Backgrounders

Authoritative, accessible, and regularly updated primers on hundreds of foreign policy topics.

Pharmaceuticals and Vaccines

A Guide to Global COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts

The swift development of effective vaccines against COVID-19 was an unprecedented scientific achievement. But production challenges, vaccine nationalism, and omicron and other variants have all presented hurdles.

Middle East and North Africa

What Is U.S. Policy on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict?

The United States has long tried to negotiate a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but several factors, including deep divisions between and within the parties and declining U.S. interest in carrying out its traditional honest-broker role, hurt the chances of a peace deal.

Explainers Video Filters and Cards

Lebanon
What Is Hezbollah?
Military experience gained from fighting in Syria’s civil war and decades of clashes with Israel have made the Iran-backed group stronger than ever, but the biggest threat it faces may be upheaval in its own backyard.
Hong Kong
Hong Kong’s Freedoms: What China Promised and How It’s Cracking Down
Beijing has tightened its grip on Hong Kong in recent years, dimming hopes that the financial center will ever become a full democracy.
Middle East and North Africa
Turkey’s Growing Foreign Policy Ambitions
Turkey’s geography and membership in NATO have long given the country an influential voice in foreign policy, but the assertive policies of President Erdogan have complicated its role.
Public Health Threats and Pandemics
The U.S. Opioid Epidemic
Opioid addiction in the United States has become a prolonged epidemic, endangering not only public health but also economic output and national security.
Energy and Environment
How Green-Party Success Is Reshaping Global Politics
Once a fringe movement, green parties are increasingly shaping the debate in countries around the world. How influential are they, and what comes next?
NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization)
What Is NATO?
The alliance is bolstering its military deterrent in Europe amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and could be poised for another major expansion.
Iran Nuclear Agreement
What Is the Iran Nuclear Deal?
Diplomacy to revive this arms control agreement has faced multiple stumbling blocks, including Iran’s nuclear advances and geopolitics related to the war in Ukraine.
Labor and Employment
U.S. Temporary Foreign Worker Visa Programs
The United States has long accepted hundreds of thousands of foreign workers each year. President Biden has pledged to restore opportunities for migrants after the Trump administration blocked many temporary visas amid the pandemic.
Inequality
The U.S. Inequality Debate
Public policy experts call income and wealth inequality one of the defining challenges of this century. Recent crises have accelerated these divisions, and the COVID-19 pandemic has deepened them further.   
United States
The State of U.S. Strategic Stockpiles
President Joe Biden has tapped the nation’s emergency oil reserves several times over the past year. The Strategic Petroleum Reserve is just one of the stockpiles that the United States maintains for economic and strategic purposes.
Infectious Diseases
Why Hasn’t the World Eradicated Polio?
The world is inching closer to eradicating polio, but armed conflicts and opposition to vaccines stand in the way of finally eliminating the disease.
Refugees and Displaced Persons
How Does the U.S. Refugee System Work?
The United States has long been a safe haven for refugees from around the world. President Biden aims to expand the country’s resettlement program after the Trump administration made sharp cuts.
China
China’s Growing Influence in Latin America
Over the past two decades, China has developed close economic and security ties with many Latin American countries, including Brazil and Venezuela. But Beijing’s growing sway in the region has raised concerns in Washington and beyond.
Southeast Asia
What Is ASEAN?
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations is a regional organization that brings together disparate neighbors to address economic and security issues, but the group’s impact remains limited.
Middle East and North Africa
Yemen’s Tragedy: War, Stalemate, and Suffering
Yemen’s internal divisions and a Saudi-led military intervention have spawned an intractable political, military, and humanitarian crisis.