In 2013, Russia similarly opposed military action against Syria, who had reportedly used chemical weapons against its own citizens during its civil war. Ultimately, the United States, Russia, and Syria agreed that Syria's chemical weapons would be placed under international control.

Despite disagreements, Russia and the United States did sign a nuclear arms treaty in 2010. Russia also joined the U.S. and other nations in voting sanctions on North Korea, which was developing nuclear weapons.

New Challenges for the United States

The United States has the world's largest economy and strongest military. The country weathered economic ups and downs. The economy boomed in the 1990s, producing a budget surplus, or money left over after expenditures. By the early 2000s, slower growth, military spending, and tax cuts led to a growing budget. A deficit occurs when a government spends more than it takes in through taxes and other measures.

In 2008, a financial crisis shook the American economy, sparking a global recession. Millions of Americans lost their jobs as businesses cut back or closed. The recession was the nation's worst economic crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s. President Barack Obama, the first African American President, responded to the growing crisis with an economic stimulus package. Still, recovery was slow. Though unemployment began to decline, the gap between rich and poor continued to grow.

Photo of two older men discussing something in front of a microphone.

Russian president Vladimir Putin and American president Barack Obama confer at the G20 Summit in Mexico in June 2012. The United States and Russia are powerful forces in the United Nations and other international organizations.

After terrorist attacks on the United States in September 2001, President George W. Bush declared a “war on terror.” In 2002, the United States sent forces to Afghanistan, where the terrorist plot had been hatched. The next year, U.S. forces invaded Iraq and toppled its dictator Saddam Hussein. American forces remained in Iraq for almost a decade and continued to provide military support to the Afghan government.

In May 2011, American forces killed Osama bin Laden, the architect of the September 2001 attack. Shortly after, President Obama set a timetable for the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan. The renewed threat of ISIL extremism in Iraq in 2014 led Obama to call for a renewed commitment to the war on terror.

The Former Soviet Republics

In 1991, the Soviet Union broke up into 15 separate republics. Like Russia, the other former Soviet republics wanted to build stable governments and improve their standard of living. Like Russia, too, they endured hard times as they switched from communism to market economies.

In the Central Asia republics, many skilled Russian workers left, causing a shortage of trained managers and technicians. With help from the UN, the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund, these nations worked to increase trade and build economic ties with the rest of the world.

Trouble in Chechnya

Ethnic divisions caused problems for Russia and other republics. In 1994, Chechen separatists tried to break away from Russian rule. During two wars and ten years of fighting, both sides committed atrocities. Muslim Chechen rebels found support among radical Muslims elsewhere in the Caucasus. Russia finally crushed the Chechen revolt with great brutality.

The war in Chechnya fueled terrorist attacks in Russia. In the early 2000s, Chechen rebels attacked a Moscow theater and killed school children in the city of Beslan. Scattered attacks have continued to the present.


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Table of Contents

World History Topic 1 Origins of Civilization (Prehistory–300 B.C.) Topic 2 The Ancient Middle East and Egypt (3200 B.C.–500 B.C.) Topic 3 Ancient India and China (2600 B.C.–A.D. 550) Topic 4 The Americas (Prehistory–A.D. 1570) Topic 5 Ancient Greece (1750 B.C.–133 B.C.) Topic 6 Ancient Rome and the Origins of Christianity (509 B.C.-A.D. 476) Topic 7 Medieval Christian Europe (330–1450) Topic 8 The Muslim World and Africa (730 B.C.-A.D. 1500) Topic 9 Civilizations of Asia (500–1650) Topic 10 The Renaissance and Reformation (1300–1650) Topic 11 New Global Connections (1415–1796) Topic 12 Absolutism and Revolution Topic 13 The Industrial Revolution Topic 14 Nationalism and the Spread of Democracy (1790–1914) Topic 15 The Age of Imperialism (1800–1914) Topic 16 World War I and the Russian Revolution (1914–1924) Topic 17 The World Between the Wars (1910–1939) Topic 18 World War II (1930–1945) Topic 19 The Cold War Era (1945–1991) Topic 20 New Nations Emerge (1945–Present) Topic 21 The World Today (1980-Present) United States Constitution Primary Sources 21st Century Skills Atlas Glossary Index Acknowledgments