I always thought S.H.I.E.L.D to be a clandestine organisation, claiming autonomy from any specific state or sovereignty, but the Agents of SHIELD episode 'The Asset' has thrown some doubt over whether this is true in Marvel's Cinematic Universe (i.e. Earth-199999, MCU).
SHIELD is denied operational privileges in Malta for some undisclosed reason, attributed to being unable or unwilling to start a conflict.
Is this potential war inferred to be directly with SHIELD? if so, how could a government start a conflict against a clandestine organisation?
Does this mean that SHIELD's actions can be attributed to a specific state, or are they considered to be working towards pan-Global interest? if the latter, why would Malta refuse to acknowledge their authority?
The series seems to indicate that SHIELD is representative of a select group of interests, whereas previous entries set in the MCU presented them as working against intergalactic threats (largely incorporating the responsibilities of S.W.O.R.D in the 616), for the benefit of the survival of humanity in its broadest definition. I'm sure Guardians of the Galaxy will be in some way a commentary of this.