Is World War II over?

Is World War II over?

This Friday marks 75 years since Nazi Germany's surrender in World War II. The fighting would, of course, grind on for three more horrific months in the Pacific, culminating only after the US dropped two atomic bombs on Japan. But Victory in Europe – VE Day as it's known on both sides of the Atlantic – ended the European phase of the worst war in human history.

Three quarters of a century later, the number of people old enough to remember the war is dwindling fast, but in some ways the defining conflict of the 20th century continues to reverberate directly into the politics of the 21st.


In some places, the war isn't even officially over. Japan and Russia, for example, continue to argue over who rightfully owns a handful of islands that the Soviet Union occupied late in the conflict.

South Korea and Japan, meanwhile, have their own island disputes, but they recently suffered a severe rupture in relations over Seoul's demand that Tokyo accept responsibility for the occupying Japanese army's wartime atrocities in Korea.

In Eastern Europe, the trauma of the war keeps coming up. The Soviet Union lost more people (some 24 million) than any other nation, in what Russians still revere as "The Great Patriotic War." Poland, Ukraine, and Belarus were largely wrecked as fighting along the gruesome Eastern front repeatedly ground through them.

Moscow still clashes with Central and Eastern European countries over the removal of statues honoring Red Army liberators, which many locals see less as monuments to liberation than as symbols of post-war Soviet oppression. Even an international Holocaust commemoration earlier this year was marred by a spat between the Russian and Polish presidents over basic World War II facts. And in Russia's conflict with Ukraine since 2014, each side has attacked the other using language lifted straight from the 1940s – Moscow accuses today's Ukrainian nationalist groups (some of whose predecessors aligned with the Nazis against the Soviet Union during the war) of being "fascists," while some Ukrainians refer to Putin as "Putler."

That said...even as some World War II animosities have lasted, so too have the big international institutions – the UN, IMF, World Bank – that have served as pillars of the post-war international system. Those institutions depend on international cooperation and on US leadership, both of which are in short supply as the world grapples with a new global crisis.

So, here's a question: Will the COVID-19 pandemic, itself a new crisis of global proportions (though mercifully nowhere near as destructive as World War II) bring fundamental changes to the post-war order?

This time last year, world health experts were speculating about why Africa appeared to have escaped the worst of the global pandemic. Younger populations? Natural immunity created by exposure to past viruses? Something else?

They can stop wondering. Africa is now in the grip of a COVID emergency.

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Get insights on the latest news in US politics from Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi barred two Republican members from serving on the Jan. 6 commission. What's going on?

Well, the Jan. 6 commission was designed to be a bipartisan commission, taking input from members from Democrats and Republicans. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy had the opportunity to make recommendations but the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, could always veto those recommendations. In this case, she did, saying no to two members, Jim Banks and Jim Jordan, both of whom are strongly aligned with President Trump and who voted against certifying the election results in 2020. The Republicans for the most part see the Jan. 6 commission as an opportunity to score political points against them, and the Democrats say this is going to be a fair, non-biased, and nonpartisan investigation into what happened on Jan. 6, starting with a hearing next week with some of the police officers who were involved in the battle with the protesters inside the Capitol.

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In his New York Times op-ed, David Brooks says the US is facing an identity crisis — protecting liberal and progressive values at home while doing little to stop autocrats elsewhere. But has the US really abandoned its values abroad just because it's withdrawing from Afghanistan? Ian Bremmer and Eurasia Group analyst Charles Dunst take out the Red Pen to argue that the US can advance democracy without being the world's sheriff.

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When the Tokyo Olympics begin on Friday, Japan watchers will be following more than just the performance of Japan's star athletes, including tennis star Naomi Osaka. They will also be tracking the political fortunes of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who is taking a big gamble by staging the event — amid a raging pandemic — in the face of strong and longstanding opposition from the Japanese public. What are the stakes for Suga, particularly with elections on the horizon? Eurasia Group senior analyst Ali Wyne explains.

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YouTube pulls Bolsonaro's rants: Google-owned YouTube pulled down a series of videos on the channel of Brazil's populist President Jair Bolsonaro, accusing him of spreading misinformation about the pandemic. YouTube removed more than a dozen clips for touting quack cures for coronavirus or claiming, in defiance of scientific experts, that masks don't reduce COVID transmissions. Last year, Twitter and Facebook also removed some content from Bolsonaro's feeds for similar reasons. But critics say that YouTube's move is too little too late, because Bolsonaro has been spreading misinformation about COVID since the pandemic began. Many Brazilians hold him personally responsible for the country's abysmal pandemic response, which has led to almost 550,000 deaths, the second worst toll in the world. Will YouTube's move change Bolsonaro's message? His weekly address to the nation, where he converses not only with government ministers but also various conspiracy theorists and loons, is broadcast on YouTube. Surely he doesn't want to risk losing that — or does he?

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Boycotts! Bans! Protests! Drugs! Think you've got gold medal knowledge about politics at the Olympics? Test what you know with this special Tokyo Olympics Quiz. And to stay current on all the latest political stories at the Games and around the world, subscribe here to Signal, our daily newsletter. Now, without further ado, the first question is...

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28: The UK and the EU have again failed to agree on post-Brexit trade rules for Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom. In a 28-page document, the British government had suggested further changes to trade rules that were already negotiated as part of the Brexit settlement, but Brussels was not having any of it.

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