Geopolitical Strategic Competition

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  • Map of the Spratly Islands, 2015, image by U.S. Department of State

    Report

    The Political Geography of the South China Sea Disputes

    Until the early 20th century, the South China Sea was seen as a vital communications and trade passage that was not under the jurisdiction of any country or empire. How did littoral states' claims on its maritime zones and features develop? And what is the likely future of the disputes?

    Oct 19, 2022

  • A compilation of images showing global connections, chess pieces, and a member of the U.S. military, photos by piranka/Getty Images; Anusorn/Adobe Stock; and Lance Cpl. Mackenzie Binion/U.S. Marine Corps

    Report

    The Role of Information in U.S. Concepts for Strategic Competition

    Gray zone activities—acts of aggression that remain below the threshold of war—can be used to gain an edge in great-power competition. How can the information environment support U.S. responses to these activities?

    Oct 25, 2022

Explore Geopolitical Strategic Competition

  • An F-22 Raptor conducts a combat air patrol mission over an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia, September 13, 2019, photo by MSgt. Russ Scalf/U.S. Air Force

    Research Brief

    Who Has More Influence in the Indo-Pacific, the United States or China?

    Neither the United States nor China is clearly winning the competition for influence in the Indo-Pacific region as a whole. China has more economic influence, and the United States has more diplomatic and military sway. But partners generally value economic development over security concerns.

    Nov 12, 2020

  • The USS Carney, a missile-guided destroyer, approaches the Bosphorus Strait on its journey to transit out of the Black Sea, photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Weston Jones/U.S. Navy

    Report

    Russia, NATO, and Black Sea Security

    The Black Sea region is a locus of the competition between Russia and the West for the future of Europe. What is Moscow doing to advance its goals there? And how might NATO allies and partners respond?

    Oct 5, 2020

  • Journal Article

    Journal Article

    Moscow's Calibrated Coercion in Ukraine and Russian Strategic Culture

    This paper analyzes Russia's use of force in Ukraine since the end of major combat operations in February 2015.

    Sep 16, 2020

  • Chinese flag, yuan, and soldiers, image design by Katherine Wu/RAND Corporation; photos by Dmytro and Mike/Adobe Stock

    Report

    China's Grand Strategy

    China aims to be well governed, socially stable, economically prosperous, technologically advanced, and militarily powerful by 2050. Will it succeed? And how might its progress affect U.S.-China relations over the next three decades?

    Jul 24, 2020

  • U.S. dollars and other currencies lie in a charity receptacle at Toronto Pearson International Airport in Canada, June 13, 2018, photo by Chris Helgren/Reuters

    Report

    Economic Competition in the 21st Century

    One can think of economic competition in two broad ways. The first is competition as an outcome: the ability to boost standards of living through domestic policies. The second is competition as an action, where economic policies also pursue geopolitical goals.

    Jul 17, 2020

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan attend the official welcome ceremony in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, October 15, 2019, photo by Alexander Zemlianichenko/Pool/Reuters

    Report

    Russian Strategy in the Middle East Is Limited

    The unrest in Syria and the Arab Spring gave Russia the opportunity to increase its economic and political activities across the Middle East. But the strengths of Moscow's strategy in the short term—its transactionalism, its balancing of multiple partners—may turn out to be its undoing in the long term.

    Nov 26, 2019

  • Fishing boats departing from Shenjiawan port in Zhoushan, Zhejiang province towards the East China Sea fishing grounds, September 17, 2012, photo by Stringer/Reuters

    Report

    How the United States Can Compete in the Gray Zone

    America is entering a period of intensifying strategic competition with Russia and China. U.S. officials expect this to play out below the threshold of armed conflict, in the gray zone between peace and war. What policy options does the United States have to respond to gray zone threats?

    Jun 27, 2019

  • Research Brief

    Research Brief

    The Growing Need to Focus on Modern Political Warfare

    RAND researchers analyzed how political warfare is practiced today and identified ways that the U.S. government, its allies, and its partners can respond to or engage in this type of conflict to achieve U.S. ends and protect U.S. interests.

    May 31, 2019

  • Game pieces on stacks of varying height, photo by Tero Vesalainen/Getty Images

    Commentary

    This Is Not a Great-Power Competition

    The emerging conventional wisdom among foreign policy analysts in Washington is that a new era of great-power competition is upon us. But does that phrase really capture today's reality?

    May 29, 2019

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin, Chinese President Xi Jinping, and Egypt's President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi at the 2017 BRICS Summit in Xiamen, China, September 5, 2017, photo by Kenzaburo Fukuhara/Reuters/Pool

    Testimony

    Russia and China in the Middle East: A New Era of Strategic Competition

    Increased Russian and Chinese engagement in the Middle East in recent years underscores that America is in a new period of strategic competition. To prevail, the United States needs to have a vibrant and productive economy, to protect the international order, and to invest in its network of allies and partners.

    May 9, 2019

  • A game of chess between Russia and the United States, image by Petrik/Adobe Stock; design by Pete Soriano/RAND Corporation

    Report

    Extending Russia: Competing for Advantageous Ground

    The United States is locked in a great-power competition with Russia. What are Russia's greatest anxieties and vulnerabilities? How might the United States exploit these vulnerabilities? And what are the potential costs and risks of doing so?

    Apr 24, 2019

  • Red Square in Moscow, Russia, photo by mnn/Adobe Stock

    Research Brief

    Nonviolent Ways the United States Could Exploit Russian Vulnerabilities

    Despite its vulnerabilities and anxieties, Russia remains a formidable opponent in a few key domains. What non-violent, cost-imposing measures could the United States pursue to stress Russia's economy, its military, and the regime's political standing at home and abroad?

    Apr 24, 2019

  • World map with chess pieces with flags of Russia, China, and the United States, photo by theasis/Getty Images

    Commentary

    The Need to Think More Clearly About 'Great-Power Competition'

    Today's world order is increasingly defined by competition between the United States and a host of major powers, especially China and Russia. Who is America's principal competitor and over what is it competing? What is America’s ultimate objective? And how will it prepare its economy and its society for infinite competition of an indefinite nature?

    Feb 11, 2019

  • Tug of war, photo by artisteer/Getty Images

    Report

    Rethinking the Regional Order for Post-Soviet Europe and Eurasia

    Disputes over regional order in post-Soviet Europe and Eurasia are at the core of the breakdown in Russia-West relations. What could return regional stability, facilitate conflict resolution, restore economic links, and reduce tensions?

    Jun 13, 2018

  • China's flag made over digital tiles

    Report

    China's Role in the International Order

    China's engagement with the postwar order remains a complex, often contradictory work in progress. China will likely demand more influence in the international system as a condition for its support. What will this mean for U.S. policy?

    May 21, 2018

  • A B-1B Lancer unleashes cluster munitions

    Commentary

    Cluster Munitions and Rearming for Great Power Competition

    The United States might need Cluster munitions, anti-personnel landmines, and tactical nuclear weapons to deter or defeat aggression. If policymakers choose to lift bans on these munitions, the ensuing policy restrictions might be tailored to address where these capabilities are necessary.

    May 9, 2018

  • News Release

    News Release

    RAND Study Examines Ways U.S. Can Better Counter Political Warfare

    The United States needs to improve the ways it combats adversaries adept at using political warfare tactics to achieve their goals and undermine U.S. interests and allies.

    Apr 5, 2018

  • Chess board made out of a world map

    Report

    Countering Modern Political Warfare

    Both state and nonstate actors—including Russia, Iran, and ISIS—practice political warfare in unique ways. How can the United States, along with its allies and partners, respond to or engage in this type of conflict to protect U.S. interests?

    Apr 5, 2018

  • Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service soldiers perform reloading drills with their M-4 rifles during refit training near Baghdad, Iraq, July 13, 2016

    Commentary

    Managing Chaos in an Era of Great Power Competition

    As Washington policymakers seek a new strategic course, U.S. national security strategy should not neglect the importance of competition short of armed conflict. A U.S. strategy that incorporates this perspective from the beginning could manage chaos at a reasonable cost.

    Sep 5, 2017

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin gestures as he speaks to journalists following a live nationwide broadcast in Moscow, June 15, 2017

    Report

    Strengthening Strategic Stability with Russia

    Strategic stability between the United States and Russia is eroding, but the two countries still share a deep interest in avoiding nuclear war. Strengthening stability will be challenging. Meaningful progress will require courage and sacrifices on both sides.

    Jul 7, 2017