Backgrounders

Current political and economic issues succinctly explained.

Debating a 'Clean Coal' Future

As U.S. lawmakers debate a cap-and-trade policy to combat climate change, experts say coal will continue to be a major part of the world's energy mix, which will likely complicate efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

See more in United States; Climate Change; Coal

G-20 Policy Priorities

Author: Lee Hudson Teslik

April's G-20 summit has been billed as a forum for producing a "global New Deal." Experts say policymakers should focus on stopping financial turmoil before tackling long-term regulatory reforms.

See more in Financial Crises

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

Finding a Place for the ‘Sons of Iraq’

Author: Greg Bruno

The Sunni awakening movement and the Sons of Iraq security forces it inspired helped restore peace. Iraq's long-term stability could hinge on keeping the movement satiated, experts say.

See more in Iraq

Saudi Arabia and the Future of Afghanistan

Author: Greg Bruno

U.S. experts say any new approach to bringing stability to Afghanistan must be regional in scope. Saudi Arabia, with historic ties to the Taliban and Afghan Pashtuns, could hold a principle seat at the table.

See more in Afghanistan; Saudi Arabia