Russia's War in Ukraine: Insights from RAND

Residents flee from the town of Irpin, Ukraine, after heavy shelling by Russia destroyed the only escape route used by locals, March 6, 2022, photo by Carlos Barria/Reuters

Residents flee from the town of Irpin, Ukraine, after heavy shelling by Russia destroyed the only escape route used by locals, March 6, 2022

Photo by Carlos Barria/Reuters

On February 24, 2022, Russian President Vladimir Putin launched an unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, setting off the largest armed conflict in Europe since World War II. Ukraine has mounted a strong defense despite being vastly outnumbered, but Russian bombing and shelling have pummeled Ukrainian cities, civilian casualties are growing by the day, and the fighting has sparked an enormous refugee crisis.

As the war rages on, it's unclear what will happen next. But high-stakes questions loom large. How might the conflict evolve on the ground, at the negotiating table, and in the information space? How can the international community support Ukrainian refugees? And what can the West do to hold Putin accountable while mitigating the risk of a wider war between Russia and NATO?

A vast body of previously published RAND research and analysis can shed light on these questions, and dozens of RAND experts are providing timely insights that may help inform both immediate and longer-term policy responses to Russia's attack.

Russian Strategy and Capabilities

  • Russian President Putin attends a conference of heads of security and intelligence agencies of the Commonwealth of Independent States member countries remotely in Moscow, Russia, September 29, 2022, photo by Gavriil Grigorov/Sputnik via Reuters

    Commentary

    Nuclear Weapons and Putin's 'Holy War'

    Russia's nuclear saber-rattling has shifted the stakes of the war in Ukraine. But enabling Russia's blackmail doesn't prevent the catastrophic costs of nuclear escalation. It merely shifts those costs away from Russia and into the future, inviting other nuclear states to pull the same move for their conquests.

    Nov 2, 2022

Ukrainian Capabilities, Civilian Resistance, and the Will to Fight

  • Russian Army military vehicles drive along a street in Armyansk, Crimea, February 24, 2022, photo by Stringer/Reuters

    Commentary

    Ukraine's Crimea Conundrum

    Ukraine could be prudent to manage expectations about potential Crimea outcomes. Kyiv and its Western partners might benefit from a careful analysis of choices.

    Nov 4, 2022

Refugees and the Humanitarian Crisis

  • People fleeing Russia's invasion of Ukraine rest in a temporary refugee center located at a local track-and-field athletics stadium in Chisinau, Moldova, March 4, 2022, photo by Vladislav Culiomza/Reuters

    Commentary

    With the Ukrainians, Avoid the Mistakes of Other Refugee Crises

    Because of Russia's invasion, millions of Ukrainians have fled their country or are internally displaced. At this critical moment, European Union countries have an opportunity to avoid some of the worst pitfalls of how the world has handled other refugee crises.

    Mar 25, 2022

Diplomatic and Political Dimensions

  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visits Kherson, Ukraine, November 14, 2022, photo by Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Reuters

    Commentary

    What's the Harm in Talking to Russia? A Lot, Actually

    Despite the way it is commonly portrayed, diplomacy is not intrinsically and always good, nor is it cost-free. In the Ukraine conflict, the problems with a push for diplomacy are especially apparent. The likely benefits of negotiations are minimal, and the prospective costs could be significant.

    Nov 22, 2022

U.S. Strategic Competition with Russia

  • U.S. President Joe Biden and Russia's President Vladimir Putin meet for the U.S.-Russia summit at Villa La Grange in Geneva, Switzerland, June 16, 2021, photo by Denis Balibouse/Reuters

    Report

    U.S. Strategic Competition with Russia Is Here to Stay

    Competition between the United States and Russia occurs at many levels, from the military arena to the economic, political, and social realms. A review of 58 RAND reports on this topic highlights major findings and explores key aspects of the deteriorating U.S.-Russia relationship.

    Jan 31, 2022