International Diplomacy

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Diplomacy, the practice of international relations, is an area in which RAND has significant research experience. Among RAND's many experts are former ambassadors whose research and commentary on both long-term efforts and current events shed light on how diplomatic ventures can be integral to national security goals and activities, including traditional military interventions, nuclear arms control, and nation-building efforts.

  • U.S. President Donald Trump and China's President Xi Jinping at the Mar-a-Lago estate after a bilateral meeting in Palm Beach, Florida, April 7, 2017, photo by Carlos Barria/Reuters

    Commentary

    Rocky Road Ahead Likely for U.S.-China Relations

    Apr 11, 2017

    The first summit with President Trump and China's President Xi Jinping downplayed contentious issues like Taiwan and the South China Sea. But the differences run deep, and frustration is palpable on both sides. Moreover, the competition for international leadership continues.

  • People fleeing violence in ISIS-controlled al-Bab, Syria arrive in the town's rebel-held outskirts, February 3, 2017, photo by Khalil Ashawi/Reuters

    Report

    Finding a Way Forward in Syria

    Feb 8, 2017

    After six years of fighting in Syria, the odds of removing the Assad regime are worse than ever. But the new U.S. administration could help de-escalate the conflict by focusing on a realistic outcome: a decentralized Syria with agreed regional zones backed by external powers.

Explore International Diplomacy

  • Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif greets United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres at the U.N. headquarters in New York City, July 17, 2017

    Commentary

    How We Can Keep Iran from Becoming the Next North Korea

    The U.S. brokered an agreement to constrain North Korea's nuclear program 25 years ago but hard-liners abandoned it with vague intentions of coercing the North into something better. They never did, and now a runaway North Korean program poses real danger. This offers a powerful reason to preserve the Iranian nuclear deal.

    Aug 22, 2017

  • Military parade in Pyongyang, October 2015

    Essay

    Understanding North Korea

    How should the U.S. respond to North Korea's provocative behavior? Even the best military options could be cataclysmically bad, but there are nonmilitary options to convince Kim Jong Un that the costs of his provocations outweigh any benefits.

    Aug 18, 2017

  • Intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) are driven during a military parade in Pyongyang, North Korea, April 15, 2017

    Commentary

    The North Korea Standoff: Have We Been Here Before?

    How the United States responded to China's nuclear weapons program last century can provide lessons for today's debate about North Korea. For instance, the conclusion that the only option is deterrence is still sound.

    Aug 14, 2017

  • Chinese structures in Subi Reef, a disputed part of the South China Sea, April 21, 2017

    Commentary

    Dealing with Global Hot Spots in Times of Domestic Upheaval

    The United States faces growing dangers of war in three parts of the globe: North Korea, Syria, and the South China Sea. How will it manage any—let alone all—of them, especially with political turmoil at the highest levels at home?

    Aug 14, 2017

  • Iraqis celebrate as Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announces victory over Islamic State in Mosul, in Baghdad, Iraq, July 10, 2017

    Commentary

    Islamic State 2.0

    Many of Iraq's Sunnis are frustrated with the slow pace of reconstruction and a Baghdad government they consider too friendly to Iran. The U.S. needs to shift from supporting military operations in cities such as Mosul to helping the Iraqi government better address political grievances. Failure risks sowing the seeds of ISIS's resurgence.

    Aug 10, 2017

  • A passerby walks past a street monitor showing news of North Korea's fresh threat in Tokyo, Japan, August 9, 2017

    Commentary

    Contain, Deter, Transform: A Winning Strategy on North Korea

    North Korea's missile tests and reported progress in nuclear warhead design have produced a volatile new urgency in U.S. policy. Contain, deter, and transform isn't a radical solution, but it's one that has worked before. This approach could preserve U.S. interests while avoiding war.

    Aug 9, 2017

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting with Saudi Deputy Crown Prince and Defence Minister Mohammed bin Salman at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, May 30, 2017

    Report

    What Is Russia's Strategy in the Middle East?

    Russia's regional strategy is an approach of ways and means, where broad principles take the place of prescribed ends. Moscow is constantly seeking to improve its short-term economic, military, and political advantages.

    Aug 7, 2017

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G-20 summit in Hamburg, Germany July 8, 2017.

    Commentary

    In Its Relations with Russia, Can the U.S. Walk and Chew Gum at the Same Time?

    A U.S. policy of unremitting hostility toward Russia won't command domestic support or secure European backing. Neither will a policy of comprehensive collaboration. Washington needs to confront Moscow where necessary and cooperate where possible.

    Aug 6, 2017

  • An American flag on a fence in the prairie

    Commentary

    American Isolationism Isn't New

    Isolationism is a recurring temptation of American foreign policy. Responding to new and unforeseen challenges, however, the United States has repeatedly resisted that temptation and risen to the demands of global leadership. Is it different today?

    Aug 1, 2017

  • Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his Afghan counterpart Salahuddin Rabbani shake hands after their meeting in Moscow, Russia, February 7, 2017

    Commentary

    While Americans Fight the Taliban, Putin Is Making Headway in Afghanistan

    The Russians are ramping up political, economic, and propaganda activities to improve their image and reestablish their influence amid pervasive corruption that is impeding progress in Afghanistan.

    Jul 31, 2017

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi attend a meeting at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Astana, Kazakhstan, June 9, 2017

    Commentary

    China Will Regret India's Entry Into the SCO

    Russia first proposed India as a member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization likely in part to complement bilateral economic and security engagement, but mainly to constrain China's growing influence in the organization.

    Jul 24, 2017

  • U.S. Marines, British and Afghan troops attend a handover ceremony in Helmand province, October 26, 2014

    Commentary

    A Peace 'Surge' to End War in Afghanistan

    President Trump has no easy options in Afghanistan. A surge of U.S. commitment to negotiating a political settlement would not remove all the obstacles, but it is a prerequisite.

    Jul 24, 2017

  • People walk in front of the remains of the University of Mosul, which was burned and destroyed during a battle with Islamic State militants, in Mosul, Iraq, April 10, 2017.

    Commentary

    Moving Beyond Mosul

    The Islamic State group has been defeated in Mosul. But this military routing isn't enough to ensure lasting stability, either in Mosul or in Iraq more broadly. What comes next will require careful planning, diplomacy, implementation, and coordination.

    Jul 18, 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

  • Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May meeting with Democratic Unionist Party leader Arlene Foster and others inside 10 Downing Street, London, June 26, 2017

    Commentary

    Northern Ireland Is Now at the Forefront of Brexit

    After Prime Minister Theresa May's unexpected failure to win a majority in June's snap election, she is now reliant on Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party to shore up a minority Conservative government. As Brexit negotiations begin, European politicians should refresh their knowledge of Northern Irish politics.

    Jun 29, 2017

  • People are pictured outside the European Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium June 14, 2017.

    Commentary

    The European Commission Is Struggling to Demonstrate 'Value for Money'

    Great work is happening as a result of EU spending and programmes, particularly around democracy, rule of law and human rights. To make sure the trend continues, it is important for the populace to understand the value for money of this work.

    Jun 26, 2017

  • French President Emmanuel Macron rides in a helicopter as he visits French troops in Africa's Sahel region in Gao, northern Mali, 19 May 2017.

    Commentary

    The U.S.-France Dustup Over Counterterrorism in the Sahel

    It's time for Paris and Washington to get together with the G5 nations of the Sahel and draft a strategy for achieving shared objectives. The French cannot do it alone or even with the support of the G5 nations. The U.S. would be penny wise but pound foolish to stay aloof or even just uphold the status quo.

    Jun 23, 2017

  • Report

    Enhancing Next-Generation Diplomacy Through Best Practices in Lessons Learned

    To help the Department of State mature its enterprisewide lessons-learned capabilities, this report explores best practices across fields of organizational theory and within both public and private organizations.

    Jun 21, 2017

  • News Release

    Senior RAND Fellow Reflects on 50 Years of U.S. Diplomacy

    From Vietnam in the 1960s to the Afghanistan of this decade, James Dobbins has been on the frontlines of American diplomacy, working to advance U.S. national interests in some of the world's most difficult and troubled situations. His new book provides a thoughtful insider's account.

    Jun 20, 2017

  • James Dobbins with Hamid Karzai in the Presidential Palace in Kabul, Afghanistan, December 2001

    Commercial Book

    An Insider's Look at 50 Years of American Diplomacy

    RAND's James Dobbins spent five decades on the frontlines of U.S. diplomacy. Now he takes readers behind the scenes of the Vietnam peace talks, the Cold War, German reunification, the U.S. intervention in Afghanistan, and more.

    Jun 20, 2017