Backgrounders

Current political and economic issues succinctly explained.

Greek Elections and the Eurozone's Future

Author: Christopher Alessi

Greek elections this weekend could render a verdict on the country's eurozone future, with analysts fearing serious consequences for the global economy, says this CFR Backgrounder.

See more in Greece; Elections

Author: Steven J. Markovich

In the face of persistently high unemployment, policymakers and workers look to innovation and entrepreneurship to create new jobs. This Backgrounder discusses how entrepreneurs create and finance the startups that power U.S. job growth, and the ramifications of policies such as the JOBS Act.

See more in United States; Entrepreneurship; Financial Markets

Combating Maritime Piracy

Authors: Christopher Alessi and Stephanie Hanson

A surge in pirate attacks off the Somali coast in recent years has prompted the deployment of an international coalition of navies. But experts say that military force alone cannot address the underlying issue of failed Somali governance.

See more in Somalia; Piracy

Campaign 2012

Campaign 2012

U.S. Trade Policy

Authors: Christopher Alessi and Robert McMahon

Trade accounts for an increasing portion of the U.S. economy, and the Obama administration has embraced a ramped up export strategy. But debate persists over the merits of a vigorous free trade agenda.

See more in United States; Trade

Renewing America

Renewing America

U.S. Rail Infrastructure

Author: Elizabeth Dovell

Rail infrastructure is a critical component of a transportation network capable of helping the United States compete in global markets. Efforts to expand and modernize U.S. rail, particularly to include high-speed trains, are under debate as lawmakers weigh costs and benefits.

See more in Infrastructure; United States

The Eurozone in Crisis

Authors: Christopher Alessi and James McBride

The eurozone, once seen as a crowning achievement in the decades-long path toward European integration, continues to struggle with the effects of its sovereign debt crises and their implications for the future of the common currency.

See more in Financial Crises; EU; Eurozone

Expanding China-Africa Oil Ties

Authors: Christopher Alessi and Stephanie Hanson

China has increased its economic ties with Africa as it seeks to fulfill its growing energy demands. But China's way of doing business has prompted international criticism, even as its policy of noninterference faces new challenges.

See more in China; Africa (sub-Saharan); Oil

The Credit Rating Controversy

Author: CFR.org Staff

The three major credit rating agencies have been accused of contributing to the global financial crisis, drawing increased oversight from regulators in the United States and Europe. Nonetheless, investors continue to rely on the largely unchanged ratings services.

See more in United States; Financial Crises; Europe

Closing Guantanamo?

Author: Jonathan Masters

President Obama vowed in January 2009 to close the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay. Two years later, the White House continues to face challenges to that promise, leaving critics to suggest the facility will remain open for the foreseeable future.

See more in Terrorism; United States; International Law

State Sponsors: Iran

Author: Greg Bruno

The U.S. government designates Iran as the "most active state sponsor of terrorism," which feeds concerns about Iran's growing nuclear program.

See more in State Sponsors of Terrorism; Iran

Nuclear Power Safety Concerns

Author: Toni Johnson

Damage to Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant has reignited debate over the safety of nuclear power and highlighted questions over aging power plants, safety procedures, and waste disposal.

See more in Japan; Disasters