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

United States
How Police Compare in Different Democracies
Recent killings by U.S. officers have sparked widespread calls for police reform and an end to systemic racism. Here’s how U.S. policing compares with other countries’ approaches.
International Criminal Court
The Role of the International Criminal Court
The ICC was created to bring justice to the world’s worst war criminals, but debate over the court still rages.
United States
What Is Temporary Protected Status?
Temporary protected status has long been used as a humanitarian solution for migrants who are unable to return home safely, but efforts to end the program have reignited the debate around U.S. immigration policy.  
Sub-Saharan Africa
AGOA: The U.S.-Africa Trade Program
U.S. trade with sub-Saharan Africa has declined in recent years, prompting analysts to question the effectiveness of a preferential trade program for the region.
European Union
How Does the European Union Work?
The European Union has navigated a thicket of external and internal crises in recent years, including mass migration and Brexit. What are the union’s core institutions, and what roles do they play?
Oil and Petroleum Products
OPEC in a Changing World
Western leaders have long criticized OPEC’s power to raise oil prices, and the bloc continues to influence the global market even as U.S. oil production has soared and alternative energies have come to the fore.  
Trade
The Contentious U.S.-China Trade Relationship
Trade between the world’s two biggest economies has ballooned in recent decades, bringing significant benefits but also frictions over China’s state-led development and calls to rethink the relationship.  
Americas
The Organization of American States
The Organization of American States is an important forum for regional diplomacy and has become more assertive in promoting the rule of law, human rights, and fair elections as some states face domestic upheaval.
Canada
What Is Canada’s Immigration Policy?
With its comparatively open and well-regulated immigration system, Canada has become a top destination for immigrants and refugees.
Argentina
Argentina: A South American Power Struggles for Stability
Argentina is one of Latin America’s largest economies and most stable democracies, but the country has struggled with political dysfunction and financial crises in recent decades.
Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico: A U.S. Territory in Crisis
The Caribbean island, which shares a close yet fraught relationship with the rest of the United States, faces a multilayered economic and social crisis, rooted in long-standing policy and compounded by natural disasters, the coronavirus pandemic, migration, and government mismanagement.
Myanmar
Myanmar’s Troubled History: Coups, Military Rule, and Ethnic Conflict
The 2021 coup returned Myanmar to military rule and shattered hopes for democratic progress in a Southeast Asian country beset by decades of conflict and repressive regimes.
Monetary Policy
What Is the U.S. Federal Reserve?
Over the past decade, the Fed has deployed trillions of dollars in stimulus while expanding its regulatory oversight. The central bank is back on the front lines to fight the COVID-19 crisis.  
NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization)
Why NATO Has Become a Flash Point With Russia in Ukraine
Russian leaders have watched with mounting resentment as the transatlantic alliance has nearly doubled its membership since the end of the Cold War. President Vladimir Putin has drawn a red line in Ukraine.
Venezuela
Venezuela: The Rise and Fall of a Petrostate
Venezuela’s descent into economic and political chaos in recent years is a cautionary tale of the dangerous influence that resource wealth can have on developing countries.