Military Strategy

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RAND research on military strategy has ranged from issues related to the tactics that lead to success in armed engagements, to work that describes how the size and deployment of one nation's military affects its political relationships with others.

  • An aerial view of The Pentagon in Washington, D.C., photo by Ivan Cholakov/Getty Images

    Report

    Gaps Exist Between U.S. Strategy and Military Capacity

    May 7, 2019

    There will not be enough resources to close the technological, doctrinal, and budgetary gaps between stated U.S. aims and the military capabilities needed to achieve them. What changes to U.S. strategy and investments could help close these gaps, and which missions should be prioritized?

  • 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

    Jun 27, 2019

    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?

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  • A Norwergian Army Leopard 2A4 main battle tank during the NATO exercise Trident Juncture in Norway, 2018, photo by Ole-Sverre Haugli/Norwegian Armed Forces

    Report

    Enhancing Security on NATO's Northern Flank: Options for Norway

    Norway supports deterrence, crisis management, and security in the High North—which includes the Scandinavian territories and northern Russia. What regional insights can other NATO allies provide to help Norway in its security role?

    Mar 25, 2020

  • Blog

    New START, Trump's Middle East Peace Plan, New Tobacco Products: RAND Weekly Recap

    This weekly recap focuses on why the United States should extend the New START agreement, the Trump administration's Middle East peace plan, new tobacco products, and more.

    Feb 21, 2020

  • U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev sign the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty at Prague Castle in the Czech Republic, April 8, 2010, photo by Jason Reed/Reuters

    Report

    The Military Case for Extending New START

    The most prudent course of action would be for Washington to extend the U.S.-Russia New START agreement before it expires in February 2021. This would constrain Russia's nuclear forces covered by the treaty for five more years. And it would buy time to pursue multilateral negotiations that also include China.

    Feb 14, 2020

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin uses a pair of binoculars while overseeing the military exercises known as "Centre-2019" in Orenburg Region, Russia September 20, 2019, photo by Sputnik/Alexei Nikolsky/Kremlin via Reuters

    Commentary

    Jumpstarting Arms Control Talks with Russia: A Low-Risk Gambit

    In 2019, Russia proposed a moratorium on missile deployments in Europe. If the United States does not accept, it could increase the threat to NATO allies and provide Moscow with more bargaining chips in future arms negotiations.

    Feb 13, 2020

  • U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev exchange the signed new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START II) at Prague Castle in Prague, April 8, 2010, photo by Petr Josek/Reuters

    Commentary

    Stabilizing the Nuclear Cold War

    Russia and the United States are still locked in a nuclear cold war. Thousands of nuclear weapons are deployed, some on high alert. Although the United States prudently withdrew from several past arms control treaties with Russia, it could be in America's interest to extend New START.

    Feb 13, 2020

  • Americans, providing the main muscle for a global peace force, cross a pontoon bridge toward the northern Bosnian town of Orasje, December 31, 1995, photo by Petar Kudjundzic/Reuters

    Report

    Seizing the 'Golden Hour' of Stability Operations

    The early phases of stability operations are critical for improving the odds of success and reducing the costs of achieving an acceptable outcome. Both diplomatic and military actions to provide security in the postconflict country are essential and should be integrated. Past U.S. interventions offer valuable lessons.

    Feb 11, 2020

  • Journal Article

    Conventional Deterrence Redux: Avoiding Great Power Conflict in the 21st Century

    Deterrence in the twenty-first century presents some new challenges to strategists, but there is little basis for thinking that our problems with deterrence derive from our well-developed theories about it being obsolete.

    Feb 11, 2020

  • U.S. Army M1 Abrams tanks perform a strategic convoy maneuver at the Hohenfels Training Area, Germany, May 2, 2018, photo by Spc. Andrew McNeil/U.S. Army

    Report

    Understanding the Deterrent Impact of U.S. Overseas Forces

    After Russian aggression in Ukraine, and with rising U.S.-China tensions, the question of whether U.S. overseas military presence can enhance deterrence remains central. What does the evidence suggest?

    Feb 4, 2020

  • The West Coast Aerospace Forum provides a rare chance to engage with some of the Air Force's most senior and experienced leaders as well as top civilian national security experts in a setting that encourages debate, discussion, and audience interaction.

    Report

    An Air and Space Force Designed for the Future

    At the fifth annual West Coast Aerospace Forum, some of the Air Force's most senior leaders joined RAND researchers and other top national security experts to discuss important issues related to the future of air and space power.

    Feb 4, 2020

  • Blog

    Community Schools, Brexit, Coronavirus: RAND Weekly Recap

    This weekly recap focuses on the promise of community schools, the costs of uncertainty after Brexit, the coronavirus, and more.

    Jan 31, 2020

  • Members of the Western Approaches Tactical Unit prepare for a wargame in Derby House, Liverpool, UK, March 18, 1945, photo by Parnall, C H (Lt)/Imperial War Museums © IWM (A 27823)

    Commentary

    Book Review: 'A Game of Birds and Wolves' by Simon Parkin

    In A Game of Birds and Wolves, journalist Simon Parkin reports on a long overlooked piece of World War II's Battle of the Atlantic. Captain Gilbert Roberts enlisted the Women's Royal Naval Service to build and run a game modeling a two-sided tactical fight between British escorts and German U-boats.

    Jan 30, 2020

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin at his annual end-of-year news conference in Moscow, Russia, December 19, 2019, photo by Evgenia Novozhenina/Reuters

    Report

    What Provokes Putin's Russia?

    Even with an understanding of what Russia considers to be redlines, predicting its reactions is challenging. An analysis of past instances of Russian escalation—and instances when redlines were crossed but Russia did not respond—offers guidance for U.S. and NATO deterrence efforts.

    Jan 29, 2020

  • Artificial intelligence concept of eye with overlay of military helicopter and submarine, images by 4X-image/Getty Images; design by Jessica Arana/RAND Corporation

    Report

    Thinking Machines Will Change Future Warfare

    Until now, deterrence has been about humans trying to dissuade other humans from doing something. But what if the thinking is done by AI and autonomous systems? A wargame explored what happens to deterrence when decisions can be made at machine speeds and when states can put fewer human lives at risk.

    Jan 27, 2020

  • The USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) during a Freedom of Navigation Operation in the South China Sea

    Journal Article

    Military Build-Up in the South China Sea

    This book chapter explores the very latest developments in the South China Sea maritime dispute.

    Jan 22, 2020

  • Unrecognizable group of soldiers standing in line and seen from behind. Wearing uniforms including caps. The soldiers belong to the Chinese armed forces, photo by FrankvandenBergh/AdobeStock

    Dissertation

    Mainland Strikes and U.S. Military Strategy Towards China: Historical Cases, Interviews, and a Scenario-Based Survey of American National Security Elites

    Presents three complementary research approaches focused on investigating the willingness of an American president and his advisors to authorize conventional strikes on the Chinese mainland during wartime.

    Dec 20, 2019

  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un oversees a super-large multiple launch rocket system test in this undated picture released by North Korea's Central News Agency (KCNA) on November 28, 2019, photo by KCNA/Reuters

    Commentary

    North Korea Holds Most of the Cards in Nuclear Negotiations

    North Korea has been reminding the United States that the window to negotiate a nuclear deal is closing. Pyongyang will likely continue trying to force Washington's hand into a deal that allows North Korea to keep its weapons while still reaping economic and political concessions.

    Dec 20, 2019

  • Marines with Combat Logistics Battalion 11, 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, conduct live-fire, fire and movement drills near Camp Beuhring, Kuwait, March 5, 2017, photo by Sgt. Xzavior McNeal/U.S. Marine Corps photo

    Commentary

    Bad Idea: Assuming the Small Wars Era Is Over

    The national security community doesn't need to deny the potential for future great power conflict—or neglect to prepare for it—in order to acknowledge the enduring reality of asymmetric threats. Containing, resolving, and even preventing smaller conflicts is essential to avoiding bigger ones.

    Dec 18, 2019

  • Circuit board with chip with image of missile, photo by guirong hao/Getty Images

    Commentary

    AI for Peace

    The United States should apply lessons from the 70-year history of governing nuclear technology by building a framework for governing AI military technology. An AI for Peace program should articulate the dangers of this new technology, principles to manage the dangers, and a structure to shape the incentives for other states.

    Dec 13, 2019

  • U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev have a few final words after a marathon meeting to conclude their mini-summit in Reykjavik, Iceland, October 12, 1986, photo by Denis Paquin/Reuters

    Commentary

    Return of Nuclear Doomsday

    Elder statesmen are again warning of nuclear dangers. But have they risen? Maybe, but they remain only faint echoes of Cold War era risks, creating an opportunity to deliberately and carefully take steps to avoid future risks.

    Dec 12, 2019

  • Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif arrives for a meeting among remaining parties to the Iran nuclear deal at U.N. headquarters in New York City, September 25, 2019, photo by Yana Paskova/Reuters

    Commentary

    Understanding Iran's Nuclear Escalation Strategy

    Throughout 2019, Iran has gradually reduced its compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. What are its goals in doing this? Why has it adopted this strategy? And perhaps most importantly, how far does Iran intend to go?

    Dec 12, 2019