Nuclear Deterrence, Russia and Iran, Deepfakes: RAND Weekly Recap

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Oct 6, 2023

RAND Weekly Recap

This week, we discuss U.S. nuclear capabilities; the Russia-Iran partnership; how financial incentives for businesses could help people with criminal records get hired; evidence suggesting that telemedicine is critical to pediatric mental health care; the growing challenge of deepfakes; what F16s will and wont do for Ukraine.

The U.N. Security Council convenes an emergency meeting in New York on March 31, 2023, to discuss Russia's plan to deploy tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus, photo by Kyodo via Reuters

The U.N. Security Council meets in New York City to discuss the Russian nuclear threat, March 31, 2023

Photo by Kyodo/Reuters

U.S. Nuclear Forces: How Much Is Enough?

China's growing nuclear arsenal. North Korea's rapid and sophisticated nuclear program development. Russia's nuclear saber-rattling in Ukraine. These emerging threats have led some to argue that the United States needs to expand its own nuclear arsenal.

But how much nuclear capability is “enough” for U.S. nuclear forces to deter potential adversaries and reassure allies? RAND's Edward Geist tackles this question in a new paper.

“Deterrence is difficult,” he writes, “because it is about perceptions and resolve rather than just pure numbers.” To start, potential adversaries need to perceive that the United States has “enough” nuclear weapons to deter them. Further, adversaries need to perceive that U.S. officials believe that the United States has “enough” to ensure that Washington will not falter in the face of provocation or coercion.

Russia's Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu meets with Iran's Defense Minister Brigadier General Mohammad-Reza Ashtiani in Tehran, Iran, September 20, 2023, photo by West Asia News Agency via Reuters

Russia's Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu meets with Iran's Defense Minister Brigadier General Mohammad-Reza Ashtiani in Tehran, Iran, September 20, 2023

Photo by West Asia News Agency/Reuters

Assessing the Russia-Iran Partnership

The war in Ukraine has cast new light on the relationship between Russia and Iran. Over the last 18 months, Moscow and Tehran have demonstrated increasing resolve to cooperate on contesting U.S. influence, suppressing internal threats to their regimes, and mitigating their vulnerability to international economic sanctions and foreign economic pressure. A new RAND paper examines the key factors driving Russian-Iranian cooperation and how the relationship might evolve.

Business performance checklist ideas Businessman using laptop doing online checklist survey Fill out the digital form checklist. online assessment, photo by Alek/Adobe Stock

Photo by Alek/Adobe Stock

Employer Financial Incentives May Help People with Criminal Records Get Hired

About 50 percent of men actively looking for work in tight labor markets have an adult conviction, most commonly for a misdemeanor. Connecting these individuals to jobs benefits both them and society, but some employers are hesitant to hire people with criminal records. A new study by researchers at RAND and the State University of New York at Albany explores how modest financial incentives—tax credits, for example—might change this. They found that incentives reduced the negative effects of an applicant’s criminal record by three to eight percentage points, depending on the type of conviction.

Teenage girl in online therapy session with psychologist, photo by Valeriy_G/Getty Images

Photo by Valeriy_G/Getty Images

Telemedicine Is Critical to Pediatric Mental Health Care

A new RAND study shows that spending on mental health services for children and adolescents has risen by more than 25 percent since the beginning of the pandemic. Further, the use of telehealth for pediatric patients increased more than 30-fold in the months after COVID-19 hit and remained high (23 times normal) by August 2022. These findings suggest that telehealth care for mental health filled a critical need for children during the pandemic—and continues to be important to pediatric mental health care today.

Person reading news on a phone and a tablet

Photo by chombosan/Getty Images

Could You Detect a Deepfake?

The spread of misinformation on topics such as climate change and vaccines has serious consequences. This problem is only exacerbated by the rise of deepfakes—AI-based methods of altering videos and photos. In a new RAND survey of students, educators, and the general adult public, we found that 27 to 50 percent of people cannot distinguish authentic videos from deepfakes. These results highlight the need for education on deepfake detection, especially as this technology gets better at producing highly realistic content.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Dutch caretaker Prime Minister Mark Rutte, inspect F-16 fighter jets in Eindhoven, Netherlands, August 20, 2023, photo by EyePress News/Reuters

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Dutch caretaker Prime Minister Mark Rutte, inspect F-16 fighter jets in Eindhoven, Netherlands, August 20, 2023

Photo by EyePress News/Reuters

F-16s a Game Changer—but Not a Silver Bullet—for Ukraine

How will F-16s be used in Ukraine? Their first role will likely be intercepting Russian cruise missiles in Ukrainian air space, says RAND's Michael Bohnert. And as Ukraine's military gains proficiency with the aircraft, the next mission will be suppressing Russian surface-to-air missiles. But F-16s alone will not win the war, he says. The most important support to Ukraine is still artillery, medical equipment, infantry weapons, ground vehicles, and drones.

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