Arms Proliferation and Control

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The U.S.-Soviet nuclear arms race ended in détente, but nuclear development efforts and WMD proliferation in India, Pakistan, North Korea, and Iran have caused geopolitical instability since the Cold War's end. RAND has applied strategic analysis to nuclear confrontation scenarios and international deterrence efforts since its earliest work on game theory, with particular focus on the roles of both diplomacy and missile defense systems in global as well as regional security.

  • The Kumsusan Palace of the Sun, a mausoleum in Pyongyang, North Korea, photo by narvikk/iStock

    Report

    How Does North Korea Evade Sanctions?

    The United Nations has imposed increasingly restrictive sanctions on North Korea after each of the six nuclear weapons tests that it conducted between 2009 and 2016. Enforcement has been mixed, and North Korea has become adept at several techniques to evade sanctions.

    Sep 23, 2021

  • Russian Mi-28N helicopters fly in formation at the Dubrovichi range near Ryazan, Russia, August 2, 2015, photo by Maxim Shemetov/Reuters

    Content

    Where Russia Markets and Sells Advanced Conventional Weapons

    Russia uses arms exports to further relations with other countries, influence their political and military leaders, and further its broader foreign and defense policy goals. A series of maps show the extent of its marketing, negotiating, and sales of key weapons systems.

    Jun 11, 2021

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  • Blog

    Homelessness in L.A., Russia's Military Woes, Educator Morale: RAND Weekly Recap

    This weekly recap focuses on breaking the cycle of incarceration and homelessness, Russia’s ongoing military struggles, NATO expansion, and more.

    Aug 19, 2022

  • A Ukrainian army officer looks at a destroyed SS-24 missile silo near the town of Pervomaisk, Ukraine, October 30, 2001, photo by Gleb Garanich CVI/CLH//Reuters

    Commentary

    How Russia's Nuclear Double Cross of Ukraine Teaches Dangerous Lessons

    Since Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the West's support for Kyiv has been tempered by an ace up Vladimir Putin's sleeve: the potential use of nuclear weapons. But other countries are taking notice, which could imperil world stability even further.

    Aug 16, 2022

  • A suspected missile is fired, in this image released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on March 22, 2020, photo by KCNA/Reuters

    Multimedia

    North Korean Sanctions Evasion

    The United Nations imposed increasingly restrictive sanctions on North Korea after each of the six nuclear weapons tests that it conducted between 2009 and 2016. In this film, experts discuss the threats posed by North Korean proliferation and the importance of enforcing sanctions.

    Aug 15, 2022

  • Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Ali Bagheri Kani arrives at Palais Coburg for nuclear talks Vienna, Austria, February 28, 2022, photo by Leonhard Foeger/Reuters

    Commentary

    A Renewed Nuclear Deal With Iran: Turning Back the Clock?

    Diplomats from Europe, the United States, Russia, China, and Iran are in Vienna trying to revive the Iran nuclear agreement of 2015. But even if negotiations succeed, the post-deal environment could be much more unstable than it was seven years ago.

    Mar 4, 2022

  • An SM-3 Block IIA is launched from the USS John Paul Jones during a flight test off Hawaii resulting in the first intercept of a ballistic missile target by the SM-3IIA, February 3, 2017, photo by Missile Defense Agency

    Report

    Instability in the U.S.-Russia Deterrence Relationship

    U.S.-Russian strategic stability is based on mutual vulnerability to retaliation, which eliminates the incentive to strike first. But the United States has developed counterforce capabilities that Moscow fears could be used for a first strike. What could be done to address Russia's concerns and increase stability?

    Feb 17, 2022

  • Journal Article

    Journal Article

    Estimating Nuclear Proliferation and Security Risks in Emerging Markets Using Bayesian Belief Networks

    Estimating future nuclear proliferation risk using expert elicitation.

    Jan 21, 2022

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with Central African Republic President Faustin-Archange Touadéra at the Russia-Africa Summit in Sochi, Russia, October 23, 2019., photo by Mikhail Metzel/Kremlin via Reuters

    Commentary

    What Does Africa Need Most Now: Russian Arms Sales or Good Vaccines?

    Why is Russia's main export to Africa advanced conventional weapons at a time when other needs are so great? African leaders might think twice about aggressive Russian arms pitches and engagement of mercenaries, and prioritize measures to stem the COVID-19 pandemic and encourage economic growth.

    Nov 17, 2021

  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un speaks during a Report on Enlarged Meeting of the 2nd Political Bureau of the 8th Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea, in Pyongyang, North Korea, in this image released July 5, 2021, photo by KCNA via Reuters

    Report

    A Realistic Approach for Dealing with North Korea's Nuclear Weapons

    Pursuing the unachievable goal of convincing North Korea to surrender its nuclear weapons can only complicate the real challenge of managing a nuclear-armed North Korea. The United States and its allies should instead focus on deterrence and a series of negotiated agreements to control further development.

    Nov 3, 2021

  • A new submarine-launched ballistic missile is seen during a test in this undated photo released on October 19, 2021, photo by KCNA via Reuters

    Commentary

    Reducing the Role of U.S. Nuclear Weapons Could Make North Korea Happy

    The threats emanating from North Korea pose a useful case study for the potential implications of reducing the role of U.S. nuclear weapons. Additional U.S. nuclear deterrence declaratory strategy, backed up by appropriate nuclear weapon capabilities and planning, may be needed.

    Oct 20, 2021

  • Kim Jong-un speaks to officials at the Defence Development Exhibition, in Pyongyang, North Korea, in this undated photo released on October 12, 2021, photo by KCNA via Reuters

    Commentary

    North Korea's 'Business as Usual' Missile Provocations

    North Korea has revved up its cycle of missile provocations, its go-to method of securing leverage against the United States and South Korea in the on-again off-again nuclear negotiations. How will the United States and South Korea choose to respond?

    Oct 14, 2021

  • Chinese President Xi Jinping and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un take a walk in Pyongyang, North Korea, in this picture released by KCNA on June 21, 2019, photo by KCNA via Reuters

    Commentary

    Can China Be a Real Partner in Bringing North Korea to the Nuclear Negotiating Table?

    The United States remains committed to the goal of denuclearization of North Korea. China is more interested in maintaining a delicate geopolitical balance to counter U.S. influence in the region and in expanding its own reach. Thus, prospects for productive U.S.-China cooperation on the North Korean nuclear threat seem faint at best.

    Jul 14, 2021

  • North Korean leader Kim Jong-un inspects a long-range strategic ballistic rocket Hwasong-12 in an undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency, May 15, 2017, photo by KCNA via Reuters

    Commentary

    North Korean Nuclear Weapons Pose an Existential Threat to China

    Despite the current border closures between their two countries, China and North Korea remain resolutely pledged to a “blood-alliance.” But this partnership has vastly different implications depending on which side of the border you consider.

    Jul 13, 2021

  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un reacts as he attends a parade to mark the 75th anniversary of the founding of the ruling Workers' Party of Korea, in this image released by North Korea's Central News Agency on October 10, 2020, photo by KCNA/Reuters

    Commentary

    Biden's North Korea Policy Review Is Sparse on Details. Here's One Interpretation

    The Biden administration recently completed its North Korea policy review. Details have been sparse, but based on prior U.S. dealings with the Kims, some informed guesses about Washington's approach towards Pyongyang under the new administration can be had. Here's one.

    May 6, 2021

  • Children sing and dance in front of Children's Peace Monument to commemorate the coming into effect of the TPNW at Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima, Japan, January 22, 2021, photo by Osamu Kanazawa/Yomiuri Shimbun via Reuters

    Commentary

    Nuclear Ban Treaty Offers Rare Chance for Japan

    As the only country to suffer the horrors of wartime atomic bombings, one would assume Japan would eagerly sign any treaty to ban such weapons. Why hasn't Japan signed the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which took effect in January 2021?

    Apr 30, 2021

  • Blog

    Summer Learning, America's Middle Class, Waking Up After the Pandemic: RAND Weekly Recap

    This weekly recap focuses on how to make summer learning count, U.S. deterrence in the ‘gray zone,’ why so many Americans are stuck outside the middle class, and more.

    Apr 23, 2021

  • Still from a documentary by a North Korean TV station, titled “The efforts and sacrifices (of the Chairman of the North Korean State Affairs Committee, Kim Jong-un) for the people in 2020,” broadcast February 1, 2021, photo by KCTV via / Latin America News Agency/Reuters

    Commentary

    COVID-19 Exacerbates North Korea's Bad Choices

    Recently, Kim Jong-un admitted that North Korea is facing a dire situation. It was surprising that he would admit circumstances which at face value suggest major failures on his part. Why is Kim admitting that such circumstances are developing in the North now?

    Apr 20, 2021

  • North Korean leader Kim Jong-un speaks during the conference of the Central Military Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea in this image released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on May 23, 2020, photo by KCNA/Reuters

    Commentary

    Think the Coronavirus Is Curbing Kim's Atomic Appetite? Think Again

    Coronavirus or not, Kim Jong-un's appetite for nuclear and missile bargaining with the United States remains intact. This likely spells further weapons demonstrations from North Korea, with potentially longer-range missile demonstrations to test Washington's resolve in its nuclear negotiations with Pyongyang.

    Apr 20, 2021

  • North Korea displays what appears to be its largest intercontinental ballistic missile during a parade to mark the 75th anniversary of the founding of its ruling Workers' Party, October 10, 2020, photo by KCNA

    Report

    Countering the Risks of North Korean Nuclear Weapons

    There is a growing gap between North Korea's nuclear weapon threat and South Korean and U.S. capabilities to defeat it. Because these capabilities will take years to develop, attention should be focused on where the threat could be in the mid to late 2020s and strategy options that could be employed to counter it.

    Apr 12, 2021