For almost half a century, NATO and the Soviet-backed Warsaw Pact alliance glowered at each other from across the Iron Curtain. But after the USSR collapsed, NATO expanded eastward by welcoming former Eastern Bloc members – a development Moscow viewed as a direct challenge to its sphere of influence.
This dynamic has again been a massive point of contention since Moscow unleashed a war against Ukraine, causing states like Finland and Sweden to submit hurried bids to join the defense alliance. Finland joined in the spring. And this week, Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who had been holding up Sweden's bid, finally gave Stockholm the green light. Here's a look at the history of the alliance's expansion.
As the war in Ukraine enters its second year, proponents of continued military aid to Kyiv say it’s a cut-rate investment for security while others wonder whether the cost is worth it. We look at how much the biggest suppliers spent on military aid to Ukraine as a percentage of their defense budgets last year.
On the one-year anniversary of Russia’s war in Ukraine, the UN General Assembly last week held a vote calling on Russian troops to leave Ukrainian territory. Those who opposed the resolution included the usual suspects that have aligned themselves closely with the Kremlin like Syria and Belarus, as well as Eritrea and Mali, which have close links to the Russian military.
Perhaps more interesting, however, is a look at those countries that abstained in a bid to reinforce their neutrality. Crucially, most of last week’s abstentions came from African states, which can be seen as a reflection of Russia’s growing political and economic clout in the region. But a look at bilateral trade relations between these African nations with Russia and the US, separately, shows that in most cases, two-way trade in goods with the US is way more lucrative.Indeed, this suggests that Russia’s political leverage across the continent is multifarious. It comes from Russia’s vast reserves of oil, wheat and fertilizer — as well as its position in the global weapons trade, accounting for around half of all arms exports to Africa. We take a look at two-way trade between African states that abstained from the recent UN vote with the US and Russia, respectively.
President Vladimir Putin made yet more headlines this week when he announced that Russia would suspend its participation in the New START nuclear arms control treaty, which binds Russia and the United States to limit their strategic nuclear stockpiles. While US-Russia relations have been at rock bottom for some time, this was another indication of how bad things have gotten between the two nuclear heavyweights. We take a look at the US and Russia’s nuclear stockpiles since 1945.
Japan isn’t the only country worried about the social and economic impacts of its shrinking population. Many countries across East Asia and Europe have been grappling with similar demographic trends in recent years, with some countries, like Hungary, throwing everything but the kitchen sink at women to encourage more procreation. Conversely, Africa is home to the top 14 countries with the highest fertility rates in the world. However, poor healthcare access and conflict mean that the average baby born in Africa will live far fewer years than their European and East Asian counterparts. We take a look at countries with the highest and lowest fertility rates and their respective life expectancies.
It’s been almost three years since the COVID pandemic swung a wrecking ball through our societies, our economies, and our workplaces. But even now, with the most acute phase of the crisis behind us, many aspects of life still aren’t back to what they were in the B.C. (Before Coronavirus) era. One great example is the hours worked in our economies. When the pandemic struck, lockdowns and other restrictions caused the number of hours worked on a quarterly basis around the world to plunge by nearly 20% compared to the final quarter of 2019, the baseline for “last moments of pre-pandemic normalcy.” But since then, the world as a whole still hasn’t gotten back to pre-pandemic levels of hours worked — we’re still almost 1.5% below them. Lower-income countries are struggling more than rich ones to get back to where they were, and there is only one region of the world that shows more hours worked now than before the pandemic — can you guess which one it is?
Is Trump a demagogue or a revolutionary? Is Biden a consensus builder or a divider-in-chief? Most Americans already hold firm views of the Republican and Democratic parties, and their midterm votes have been set in stone for some time. In tight races, however, the difference will be decided by whether the politically indifferent demographic decides to vote. Getting out the vote is much easier for presidential races, which many voters see as more consequential than midterms. But that trend may be shifting. We look at voter turnout in presidential elections vs. midterms since 1980, and zoom in on the turnout in some key battleground states.
Will bookies be better than pollsters at predicting the results of the upcoming US midterm elections? We'll find out soon enough, but what we do know now is that bettors give the GOP better odds of both retaking the House and winning back control of the Senate. Oddly for a country crazy about sports betting, political gambling in America remains illegal for US citizens — although startup Kalshi is leading the charge for legalization. We compare how election forecasters and bookies view the chances of Democrats keeping the Senate.
Check out more coverage of the US midterms here.
This comes to you from the Signal newsletter team of GZERO Media. Sign up today.