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New START, Trump's Middle East Peace Plan, New Tobacco Products: RAND Weekly Recap

February 21, 2020

This week, we discuss the military case for extending the U.S.-Russia New START agreement; the Trump administration's Middle East peace plan; a first look at new tobacco products; the "golden hour" of stability operations; what determines the content we read and see online; and responding to the coronavirus.

U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev exchange the signed new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START II) at Prague Castle in Prague, April 8, 2010, photo by Petr Josek/Reuters

Photo by Petr Josek/Reuters

Why the U.S. Should Extend New START

Only one bilateral nuclear arms control treaty between the United States and Russia remains today: the New START agreement. But it's set to expire in February 2021. In a new paper, RAND's Frank Klotz says that it would be prudent for Washington to take steps now to extend New START. This would constrain Russia's nuclear forces for another five years. It would also buy time to negotiate a multilateral replacement deal that addresses a broader range of nuclear delivery systems, as well as China's growing nuclear capability.

President Trump and Israel's Prime Minister Netanyahu hold a joint news conference to discuss the Peace to Prosperity proposal in Washington, January 28, 2020, photo by Brendan McDermid/Reuters

U.S. President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hold a news conference to discuss the "Peace to Prosperity" plan in Washington, D.C., January 28, 2020

Photo by Brendan McDermid/Reuters

Assessing Trump's Middle East Peace Plan

Last month, the Trump administration unveiled its Middle East peace plan. The proposal trumpets integrating Israel into the region, promising economic growth and prosperity for all. But it fails to address a fundamental problem, says RAND's Dalia Dassa Kaye: how Israelis and Palestinians can agree to live on the same land together. Any viable peace plan must recognize this reality, she says—and “not just the momentary alliances that allow Israel to avoid the hard choices.”

The charger and the holder of the electric tobacco heating system IQOS of cigarette maker Philip Morris Switzerland are displayed after a news conference in Bern, Switzerland, November 19, 2019, photo by Arnd Wiegmann/Reuters

Parts of IQQS, the electric tobacco heating system of cigarette maker Philip Morris Switzerland, are displayed after a news conference in Bern, Switzerland, November 19, 2019

Photo by Arnd Wiegmann/Reuters

The Rise of a New Tobacco Product?

New devices have hit the market that heat—but do not burn—tobacco to produce a nicotine-containing aerosol. (These are different from vaping products, which heat a liquid that contains nicotine to produce a vapor.) A new RAND study finds that many younger Americans are already aware of these products. And they are more likely to use these devices if they've previously used other tobacco products, marijuana, or other drugs. Monitoring the use of heated tobacco products will be critical to understanding their potential public health effects.

Americans, providing the main muscle for a global peace force, cross a pontoon bridge toward the northern Bosnian town of Orasje, December 31, 1995, photo by Petar Kudjundzic/Reuters

American soldiers cross a pontoon bridge toward the Bosnian town of Orasje, December 31, 1995

Photo by Petar Kudjundzic/Reuters

How to Seize the 'Golden Hour'

The early phase of a stability operation—known as the “golden hour”—is critical for improving the odds of setting a country that's been ravaged by conflict on a path to sustainable peace. That's according to a new RAND report. The authors reviewed U.S. stability operations in post–World War II Germany and Japan, as well as more recent examples, such as cases in Afghanistan and Iraq. One key lesson: Integrating political and military planning from the start is vital.

People waiting to board a subway train, photo by william87/Getty Images

Photo by william87/Getty Images

Beyond Algorithms: What's Driving Online Content

Algorithms are a powerful tool for social media platforms, churning through data to shape what content people see online. Understandably, there are growing concerns about how algorithm-based services enable social media profiling and targeting—and how they affect the spread of misleading information. But algorithms are just one part of the issue, say RAND experts. While software platforms have a responsibility to regulate their content, oversight authorities and social media users themselves also have roles to play.

Fighting the Coronavirus

The Chinese government has used mass quarantine as the primary intervention to contain the new coronavirus outbreak. It's not yet apparent how effective this has been, says RAND's Dr. Jennifer Bouey, an epidemiologist. As the battle against this epidemic continues to unfold, one thing is clear: Transparency and collaboration among the world's scientists is vital. “It's a reminder that every nation should try to prioritize and protect the capacity building, the collaboration, and overall global health,” says Bouey.

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