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The World at 2014: Events, Issues & Major Trends

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  • 0:01 World at 2014
  • 0:37 Cold War Redux?
  • 2:29 Capitalism
  • 3:56 Terrorism
  • 5:31 Global Warming
  • 6:42 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christopher Sailus

Chris has an M.A. in history and taught university and high school history.

In this lesson, we delve into just a few of the many issues, events, and trends facing the world in 2014, from terrorism, to global warming, to geopolitics.

World at 2014

The world is a pretty big place. With over 7 billion people on 7 continents and in approximately 200 countries, conditions and lives are changing every second. Which issues are important differ greatly depending on region and people. It would seem impossible to try to capture the pulse of the world in just a few sections. However, that's exactly what this lesson is going to do! The world in 2014 was indeed a complicated and diverse place. So, in this lesson, we will explore just a few of the issues confronting the world at 2014, from international relations, to economics, to terrorism, and the environment.

Cold War Redux?

For almost 60 years after WWII, the United States, United Kingdom, and their allies were engaged in a struggle with the Soviet Union and her communist allies. The fall of the Soviet Union in 1990 was considered not just a triumph for global capitalism but the beginning of a new era of cooperation between the two superpowers. While relations between the U.S. and Russia improved throughout the 1990s and 2000s, recently they have taken a turn for the worse.

Much of this stems from a fight between Russia and the West over Ukraine, a large nation nestled against Russia's southwestern border. Within Ukraine itself, a struggle has recently ensued between traditional, pro-Russian politicians and those who favor greater engagement with the West and admission into the European Union. The disagreements caused unrest in the capital, Kiev, in 2014, which eventually led to the overthrow of the pro-Russian government. The events deeply divided the country.

At this point, Russia invaded the Crimean Peninsula, a Ukrainian province that juts out into the Black Sea and was given to Ukraine during the Soviet era. Though the facts are still hard to determine, it also appears likely that Russia has funded and armed Ukrainian separatists in eastern Ukraine, though the Russian government vehemently denies this and in turn accused the United States and the West of unnecessarily meddling in Ukrainian affairs.

This row over Ukraine has led to the worst relations between the U.S., Western Europe, and Russia since the Cold War. In 2014, U.S. President Barack Obama placed sanctions on many of Russia's top leaders and several Russian companies, restricting their access to U.S. markets and banks. Russian President Vladimir Putin followed suit by placing similar restrictions on top U.S. officials. Not only what happens in Ukraine in 2015, but how U.S.-Russian relations improve or deteriorate, will have a major impact on European and global geopolitics moving forward.

Capitalism

Economically, the world is still doing its best to pull out of the deep economic recession of 2008. While many Western states, the U.S. included, have gained back much of what they lost in terms of GDP and economic productivity, they have emerged to find new players at the economic table. Indeed, several developing nations have improved their economies rapidly, the most important of these being India and China.

India and China have the two largest populations in the world and also have the world's most explosive middle-class growth. Both countries in the late 20th century were enormous but relatively poor. Since then, they have taken advantage of increased globalization and the removal of tariffs and trade barriers to attract huge companies and manufacturers to their shores. This Asian shift in manufacturing bases for many Western companies has forced many Western nations with higher wages and standards of living to adapt to becoming either information or service economies (or both). In addition, the enormous demand for middle-class consumer goods in emerging Asian markets has made many companies with middle-class consumer bases, such as automobile manufacturers, shift their focus to court Asian consumers.

China and India, respectively the second and third largest economies in the world now, will not be the last developing nations to rise quickly in the 21st century. How the global marketplace adapts to the rise of China and India - and indeed, whichever country follows their model next - will have an enormous impact on 21st-century economics and politics.

Terrorism

While the increasingly globalized world has been an economic boon for some nations, for other groups it represents a threat to their traditional culture. This is because one of the unwitting side effects of globalized business and globalization in general is the export of Western culture. As Western businesses move into newer markets, they bring Western values with them - values which may not necessarily align with the traditional culture in those markets.

While it's an issue of concern for many, some consider it an issue so grave as to resort to violence. This is particularly true among a select few communities in the Muslim world, usually in Central Asia or the Middle East. Fundamentalist Muslim groups often resort to terrorism in reaction to a variety of Western actions and cultural incursions, whether it's the spread of Western culture and values through Western television and movies (an influence they view as corrosive and corruptible) or Western military invasions in Afghanistan and Iraq.

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