To date, the alliance between Tokyo, Berlin, and Rome has been interpreted primarily as an alliance between nation-states and has therefore been studied using bi-national approaches. However, this article argues that the strength and globality of the Axis becomes comprehensible if we understand it first and foremost as an alliance between empires. By discussing the interwar years from the viewpoint of trans-imperial cooperation and competition, we discover an imperial nexus. The history, characteristics, diversity, and consequences of this imperial nexus are shown in three parts. The first describes how the nexus helped to bring the distantly located partners together. This occurred against the backdrop of what they called proletarian imperialism, which turned out to be a kind of post-colonial imperialism. The second part analyses how the imperial nexus led others, such as Great Britain, to believe in the existence and strength of a global Axis. In this context, the anti-colonial tendencies put forth mostly by the Japanese turned out to be dangerous. The last part shows how and why the imperial Axis remained intact during the war. Considered from the standpoint of an imperial nexus, the familiar reading of the alliance as well as of the world war shifts. First, Japan and Italy play more important roles than often assumed, while the primacy of Germany is relativized. Second, the chronologies change in relation to the genesis of the Axis and thus the origins of the Second World War. These origins are more strongly associated with non-European world regions and ‘colonial peripheries’, particularly with China and Ethiopia. Third, the issue of ideological similarities and thus of fascism once again becomes a key focus. Fourth and finally, the Axis appears far more diverse and also stronger than previously understood.