What Deters and Why
Nov 20, 2018
In this report, RAND researchers identify eight common characteristics of gray zone aggression, develop a framework for assessing the health of U.S. and partner deterrence in the gray zone, and apply the framework to three case studies: China’s actions in the Senkaku Islands, Russia’s actions in the Baltic states, and North Korea’s actions in South Korea.
Applying a Framework to Assess Deterrence of Gray Zone Aggression
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In an era of rising global competition, U.S. challengers and rivals are increasingly looking to achieve competitive advantage through gray zone activities — that is, acts of aggression that remain below the threshold of outright warfare. In this report, RAND researchers identify eight common characteristics of such aggression (e.g., unfolds gradually, is not attributable) and develop a framework for assessing the health of U.S. and partner deterrence in the gray zone. They apply the framework to three cases: China's aggression against the Senkaku Islands, Russia's aggression against the Baltic states, and North Korea's aggression against South Korea. The authors conclude that U.S. and partner deterrence of gray zone activities is in a reasonably strong, though mixed, condition in each of these three contexts. Finally, the authors outline the implications of their findings for the U.S. Army. Among these implications are that maintaining a local presence and posture plays an important role in conveying likely responses to aggression, and clear statements of shared intent to respond to specific actions are critical.
A Framework for Evaluating Gray Zone Deterrence
Deterring China's Gray Zone Aggression Against the Senkaku Islands
Deterring Russia's Gray Zone Aggression Against the Baltic States
Deterring North Korea's Gray Zone Aggression Against South Korea
Conclusions and Implications for the U.S. Army
South Korea's Policy of Disproportionate Retaliation
The research described in this report was sponsored by the United States Army and conducted by the Strategy, Doctrine, and Resources Program within the RAND Arroyo Center.
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