Talking to Russia, Racial Bias, Mine-Hunting Dolphins: RAND Weekly Recap

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July 29, 2022

This week, we discuss why it may be time to talk to Russia; what might lead Moscow to escalate the war in Ukraine; the compounding effects of racial bias; what economic research says about abortion; China's military aid; and why the Navy should stick with its mine-hunting dolphins.

Rescuers work at a site of a building destroyed by a Russian missile strike in the town of Chuhuiv, Ukraine, July 25, 2022, photo by Sofiia Gatilova/Reuters

Photo by Sofiia Gatilova/Reuters

Time to Talk to Russia?

As the war in Ukraine rages on, the West is providing Kyiv with more and more powerful weapons, and Russia is unleashing more and more death and destruction. If this continues, then further escalation of the conflict seems likely to follow. That's according to RAND's Samuel Charap and Jeremy Shapiro of the European Council on Foreign Relations, writing in the New York Times.

The United States and its allies should continue providing aid to Ukraine, they say. But the West—in close consultation with Kyiv—should also consider opening channels of communication with Russia and working toward a cease-fire agreement. There may not be a mutually acceptable outcome of the war right now, but talks could help identify the compromises needed to find one.

Charap and Shapiro call the ongoing conflict “a classic spiral in which both sides feel compelled to do more as soon as the other side begins to make some progress.” The best way to prevent that dynamic from getting out of control may be to start talking—before it's too late.

U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, and Ukraine's Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov in a Ukraine Defence Contact group meeting in Brussels, Belgium, June 15, 2022, photo by Yves Herman/Pool/Reuters

U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, and Ukraine's Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov meet in Brussels, June 15, 2022

Photo by Yves Herman/Pool/Reuters

Potential Pathways to Russia Escalating the War

Although not inevitable, escalation of the conflict in Ukraine is a significant concern. A new RAND paper examines the conditions that may lead to Russia broadening its war and targeting NATO member states. The authors lay out the four most-plausible scenarios and discuss how U.S. and NATO actions could affect each pathway's likelihood. Their analysis could help U.S. and allied policymakers manage escalation risks while continuing to pursue Western objectives.

Graduates of City College of New York (CCNY) at its 169th commencement ceremony on June 3, 2022, photo by Erik McGregor/Sipa USA/Reuters

Graduates of City College of New York at its 169th commencement ceremony, June 3, 2022

Photo by Erik McGregor/Sipa USA/Reuters

The Compounding Effects of Racial Bias

In 2017, the median white family in America held 14 times the wealth of the median Black family. Why do such large racial disparities persist decades after the Civil Rights Movement and the abolition of explicit racial discrimination? A new RAND tool illustrates one contributing factor: The small effects of racial bias can compound over generations, adding up to large differences. You can use the interactive tool to see how varying degrees of bias create inequities in education, income, and wealth.

Demonstrators protest outside the United States Supreme Court as the court overturns the Roe v. Wade decision in Washington, D.C., June 24, 2022, photo by Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters

Demonstrators protest outside the U.S. Supreme Court after the ruling that overturned Roe v. Wade, Washington, D.C., June 24, 2022

Photo by Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters

Abortion Is Power

Beyond limiting access to health care, how might the repeal of Roe v. Wade affect women? Decades of economic research points to some grim consequences. As RAND's Kathryn Edwards explains, less control over the timing of motherhood negatively impacts women's economic outcomes. Even more important, abortion, like divorce, gives women the power to leave abusive relationships. Revoking this power may have dire effects on women's physical safety and well-being.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping, before a meeting in Beijing, China, April 25, 2019, photo by Kenzaburo Fukuhara/Pool/Reuters

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping before a meeting in Beijing, April 25, 2019

Photo by Kenzaburo Fukuhara/Pool/Reuters

China's Military Aid May Be Less Than You Think

The war in Ukraine has shown how important military aid is to broader U.S. security cooperation efforts. In the context of America's strategic competition with China, one might assume that Beijing also has a large military aid program as part of its approach to winning friends and influence. But a recent RAND report shows that the United States has dramatically outspent China in this area. This should offer significant advantages as strategic competition between the two powers intensifies, says RAND's Nathan Beauchamp-Mustafaga.

Gen. Martin E. Dempsey receives a capabilities brief on the U.S. Navy Marine Mammal Program in San Diego, California, March 12, 2012, photo by PO1 Joshua Scott/U.S. Navy

With their ultrasensitive “biological sonar,” dolphins can precisely locate mines from the upper reaches of the water column down to the seafloor

Photo by PO1 Joshua Scott/U.S. Navy

Why the Navy Should Stick with Its Mine-Hunting Dolphins

Dolphins have long been a critical part of the Navy's mine-hunting efforts. Their accuracy is legendary, and no mine-hunting dolphin has ever been harmed by a mine. But funding for this program has been slashed, and some argue that the dolphins should be replaced by uncrewed undersea vehicles. RAND's Scott Savitz disagrees. While vehicles are especially useful for wide-area searches, they are vulnerable to obstacles that dolphins easily overcome, such as strong currents and thick seaweed. Instead of one replacing the other, machine and mammal may work better together, Savitz says.

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