and handed over half of France including Paris to German military occupation. He was allowed to rule the south of France where he set up a fascism-lite regime from the new capital, Vichy. Pétain readily gave France's Indochina colonies to Japan when asked. France's colonies in north Africa under Vichy control were the early target of the western allied powers, UK and the USA, in 1942 and 1943 to invade and push the Axis back to Sicily in a second front while the German invaders were deep into the USSR. Stalin asked for a second front and Roosevelt wanted to invade France directly in 1942 but Winston Churchill believed it too premature. So Vichy French colonies in Africa were first to be invaded and then Sicily and Italy. The western allied powers finally invaded France directly in June of 1944 and overthrew the Vichy regime along their way to Germany. France wanted its Indochina colonies back after the defeat of Japan but the Viet Minh refused to be recolonised; this led to the US's future involvement in the Vietnam War.
Spain under Francisco Franco and Portugal under António de Oliveira Salazar were not members of the Axis, and both men remained in power until the mid-1970's. Salazar honored the longstanding Anglo-Portuguese Alliance and was the only European leader to predict that Hitler would lose the war. In 1940, Salazar allowed for some 2,000 evacuees from Gibraltar to temporarily settle in Madeira and later granted the Allies basing rights in the Azores. Portugal drifted further into the Allied camp after the Japanese invasion and occupation of Portuguese Timor.
Franco, on the other hand, actively identified his regime with the Axis powers. Franco's regime signed the Anti-Comintern Pact in March of 1939, becoming its fourth member alongside Germany, Italy and Japan. While Franco never signed the Tripartite Pact, he actively aided the German war effort in the East, sending nearly 47,000 Spaniards to fight on the Eastern Front as "volunteers." Contrary to popular belief, the vast majority of those who served in the Blue Division were drawn from the regular Spanish Army; less than a third were civilian Falangists. Unlike Portugal who was officially neutral, Spain was "non-belligerent," much as Italy had been before the Battle of France. However, Franco also refused to let Hitler march through Spain to Gibraltar, and at one point made defensive preparations against a possible attempt to do so.
Post-War, Portugal became a member of NATO and the UN, while Spain wasn't part of either until 1956 and 1982, respectively. This was likely because Franco, unlike Salazar, had favored the Axis over the Allies during the war.
Some sources also list Finland as an Axis country. This is because Finland was at war with the Soviet Union at the same time Nazi Germany was and the two countries cooperated in military activity against the USSR including joining invading in Operation Barbarossa. However, after the USSR withdrew from Finland to concentrate on driving Nazi forces out of their country, Finland turned against the Nazis and fought to drive German troops out of their country in 1944-45; as such, they are best described as having merely been cobelligerent with the Axis for a time.
 Recent usage (or more like it, misusage)
George W. Bush attempted to revive the Axis term, in the context of a modern "Axis of Evil," to refer to something other than the Nazi/fascist dictatorships of WWII and to drum up support for war in the Middle East in a Godwin's Law style. This usage is probably on the same level as the neologism "Islamofascism." In other words, bullshit rooted in using moral equivalence as a propaganda tactic.