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Ukraine gained independence after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and has since veered between seeking closer integration with Western Europe and being drawn into the orbit of Russia, which sees its interests as threatened by a Western-leaning Ukraine. Since the pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych in 2014, Russian-backed separatists seized cities in the east, which has prompted a conflict,
France is a key player on the global stage, with a seat on the UN Security Council, and a country at the political heart of Europe.
The United Kingdom (UK) has a long history as a major player in international affairs and fulfils an important role in the EU, UN and Nato. At the beginning of the 20th century, it commanded a world-wide empire as the foremost global power. Two world wars and the end of empire diminished its role, but the UK remains an economic and military power, with considerable political and cultural influence around the world.
Germany is the most industrialised and populous country in Europe. Germany rebounded from shattering defeats in World War I and II, and from being divided by the European cold war blocs, to become the economic giant of Europe, and a prime mover of European cooperation.
The European Union (EU) is a unique economic and political partnership between 28 European countries that cover much of the continent. Together, EU states form the largest economy in the world.