A Potential Russian Attack on NATO, China in the Arctic, Inflation: RAND Weekly Recap

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Jan 6, 2023

RAND Weekly Recap

This week, we discuss the potential for a limited Russian attack on NATO; food insecurity among military families; what China's presence in the Arctic means to the United States; how inflation affects middle class households; why Japan and South Korea depend on one another for security; and how digital health products could benefit society.

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends the summit of leaders of the Commonwealth of Independent States in Astana, Kazakhstan October 14, 2022, photo by Turar Kazangapov/Reuters

Photo by Turar Kazangapov/Reuters

What If Russia Were to Attack NATO?

U.S. and NATO leaders have long focused on preparing for a potential large-scale conflict with Russia. But the Ukraine war has created a set of circumstances that make a more limited Russian attack plausible.

A new RAND paper explores this possibility, considering what U.S. policymakers might do if faced with a limited Russian attack on U.S. or allied targets. The authors break down a range of hypothetical scenarios—from a one-off strike on an isolated military target to a barrage of missile attacks against multiple civilian and military sites—and consider both Western responses and Russian reactions.

Spc. Raul Morera and Cpl. Tyler Scriven sort food donations at the Killeen Special Events Center, Killeen, Texas, November 22, 2019, photo by SFC Kelvin Ringold/U.S. Army

Spc. Raul Morera and Cpl. Tyler Scriven sort food donations at the Killeen Special Events Center in Texas, November 22, 2019

Photo by SFC Kelvin Ringold/U.S. Army

Food Insecurity Affects Many Military Families

More than one-quarter of active-duty military personnel have faced some level of food insecurity. That's according to a new RAND study. Survey data shows that military members experiencing food insecurity were more likely to be early- to mid-career enlisted personnel, single with children, married without children, or members of racial or ethnic minority populations. They also were disproportionately in the Army and, to a lesser extent, the Navy. To address these high rates of food insecurity, it's essential to learn more about the root causes of the problem.

Drift ice camp in the middle of the Arctic Ocean as seen from the deck of icebreaker Xue Long, July 2010, photo by Timo Palo/Wikimedia Commons

An ice camp in the middle of the Arctic Ocean is seen from the deck of icebreaker Xue Long, July 2010

Photo by Timo Palo/Wikimedia Commons

What Does China's Arctic Presence Mean to the U.S.?

For years, China has worked to gain access to rich mineral deposits and shipping lanes in the Arctic and seek a greater say in regional affairs. But a recent RAND report finds that, despite these efforts, Beijing has made limited progress. The authors acknowledge that the United States views China's Arctic ambitions as potentially destabilizing, but there may be opportunities for the two countries to work together on key issues affecting the region, including climate change.

A young woman comparing prices in the grocery store, photo by phpetrunina14/Adobe Stock

Photo by phpetrunina14/Adobe Stock

The Inflation Pain You Don't See

Whether or not someone is “middle class” is typically determined by income. According to RAND's George Zuo, the problem with this approach is that it ignores how much of one's income is eaten up by necessities. In other words, many households may earn what's considered a middle-class income, but they can't maintain a middle-class lifestyle. And inflation only makes the problem worse.

Kim Jong-un conducts a ground test of a high-thrust, solid-fuel engine at the Sohae Satellite Launch Station in Cholsan, North Korea, December 16, 2022, photo by KCNA/Pool/Latin America News Agency via Reuters

Kim Jong-un conducts a ground test of a high-thrust, solid-fuel engine at the Sohae Satellite Launch Station in Cholsan, North Korea, December 16, 2022

Photo by KCNA/Pool/Latin America News Agency via Reuters

Why Japan's 'Counterstrike Capability' Is Good for South Korea

Japan's new national security strategy outlined a “counterstrike capability” against potential North Korean and Chinese nuclear weapons. According to RAND's Bruce Bennett, this capability offers much-needed support for South Korea. In the event of a conflict, Japanese destruction of even one North Korean nuclear weapon could save at least tens of thousands of South Korean lives. “Japan's and South Korea's fates are inextricably linked when it comes to North Korea,” Bennett says.

People using smart watch and smartphone mobile devices to track health and fitness, illustration by Wanlee Prachyapanaprai/Getty Images

Illustration by Wanlee Prachyapanaprai/Getty Images

What Your Health Tracker Isn't Tracking

Apple Watches, Fitbits, and other health trackers promise better health to those who wear them. But RAND's Douglas Yeung says that these digital health products could be more beneficial to society if they went beyond individualized data and incorporated social and community factors, too. This could lead to better mapping of diseases, improved approaches for suicide prevention, and more.

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