Backgrounders

Current political and economic issues succinctly explained.

French Military Strategy and NATO Reintegration

Author: Michael Moran

France's move to rejoin NATO's integrated military command structure reflects a shift in French strategic thinking about new reliance on allies and diminished projection of unilateral power abroad.

See more in France; NATO

Venezuela's Oil-Based Economy

Authors: Cesar J. Alvarez and Stephanie Hanson

Venezuela is trying to develop new markets for its oil at a time of increasing friction with its main customer, the United States. But a significant short-term shift in oil relations between Venezuela and the United States is unlikely.

See more in Venezuela; Oil

China's Military Power

Author: Jayshree Bajoria

China's growing military capabilities pose a concern for U.S. security interests. Experts say the United States must push for greater engagement with China's military to reduce the potential for misunderstandings.

See more in Defense Strategy; China

Iraq's Political Landscape

Author: Greg Bruno

Iraq's provincial elections provide signals about the maturity of the country's political system, as well as highlight new power brokers in the provinces.

See more in Iraq; Elections

The U.S. Economic Stimulus Plan

Author: Lee Hudson Teslik

President Obama has signed one of the largest rescue packages since the Great Depression to revive the U.S. economy. Economists warn of the need to keep spending targeted, timely, and temporary.

See more in Financial Crises; United States

Vietnam's Economic Hiccups

Author: Julie Ginsberg

Vietnam's stock market has plunged and its economic growth has dwindled since 2006, when it was seen as a model for emerging country growth. The country's experience highlights the problems confronting emerging markets in the 2008 financial crisis.

See more in Vietnam; Financial Crises; Emerging Markets

Eric H. Holder Jr., Attorney General

Author: Joanna Klonsky, Associate Editor

President Barack Obama's attorney general, Eric H. Holder Jr., has criticized some of the Bush administration's counter-terrorism moves, calling for the closure of the Guantanamo Bay detention center and bans on torture.

See more in Counterterrorism; United States