U.S.-Russia Diplomacy, Citizen Science, America's Blood Supply: RAND Weekly Recap

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January 21, 2022

This week, we discuss U.S.-Russia diplomacy in the context of the Ukraine crisis; how citizen science can help communities become safer and stronger; protecting the U.S. blood supply from future shocks; how the pandemic affected military recruitment and retention; U.S. capacity-building efforts in Africa; and new “visual essays” that show why people might join—and later leave—extremist groups.

Military vehicles cross a floating pontoon bridge built over the Oka River as part of a joint military exercise held in Murom, Russia, July 28, 2021, photo by Alexander Ryumin/TASS/Alamy

Photo by Alexander Ryumin/TASS/Alamy

Deterring Russia—Now and Later

The Kremlin appears poised to launch an attack against Ukraine. Today, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with his Russian counterpart in hopes of de-escalating the situation. Blinken warned that Washington is committed to a “united, swift, and severe response” if Moscow invades.

In a new RAND report about long-term competition between the United States and Russia, researchers conduct a statistical analysis of thousands of interactions between America and its competitors and explore numerous case studies of previous crises that involved Moscow.

Although the report is not about the crisis diplomacy unfolding today, the authors note several valuable insights from their research that shed light on current tensions:

  • For years, the United States has placed Ukraine and other former Soviet states somewhere between full NATO membership and acceding to a tacit Russian sphere of influence, the authors say. Their study suggests that, historically, such half measures have contributed to situations in which competitors pursue hostile activities, including military intimidation.
  • Russia is concerned about U.S. missile placement and the location of military exercises in Europe that involve American troops. The report suggests that such issues may present opportunities for negotiation, as Russia is likely to value U.S. concessions in these areas. But it's unclear whether these would be enough to alter Russian behavior now that Moscow has staked out maximalist positions.
  • In the event that Russia does invade Ukraine, the United States may be willing to position additional forces in Europe. The authors' findings suggest that doing so would likely help deter further Russian aggression. However, such new deployments should be part of a broader strategy to support U.S. allies and key partners.
A woman participates in a citizen science project to collect data about horseshoe crab populations in Cedar Key, Florida, March 31, 2017, photo by Florida Sea Grant

A woman collects data about horseshoe crab populations in Cedar Key, Florida

Photo by Florida Sea Grant

Citizen Science Can Help Make Communities Safer, Stronger

From aiding nuclear disaster response in Fukushima, Japan, to exposing lead-ridden water in Flint, Michigan, citizen science has a long tradition of helping communities respond to and recover from crises. To support these efforts, RAND researchers published a do-it-yourself guide for budding citizen scientists. This toolkit gives people an inside look at science, teaching them about research tools and techniques. And when disaster strikes, citizen science can increase community resilience and bring people together when they need it most.

A person donates blood during a Red Cross and Arizona Diamondbacks baseball team blood drive at Chase Field in Phoenix, April 28, 2020, photo by Ross D. Franklin/AP Images

A person donates blood in Phoenix, Arizona, April 28, 2020

Photo by Ross D. Franklin/AP Images

Protecting the U.S. Blood Supply

In 2016, a RAND report identified one hypothetical scenario that could “critically compromise” the U.S. blood supply: a pandemic. This risk became a reality when COVID-19 hit, and the situation is getting worse during the Omicron wave. The authors identified several recommendations for safeguarding the blood supply and helping it withstand future shocks.

Marines with Marine Corps Recruiting Command march in the cake for the 246th Marine Corps birthday at the Clubs of Quantico, Virginia, November 4, 2021, photo by Lance Cpl. Jennifer Sanchez/U.S. Marine Corps

Marines march in the cake for the 246th Marine Corps birthday at the Clubs of Quantico, Virginia, November 4, 2021

Photo by Lance Cpl. Jennifer Sanchez/U.S. Marine Corps

How the Pandemic Affected Military Recruitment and Retention

As COVID-19 first began to spread throughout the United States, it triggered stay-at-home orders and a sharp rise in unemployment. Did changes like these affect the armed services' ability to recruit and retain members? To find out, RAND researchers examined personnel data for the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, and Air Force during the first six months of the pandemic.

U.S. Navy Boatswain's Mate 2nd Class Daniel Mendoza (center) observes Sierra Leonean service members as they plot a navigational course during a training session in Freetown, Sierra Leone, August 18, 2010, photo by MC1 Jeffery Tilghman Williams/U.S. Navy

U.S. Navy Boatswain's Mate 2nd Class Daniel Mendoza (center) observes Sierra Leonean service members during a training session in Freetown, Sierra Leone, August 18, 2010

Photo by MC1 Jeffery Tilghman Williams/U.S. Navy

A Look at U.S. Capacity-Building Efforts in Africa

For two decades, the United States has heavily engaged in building the security capacity of allies and partners in Africa. These efforts were initially focused on countering terrorism, but they have taken on new importance in the context of U.S.-China competition. A new RAND report assesses how institutional capacity-building programs fit into America's broader strategic framework.

Gabrielle Mérite's visual essay features words and phrases used in RAND's report, Violent Extremism in America, to describe radicalization and deradicalization.

Gabrielle Mérite cut out words used in the RAND report Violent Extremism in America to create collages that highlight the complexity of individual experiences with radicalization

Describing (De)Radicalization

RAND researchers recently interviewed former extremists and their family members to learn more about what leads people to join—and later leave—extremist groups. In a new piece for RAND Art + Data, artist-in-residence Gabrielle Mérite explores these personal stories, creating a series of “visual essays” that illuminate the paths in and out of radicalization.

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