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Taiwan's Brave Eagle advanced jet trainer, built to boost the island's defense self-sufficiency as China ramps up military activities nearby, takes maiden flight last year. Photo: Hsu Tsun-hsu/AFP via Getty Images

Hot spots have mushroomed across the world in 2021, adding multiple international crises to President Biden's formidable domestic to-do list.

Why it matters: Cracks in the global order, which had been presided over by unrivaled American influence since the end of the Cold War, are growing. The proliferation of great-power flashpoints, and failing or failed states, creates new threats to American leadership — and to the global economy, which has been recovering.

Here's a tour of world instability. Biden has faced new versions of several familiar crises:

  • Russia massed troops on Ukraine's borders this spring, and the skies over Gaza were lit in May with fire from Israel and Hamas. Both crises were paused, rather than ended.
  • Tensions between India and Pakistan over Kashmir are decades in the making. But there's new cause for concern in the Himalayas after border skirmishes between India and China. All three are nuclear powers.
  • The power struggle in Venezuela continues, Yemen's humanitarian crisis has deepened, and Syria and Libya remain hotbeds of unrest and foreign meddling.

Biden can expect escalation from the newest nuclear power, North Korea, at some point in his tenure. Iran is accelerating its nuclear program.

  • And Taiwan is the flashpoint of all flashpoints. A Chinese invasion of the self-governing island seems increasingly likely, though not imminent, and could lead to a scale of warfare the world hasn’t seen in decades.
  • Even short of that, flare-ups will continue over the South China Sea.

The world has also experienced a wave of protest and political instability, from the coup in Myanmar to the assassination of Haiti's president.

  • Peru's presidential transition has been held hostage by electoral fraud claims, Colombia's security forces have cracked down on mass protests, and Cubans have come out into the streets on an unprecedented scale. Violence and instability in Central America continue to push migrants northward.
  • Lebanon's political deadlock is fueling its economic collapse, with the West unsure whether to aid the country's hapless leaders or sanction them.
  • Ethiopia is in the midst of a civil war. Even in comparatively stable South Africa, destructive riots swept through cities in recent days.

Afghanistan remains one of the world’s most unstable countries, as the American footprint is suddenly withdrawn.

  • A total Taliban takeover is a very real possibility.
  • Biden has a decision to make about the remaining U.S. troops in Iraq, which are now engaged in a proxy war with Iran-backed militias. 

What we're watching: Inflation creates its own political risks around the world.

  • If inflation proves more severe and persistent than forecast, central banks will be forced to raise rates — and risk stalling the current economic recovery and employment gains.

Go deeper

Global energy crisis could dim climate hopes

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

An energy crisis around the world is hitting households and manufacturers that were already struggling to recover from the global pandemic.

Why it matters: This is a perfect storm of crises. It features supply shortages, especially from China; inflation; slowing growth; labor shortages; Russia’s continued geopolitical muscle-flexing and, of course, the fear that the world will burn to a crisp.

Updated 1 hour ago - Sports

Experts predict major boom for North American sports stadiums

Rendering of the $375 million Moody Center on the UT-Austin campus. Photo courtesy of Moody Center

Stadium and arena construction in North America will total a relatively tame $5.8 billion this year, a 12% decrease from 2021.

The big picture: What the industry lacks in construction it expects to make up for in design, with experts predicting a sports venue boom over the next half-decade, SBJ reports.

Updated 1 hour ago - World

UK government: Kremlin has plan "to install pro-Russian leadership" in Ukraine

British Foreign Secretary Elizabeth Truss. Photo: Gints Ivuskans / AFP via Getty Images

The United Kingdom's Foreign Secretary on Saturday night said the government has "information that indicates the Russian Government is looking to install a pro-Russian leader in Kyiv as it considers whether to invade and occupy Ukraine."

The latest: “I can’t comment on specific pieces of intelligence. But we’ve been warning about just this kind of tactic for weeks and we’ve spoken to that publicly," Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Sunday. The Biden administration has said Russia is actively manufacturing a pretext for invasion and warned that Putin could use joint military exercises in Belarus as cover to invade from the north.