Putin's Latest Threats, U.S. Policy in the Middle East, Disaster Recovery: RAND Weekly Recap


RAND Weekly Recap

September 23, 2022

This week, we discuss RAND experts' reactions to Putin's latest threatening rhetoric; how to reshape U.S. policy in the Middle East; COVID-19's effect on drug treatment program admissions; promoting diversity in America's teacher workforce; a better approach to dealing with disasters; and where China exports its weapons.

Russian President Vladimir Putin makes an address on the Russia-Ukraine conflict in Moscow, Russia, September 21, 2022, photo by Russian Presidential Press Service/Kremlin via Reuters

Photo by Russian Presidential Press Service/Kremlin via Reuters

Putin Escalates the War, Issues Threats: RAND Experts React

On Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin called up hundreds of thousands of new troops and vowed to use “all the means at [Russia's] disposal” against Ukraine and the West. This announcement comes after Kyiv's triumphant counteroffensive in eastern Ukraine, where Moscow sustained significant losses.

RAND researchers have been weighing in on this latest development. On Twitter, Samuel Charap wrote that Putin is clearly raising the stakes and is unlikely to downsize the scope of his war. Dara Massicot highlighted the weaknesses of Russia's force mobilization system. “Russia is muddling through,” she wrote. “Its ad-hoc approach to replacing personnel and equipment risks overcommitting its remaining forces to missions it could struggle to bear.”

Our experts also discussed Russia's changing tactics, Ukraine's recent gains, the importance of continued Western support, and more.

More RAND Insights on the War in Ukraine

  • According to Gian Gentile and Raphael Cohen, Ukraine's “stunning operational success” in Kharkiv could turn the tides of the war. It's a military achievement not unlike the Continental Army's defeat of British forces in the Battle of Saratoga—a turning point of the Revolutionary War that ultimately led to American independence.
  • The West has repeatedly said that it is not seeking regime change in Moscow. But William Courtney notes that America and its allies are taking measures to counter the Russian invasion of Ukraine that are similar to those used to counter Soviet aggression in the '80s—arms, aid, sanctions, and ridicule—a formula that may have helped usher in Russian liberalization and could do so again.
  • Clint Reach considers Russia's views on the global order, how the Kremlin sees the invasion of Ukraine fitting into its international vision, and what the West can expect from Moscow next.
  • As U.S. tensions with Russia continue to rise, the North American Aerospace Defense Command may need to strengthen its ability to detect and counter missile intrusions. One way to do this, say RAND engineers Michael Bohnert and Scott Savitz, might be to invite Greenland and Denmark to join the command.
Cars drive and residents gather at the Shorja wholesale market during a sandstorm in Baghdad, Iraq, July 3, 2022, photo by Ahmed Saad/Reuters

Traffic moves slowly as crowds gather at the Shorja wholesale market during a sandstorm in Baghdad, July 3, 2022

Photo by Ahmed Saad/Reuters

Renewing U.S. Security Policy in the Middle East

Intensifying competition with Russia and China has led to calls for the United States to deprioritize the Middle East. But according to a new RAND report, America has vital security interests in the region that should not be neglected. The authors offer a top-ten list that includes everything from preventing terrorism and dealing with Iran, to protecting allies and partners and addressing climate change. They also recommend that Washington rely less on military operations and more on diplomacy, economic development, and technical assistance.

Multi-ethnic group therapy session, photo by Vladimir Vladimirov/Getty Images

Photo by Vladimir Vladimirov/Getty Images

After COVID-19 Hit, Drug Treatment Admissions Fell

Admissions to drug treatment programs decreased by nearly 25 percent during the first year of the pandemic. The steepest declines were among people of color. That's according to a new RAND study. This drop in treatment is concerning, because there's evidence that substance use disorder and rates of overdose death increased during the same period. More research might help explain what drove racial and ethnic disparities, including the possible effects of bans on elective procedures, shelter-in-place orders, and other policies.

A high school teacher helping students use tablets, photo by Getty Images

Photo by Getty Images

Building a More Diverse Teacher Workforce

All students—especially students of color—benefit from having teachers who are people of color. What strategies might break down the barriers that prevent people of color from becoming teachers and staying in the profession? A new RAND report offers recommendations for state policymakers, districts, and schools: First, lower the cost of becoming a teacher and being a teacher. Second, ensure that the applicant pool is diverse. Third, create an inclusive work environment to retain educators.

Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority workers repair part of the electrical grid after Hurricane Maria in Utuado, Puerto Rico, May 17, 2018, photo by Alvin Baez/Reuters

Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority workers repair part of the electrical grid after Hurricane Maria in Utuado, Puerto Rico, May 17, 2018

Photo by Alvin Baez/Reuters

A Better Approach to Dealing with Disasters

Before Hurricane Fiona made landfall last week—five years after Hurricanes Irma and Maria devastated Puerto Rico—RAND experts wrote about the need to improve America's “reactive” approach to disaster recovery. Their research has shown that, rather than waiting for a disaster to strike and then spending billions to repair damages, the United States should focus on funding efforts that can reduce the level of damage that occurs in the first place. In other words, invest in resilience.

Workers make parts for pneumatic guns at one of the eight manufacturers licensed by the Ministry of Public Security in Qingliu county, Fujian province, China, May 26, 2022, photo by Hu Guolin/FeatureChina via AP Images, Workers make parts for pneumatic guns at one of the eight manufa

Workers make parts for pneumatic guns at one of the eight manufacturers licensed by the Ministry of Public Security in Fujian province, China, May 26, 2022

Photo by Hu Guolin/FeatureChina via AP Images

Where Does China Export Its Weapons?

Military weapons exports are important to any country's ability to project influence around the world. To better understand China's global influence, RAND researchers mapped the countries to which Beijing has sent weapons and private security contractors. Their analysis found that, from 2018 to 2021, 48 countries around the world have received Chinese weapons or contractor services, including 14 countries that have received both.

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