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?

Paper was originally made from rags until the introduction of cellulose in 1800. Since then, it has transformed into a "circular" industry, with 55% of paper produced in Italy recovered. It no longer just comes from trees, either. Some companies produce paper with scraps from the processing of other products like wool and walnuts.

Learn more about this rags to riches story in Eni's new Energy Superfacts series.

In late 2017, Zimbabwe's long-serving strongman Robert Mugabe was deposed by the army after 37 years in power. Amid huge popular celebrations, he handed over the reins to Emmerson Mnangagwa, his former spy chief. It was an extraordinary turn of history: Mugabe, one of Africa's last "Big Men" and a hero of the country's liberation war to end white minority rule, went out with barely a whimper, placing Zimbabwe — stricken by economic ruin and international isolation — in the hands of "The Crocodile."

Mugabe has since died, but almost three years after his departure, Zimbabwe's woes continue.

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As the world prepares to mark the 75th anniversary since American forces dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, global non-proliferation efforts, first codified in Cold War-era treaties, are in jeopardy. While the overall number of nuclear weapons continues to decrease — mainly because the US and Russia have set about dismantling retired weapons — both countries, which account for 90 percent of the world's total nuclear arsenal, continue to modernize their nuclear weapons programs. Meanwhile, the New START treaty, which limits the number of long-range nuclear weapons that each side can deploy to about 1,500 apiece, is at risk of collapsing. Here's a look at which countries have nuclear weapon stockpiles and who's ready to use them.

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Happy Monday, we are in August, summer, should be taking it a little easier. Coronavirus not taking the stress levels off but hopefully giving people the excuse, if you're not traveling so much, be close with your families, your loved ones and all that. Look, this is not a philosophical conversation, this is a talk about what's happening in the world, a little Quick Take for you.

First of all, you know, I'm getting a little bit more optimistic about the news in the United States right now. Yes, honestly, I am. In part because the caseload is flattening across the country and it's reducing in some of the core states that have seen the greatest explosion in this continuation of the first wave. Yes, the deaths are going up and they should continue to for a couple of weeks because it is a lagging indicator in the United States. But the fact that deaths are going up does not say anything about what's coming in the next few weeks. That tells you what's happened in the last couple of weeks.

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TikTok, ya don't stop: The wildly popular video app TikTok has been in the crosshairs of American lawmakers for many months now. Why? Because the app is owned by a Chinese company, raising national security concerns that it could funnel personal data on its 100 million American users to the Chinese government. The plot thickened in recent days after President Trump abruptly threatened to ban the app altogether, risking a backlash among its users and imperiling US tech giant Microsoft's efforts to buy the company's North American operations. After a weekend conversation between Microsoft and the White House, the sale negotiations are back on but US lawmakers say any deal must strictly prevent American users' data from winding up in Chinese Communist Party servers. The broader fate of TikTok — which has now been banned in India, formerly its largest market, and may be broken up under US pressure — nicely illustrates the new "tech Cold War" that is emerging between China and the United States. A Microsoft/TikTok deal is expected by September 15. Tick..Tock.

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