Backgrounders

Current political and economic issues succinctly explained.

Renewing America

Renewing America

Outsourcing Jobs and Taxes

Author: Roya Wolverson

Outsourcing remains a contentious political issue as lawmakers, analysts, and business leaders debate its effect on U.S. job creation and the role of corporate tax policy in shipping jobs overseas, explains this Backgrounder.

See more in United States; Labor; Tax Policy

Russia's Energy Disputes

Author: Lionel Beehner

Buoyed by high oil prices, Russia finds itself embroiled in a number of disputes with foreign firms looking to tap its underdeveloped oil fields and with its neighbors that grew used to subsidized gas.

See more in Russian Federation; Oil; Natural Gas

Global Uranium Supply and Demand

Author: Toni Johnson

Interest in nuclear power is increasing, but securing adequate uranium supplies for nuclear fuel faces challenges ranging from a flagging mining sector to fears of nuclear weapons proliferation.

See more in United States; Nuclear Energy

Copenhagen's Many Agendas

Author: Toni Johnson

The UN conference on climate change that begins December 7 in Copenhagen is supposed to produce new targets for emissions reductions, but experts say major countries are at odds on the ultimate goal of a new framework. This backgrounder looks at some of their positions.

See more in Environmental Policy; Climate Change

Iran's Ballistic Missile Program

Author: Greg Bruno

Despite concerns over Iran's nuclear program, the Obama administration has assessed that Tehran is years from a developing a long-range missile capable of delivering a nuclear weapon. But past Iranian secrecy and testing bombast have led some experts to remain skeptical of Tehran's capabilities and ambitions.

See more in Weapons of Mass Destruction; Iran

Understanding Myanmar

Author: Jayshree Bajoria

Myanmar has undergone significant political change since the 2007 Saffron revolution leading to a boom in international investment, but it still faces considerable economic and human rights hurdles.

See more in Burma/Myanmar; Human Rights

National Missile Defense: A Status Report

Author: Greg Bruno

The United States has pursued missile defense technologies for six decades, with mixed results. Changes under the Obama administration, including adjustments to planned defenses in Europe, could portend a new direction.

See more in United States; Missile Defense

The African Union

Author: Stephanie Hanson

The African Union succeeded the old Organization for African Unity (OAU) in 2002. Since then, the new institution has struggled to reform governing bodies inherited from the OAU while shouldering challenging new peacekeeping missions.

See more in Africa (sub-Saharan); Regional Security

The Rise of Political Opposition in Japan

Author: Jayshree Bajoria

Opposition victory in Japan's 2009 parliamentary election served as a watershed moment in the country's electoral politics. Analysts say political change in Tokyo could result in a possible shift in its close relationship with the United States, especially in security matters.

See more in Elections; Japan

India-Afghanistan Relations

Author: Jayshree Bajoria

India's growing economic and political influence in Afghanistan has angered Pakistan, the traditional power there, and has experts worried that Afghanistan could become another battleground in the long-standing rivalry between South Asia's two giants.

See more in Trade; Afghanistan; India; Havens for Terrorism; Pakistan