Taiwan, Putin's Holy War, Mining the Moon: RAND Weekly Recap

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Nov 25, 2022

RAND Weekly Recap

This week, we discuss why China likely won't attack Taiwan anytime soon; what Putin might be fighting for in Ukraine; preparing for nations to start mining in space; challenges working moms face this winter; teachers' use of new instructional materials; and remembering RAND's David Johnson.

Taiwan Navy Marines conducted a scenario-based drill near Penghu, Taiwan, October 24, 2022, photo by EyePress News/Reuters

Photo by EyePress News/Reuters

China Likely Won't Attack Taiwan Anytime Soon

U.S. government and military officials have increasingly cited 2027 as Chinese President Xi Jinping's potential deadline to invade Taiwan. Some have even warned that an attack could happen next year. But according to RAND's Derek Grossman, 2027, let alone 2023, is likely too soon.

Why? First, Xi's latest rhetoric on Taiwan has been quite reserved. Second, Beijing may have concerns about its ability to successfully conduct joint operations against Taiwan. Third, key U.S. allies appear poised to assist American military efforts to prevent China from conquering Taiwan.

At least for now, China is not signaling a war, Grossman says. And rather than start one, Xi is more likely to dial up the use of coercive measures against Taiwan, including diplomatic, economic, and military pressure coupled with cyber and psychological operations.

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

Russian President Putin remotely in Moscow, September 29, 2022

Photo by Gavriil Grigorov/Sputnik via Reuters

Nuclear Weapons and Putin's 'Holy War'

As the costs and mistakes of his war in Ukraine mount, it’s worth asking what Russian President Vladimir Putin is fighting for. Krystyna Marcinek of the Pardee RAND Graduate School says it's possible that Putin has subscribed to a “holy war” narrative—viewing the conflict as a battle for Russia's imperial identity and the very soul of its people. If this is true, then Putin might use nuclear weapons simply to show that he will stop at nothing to prevail.

Illustration of Artemis astronauts on the moon, illustration by NASA

NASA illustration of Artemis astronauts on the moon

It's Time to Make Rules for Mining in Space

Last week, NASA launched its Artemis I mission, a potential first step toward establishing a permanent human presence on the moon. The mission also represents a move toward mining the moon for precious materials—especially water, a highly valuable resource for humans operating in space. According to RAND experts, as the United States and other nations embark on a new space race focused on exploiting such materials, cooperation and governance is essential. Without these, the risk of conflict will only increase.

A teacher and her middle school students having a discussion, photo by Fly View Productions/Getty Images

Photo by Fly View Productions/Getty Images

Teachers' Use of New Instructional Materials

Introducing new instructional materials can place considerable time and learning demands on teachers. New results from a RAND survey show that roughly half of educators regularly use new instructional materials. However, they typically don't use them for the bulk of their teaching time. Many teachers also report spending their own money on instructional materials and a need for materials that better engage students.

Young Afro-Latina mother taking temperature of her child in bed, photo by Vesnaandjic/Getty Images

Photo by Vesnaandjic/Getty Images

What Working Moms Face This Winter

Children get sick. A lot. And with an expected “tripledemic” of surging COVID-19, flu, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) cases hitting this winter, kids may be spending even more days at home than usual. This introduces the difficult task of what RAND economist Kathryn Edwards calls “winter mom math,” estimating how many days of work will be lost because of a child's illness. Her request: Judge working moms for the job they do, not the days they miss.

Dave Johnson (c) at the 2014 RAND International Programs board meeting in Washington, D.C., June, 2014, photo by Dori Walker/RAND Corporation

David Johnson at the 2014 RAND International Programs board meeting in Washington, D.C., June 2014

Photo by Dori Walker/RAND Corporation

Remembering RAND's David Johnson

Last month, David Johnson, a retired U.S. Army Colonel, RAND researcher, and leading intellectual in national defense and military history, passed away following a long illness. Johnson's colleagues recently wrote about his legacy—defined by mentorship, a passion for history, and decades of brilliant writings. “He made everyone around him think better,” said General Christopher G. Cavoli, commander U.S. European Command. “Dave made each of us better.”

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