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.

  • A soldier loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad's forces is seen in Quneitra, Syria, July 22, 2018

    Commentary

    The Power and Limits of Threat: The Caesar Syrian Civilian Protection Act at One Year

    Jul 8, 2021

    A powerful new U.S. sanctions law on Syria came into effect one year ago, with great notice and speculation regarding its potential effects. Now, one year later, it is apparent that the act's power lies not in who the United States has sanctioned but in who the United States could sanction.

  • Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman meets with Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha at Government House in Bangkok, Thailand, June 2, 2021, photo by U.S. Embassy Bangkok

    Commentary

    Biden's Troubled Southeast Asia Policy Needs a Reboot

    Jul 6, 2021

    Nearly six months into Joe Biden's presidency, it is now possible to begin assessing the effectiveness of some of his administration's policies. When it comes to Southeast Asia, the Biden administration has thus far fallen short, but the future looks relatively bright with certain caveats.

Explore International Diplomacy

  • Chinese President Xi Jinping and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte at the Malacanang presidential palace in Manila, Philippines, November 20, 2018, photo by Mark Cristino/Reuters

    Commentary

    China Refuses to Quit on the Philippines

    When the Filipino people elected Rodrigo Duterte to become their next president in May 2016, China saw a distinct opportunity to pull the longtime U.S. ally away from Washington and into Beijing's strategic orbit. But it remains to be seen how the long-term geopolitical competition between the United States and China over the Philippines will play out.

    Jul 22, 2020

  • South Korean President Moon Jae-in arrives for a Memorial Day ceremony at the national cemetery in Daejeon, South Korea, June 6, 2020, photo by Lee Jin-man/Pool via Reuters

    Commentary

    Moon's North Korea Vision Up in Smoke? Not So Fast…

    Even after North Korea's demolition of the inter-Korean liaison office, it appears that South Korean President Moon Jae-in will continue to prioritize improving inter-Korean relations. What are the implications of this strategy?

    Jul 20, 2020

  • Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks to the media after having a telephone discussion with U.S. President Donald Trump, in Tokyo, December 21, 2019, photo by Koji Ito/Reuters

    Commentary

    Are U.S.-Japan Relations on the Rocks?

    The relationship between the national security establishments in Washington and Tokyo appears to be close and trusting. But with current troublesome trends, more attention should be paid to what has otherwise been a reliably solid relationship.

    Jul 20, 2020

  • Supporters of the Houthi movement attend a rally to mark the 4th anniversary of the Saudi-led military intervention in Yemen's war, in Sanaa, Yemen, March 26, 2019, photo by Khaled Abdullah/Reuters

    Report

    Could Yemen's Houthis Be the Next Hizballah?

    Iran turns to sponsor-proxy relationships to expand its reach in the Middle East while minimizing the risk of inviting direct conflict. The Houthis give Iran reach into Yemen and the Red Sea, providing a means to harass its rival, Saudi Arabia. Will Iran further invest in the Houthis?

    Jul 13, 2020

  • U.S. President Donald Trump and Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan at the annual NATO heads of government summit in Watford, UK, December 4, 2019, photo by Peter Nicholls/Reuters

    Commentary

    A Way Forward for the United States and Turkey

    Relations between the United States and Turkey, while fraught with tension, must also align with a mutual interest in stability in the Middle East and preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction. It may be important for the region's stability and prosperity to find constructive ways for the United States to work with Turkey in the years ahead.

    Jul 9, 2020

  • British Prime Minister Boris Johnson (center) speaks in a videoconference with the heads of the European Union in London, UK, June 15, 2020, photo by Andrew Parsons/No10 Downing Street/Reuters

    Commentary

    The Cost of Brexit Uncertainty

    Leaving the European Union has had an overall negative economic effect on the UK economy, and there are additional economic costs associated with the uncertainty surrounding the new relationship. Will there be a deal? And if so, what type of deal is likely?

    Jul 8, 2020

  • Kim Yo Jong, sister of North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un attends wreath laying ceremony at Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum in Hanoi, Vietnam, March 2, 2019, photo by Jorge Silva/Reuters

    Commentary

    Will the Real Kim Yo Jong Stand Up?

    It's difficult to get reliable information about North Korea's leadership. This is especially true of Kim Jong Un's younger sister, Kim Yo Jong. Nonetheless, Washington should strive to learn as much as possible about someone who could become the leader of a nuclear-armed North Korea.

    Jul 6, 2020

  • A replica of China Railway high-speed trains at a media center for the second Belt and Road Forum, in Beijing, China, April 26, 2019, photo by Jason Lee/Reuters

    Commentary

    Demystifying the Belt and Road Initiative

    Under the Belt and Road Initiative, China works with more than 70 countries to design and implement large infrastructure projects. Why are countries of all stripes turning to China for funding when the world is awash with cash?

    Jul 6, 2020

  • An Indian Army convoy moves along a highway leading to Ladakh, at Gagangeer in Kashmir's Ganderbal district, June 18, 2020, photo by Danish Ismail/Reuters

    Commentary

    Chinese Border Aggression Against India Likely Unrelated to Pandemic

    Some argue that Beijing's aggression at the China-India border is part of an attempt to exploit the pandemic. But it may simply be a continuation of China's threatening behavior in the Indo-Pacific, which began before COVID-19 started to spread.

    Jul 6, 2020

  • Russia's President Vladimir Putin gestures during the joint press conference with U.S. President Donald Trump in the Presidential Palace in Helsinki, Finland, July 16, 2018, photo by Lehtikuva/Jussi Nukari/Reuters

    Commentary

    Take the Bird in the Hand. Strike a Nuclear Weapons Deal with Russia

    By extending New START, the Trump administration would preserve verifiable constraints on Russia's nuclear arsenal, buy time to negotiate a more comprehensive agreement, and pave the way for arms talks about intermediate-range missiles.

    Jul 1, 2020

  • South Korean soldiers hold flags of countries that fought in the Korean War at a ceremony commemorating the 70th anniversary of the war, near the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas, in Cheorwon, South Korea, June 25, 2020, photo by Kim Hong-Ji/Reuters

    Commentary

    Is North Korea Prepared to End the Korean War?

    The end of the Korean War and peace on the peninsula are no more likely to occur as the result of a peace agreement than has North Korean denuclearization occurred as the result of multiple denuclearization agreements. Ultimately, North Korean objectives matter, and real peace does not appear to be part of those objectives.

    Jun 29, 2020

  • Philippines President Rodrigo Roa Duterte updates the nation on the government's efforts in addressing COVID-19 at the Malago Clubhouse in Malacañang on May 11, 2020, photo by Ace Morandante/Philippines Office of the President

    Commentary

    China Just Botched a Monumental Opportunity with the Philippines

    China hailed Philippines President Duterte's announcement in February of an end to the U.S.-Philippines Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) in six months as evidence the United States was losing the great power competition with China in the Indo-Pacific. But on June 2, Duterte decided to postpone the VFA termination, breathing new life into the decades-long agreement.

    Jun 18, 2020

  • Two Korean sailors watch the U.S. 7th Fleet command ship USS Blue Ridge as it arrives in Busan, Republic of Korea, March 5, 2010, photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Bobbie Attaway/U.S. Navy

    Commentary

    As COVID-19 Makes Clear, U.S. Allies in the Indo-Pacific, Not the Money They Pay to Host U.S. Forces, Are the Value Proposition

    The great value the United States extracts from its alliances with Japan and South Korea is not the money they provide to offset the costs of hosting U.S. forces; the value is the deep and abiding alliances themselves and the liberal, democratic, rule of law market economies and societies to which they link the United States.

    Jun 12, 2020

  • Signal cables are laid out at a test location on Yucca Flat, the principal underground nuclear weapons testing area at the Nevada Test Site, in the 1990s, photo courtesy of National Nuclear Security Administration/Nevada Field Office

    Commentary

    Nuclear Testing Not Needed Now

    Trump administration officials are reported to have recently discussed conducting a nuclear test, breaking a moratorium the United States has observed since 1992. Such a move is not necessary to ensure the reliability of the U.S. arsenal and could increase threats to U.S. and allied security by giving a green light to others to conduct nuclear tests.

    Jun 11, 2020

  • A sign with flags of (R-L) Tuvalu, Nauru, Taiwan, Marshall Islands, and Palau is seen before a ceremony to donate masks to Taiwan's Pacific allies, in Taipei, Taiwan, April 15, 2020, photo by Ben Blanchard/Reuters

    Commentary

    Should the U.S. Move to Strengthen Ties with Taiwan?

    The contrasts in behavior between Taiwan and China during the COVID-19 pandemic show why it could be critical that U.S. policymakers consider advancing U.S.-Taiwan cooperation to enhance Taiwan's security, protect U.S. interests, and preserve peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific.

    Jun 8, 2020

  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un presides over a meeting of the Workers' Party of Korea Central Military Commission, May 24, 2020, photo by KCNA/Reuters

    Commentary

    For the U.S., South Korea, and Japan, It’s the North Korean Regime, Not Kim Jong Un Per Se, That Is the Threat

    Would Kim Jong Un's death improve U.S., South Korean, and Japanese security? Maybe not. North Korea's advancing nuclear and other military capabilities are driving an expanded set of problems, and while Kim's sudden death might constitute a destabilizing factor for the regime, the available evidence suggests the regime itself is the problem.

    Jun 8, 2020

  • Chinese Premier Li Keqiang delivers a speech at the opening session of the National People's Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, May 22, 2020, photo by Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters

    Commentary

    Is the '1992 Consensus' Fading Away in the Taiwan Strait?

    For nearly 30 years, China has routinely touted Taiwan's recognition of the 1992 Consensus as the sole basis for maintaining peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait. However, the consensus may hold less relevance for both sides today than in the past.

    Jun 3, 2020

  • Digital world map, photo by dem10/Getty Images

    Commentary

    Why the United States Will Need a New Foreign Policy in 2020

    Even before the pandemic, the United States faced a growing strategic predicament: U.S. challenges are mounting, and America's international commitments increasingly outstrip its means to fulfill them.

    May 26, 2020

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Russia, May 17, 2018, p

    Commentary

    Russia's Challenge and Syria's Chance

    With much of Syria lying in ruins, Russia can back a revived United Nations–led peacemaking process, or see the West rebuff its appeals for large-scale aid. If Russia chooses wisely, the West, wealthy Gulf countries, and China could help. If Moscow procrastinates, the West may withhold assistance and continue cooperation with regional partners.

    May 20, 2020

  • China's aircraft carrier Liaoning takes part in a Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy military drill in the western Pacific Ocean, April 18, 2018, photo by China Stringer Network/Reuters

    Commentary

    China's Aggression Amid the COVID-19 Pandemic Has Little to Do with COVID-19

    As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to monopolize the attention of leaders around the world, some international observers of China have concluded that Beijing is attempting to exploit the crisis for geopolitical gain. The reality is that China has been engaging in the same types of pressure tactics for years and will likely continue once the pandemic passes.

    May 20, 2020