Backgrounders

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

Taiwan

Why China-Taiwan Relations Are So Tense

Differences over Taiwan’s status have fueled rising tensions between the island and the mainland. And Taiwan has the potential to be a flash point in U.S.-China relations.

Energy and Environment

How the U.S. Oil and Gas Industry Works

The United States is the world’s top producer of oil and natural gas. Its decision to either continue at this pace or curb production to achieve its climate goals will have global consequences.

Explainers Video Filters and Cards

North Korea
What to Know About Sanctions on North Korea
World powers continue to punish North Korea with economic sanctions, but the pressure has so far failed to push Pyongyang toward denuclearization.
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.
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.
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 new variants have all presented hurdles.
India
India’s Muslims: An Increasingly Marginalized Population
India’s Muslim communities have faced decades of discrimination, which experts say has worsened under the Hindu nationalist BJP’s government.
Energy and Climate Policy
How Does the U.S. Power Grid Work?
Responsible for powering the country and its economy, the U.S. energy grid has come under increasing strain due to climate change, and the threat of cyberattacks looms.  
Diplomacy and International Institutions
Where Is the G7 Headed?
The Group of Seven (G7) serves as a forum to coordinate global policy, but experts are increasingly questioning the group’s relevance.
North Korea
North Korea’s Military Capabilities
North Korea has embarked on an accelerated buildup of nuclear weapons and the modernization of its already large conventional force.
Latin America
Central America’s Turbulent Northern Triangle
The U.S. government continues to seek strategies for responding to the growing number of migrants fleeing poverty, violence, and other challenges in the Central American region.
China
China and Russia: Exploring Ties Between Two Authoritarian Powers
China and Russia have expanded trade and defense ties over the past decade, but they’re not formal allies. Experts say Russia’s war in Ukraine could be a turning point in the relationship.
World Trade Organization (WTO)
What’s Next for the WTO?
In the wake of President Trump’s combative approach to trade, and with major negotiations stalled, the future of global trade rules is in doubt.  
United States
U.S. Gun Policy: Global Comparisons
The United States is witnessing another year of record gun violence, raising domestic and international scrutiny of its comparatively loose gun laws and placing pressure on lawmakers to enact meaningful reforms.
Cuba
U.S.-Cuba Relations
Communist Cuba has long been a major foreign policy challenge for the United States. President Biden is the latest U.S. leader to grapple with how to balance democracy promotion with the desire for a better bilateral relationship.
World Health Organization (WHO)
What Does the World Health Organization Do?
Since its postwar founding, the UN agency has garnered both praise and criticism for its response to international public health crises, including the COVID-19 pandemic.
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.