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?

Explore Military Strategy

  • 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

  • An activist outside the Dutch embassy in Kiev, Ukraine, holds a banner that says not to listen to Russian propaganda, February 5, 2016, photo by Gleb Garanich/Reuters

    Report

    How to Counter Russia's Gray Zone Tactics

    Russia uses gray zone tactics—ambiguous actions that target domestic or international public opinion—across Europe. Wargames found that vulnerability to these tactics varies. And they can be countered by hardening Western societies against Russian propaganda and attempts to undermine democracy.

    Dec 11, 2019

  • U.S. and CHina s chess kings

    Journal Article

    Minding the Gaps: US Military Strategy Toward China

    The U.S. national security community continues to consider the proper military response to China's ongoing military modernization efforts, but many aspects of the debate remain unresolved. If analysts writing on US military strategy toward China want to improve the public debate, these analytical gaps must be filled.

    Dec 11, 2019

  • Report

    Gaming Gray Zone Tactics: Design Considerations for a Structured Strategic Game

    The RAND Arroyo Center developed a strategic-level structured card game examining a gray zone competition between Russia and the West in the Balkans to better understand the nature of a gray zone competition with Russia.

    Dec 11, 2019

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad during a meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, October 20, 2015, photo by Alexei Druzhinin/RIA Novosti/Kremlin/Reuters

    Report

    Understanding Russia's Intervention in Syria

    Russia's military intervention in the Syrian civil war began in 2015. This decision was the result of an extraordinary set of political and military circumstances. What might cause Moscow to take similar actions in other conflicts beyond its immediate neighborhood?

    Oct 31, 2019

  • Flags of United States, Russia, and China on a chess board, photo by Albert_Karimov/Getty Images

    Commentary

    How the United States Could Lose a Great-Power War

    The U.S. armed forces are now preparing for an age of great-power competition and rightly so. The 2018 National Defense Strategy shows the Defense Department is focused on the threats posed by Russia and especially China to U.S. interests, allies, and established partners such as Taiwan. For now, U.S. forces appear poorly postured to meet these challenges.

    Oct 30, 2019

  • A simulated nuclear key turn

    Report

    Managing Nuclear Modernization Challenges for the U.S. Air Force: A Mission-Centric Approach

    This report identifies and describes means to allay significant challenges to the fielding of new Air Force nuclear weapon systems, with a focus on the integrated planning and preparation for mission success across programs.

    Oct 29, 2019

  • Lithuanian soldiers prepare for the opening ceremony of Saber Strike 18 at Vilnius, Lithuania

    Report

    Exploring the Role Nuclear Weapons Could Play in Deterring Russian Threats to the Baltic States

    This report examines what role nonstrategic nuclear weapons could play in deterring a Russian invasion of the Baltic states, where the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's current posture is weak.

    Oct 24, 2019

  • Report

    Evaluating Future Trends in Support of the Air Force Strategic Environment Assessment: Discussion and Results from a Structured Workshop

    This report presents plausible futures based on nine trends in the categories of Geopolitical, Military & Warfare, and Human & Workforce to assist Air Force strategic planning in developing the Air Force Strategic Environment Assessment.

    Oct 21, 2019

  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un welcomes Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Pyongyang International Airport in Pyongyang, North Korea, in this undated photo released on June 21, 2019, photo by KCNA/Reuters

    Commentary

    U.S. Economic War on China Weakens Nuclear North Korea, Too

    An effective way to bend North Korea toward denuclearization may be exerting consistent and targeted pressure on China. Diminishing Beijing's relevance isn't a cure-all. But it could pierce Kim's illusion of invincibility and place him in a bind to make some concessions.

    Oct 18, 2019

  • Report

    Reflections on the Future of Warfare and Implications for Personnel Policies of the U.S. Department of Defense

    This Perspective summarizes and synthesizes material from a workshop addressing how U.S. Department of Defense personnel policies may evolve to address future warfare environments, which are expected to be heavily influenced by advanced technologies.

    Oct 16, 2019

  • Running 3d wireframe man in an abstract environment, photo by imaginima/Getty Images

    Commentary

    Embrace Open-Source Military Research to Win the AI Competition

    Unless the Pentagon embraces a more open approach to artificial intelligence, it will be left behind. Private sector innovation in this space is too fast. But what are the risks of disseminating potentially sensitive AI technology? And what should not be disclosed?

    Oct 16, 2019

  • Report

    Russia, NATO, and Black Sea Security Strategy: Regional Perspectives from a 2019 Workshop

    The authors report workshop discussions of four topics related to the strategic context in the Black Sea: Russia's strategy in the region; Russian military and soft-power instruments; Western goals and interests; and elements of Western strategy.

    Sep 24, 2019

  • A view shows Russian warships and a sailing vessel during a rehearsal for the Navy Day parade in the Black Sea port of Sevastopol, Crimea July 26, 2019, photo by Alexey Pavlishak/Reuters

    Commentary

    Russia's Strategy in the Black Sea: How NATO Can Up Its Game

    The Black Sea region is a central locus of the competition between Russia and the West for the future of Europe. In March 2019, RAND brought together a group of experts to discuss Moscow's strategy there—and what Western countries can do to counter it.

    Sep 24, 2019

  • Raphael S. Cohen discusses Russia’s economic, political, and military vulnerabilities and anxieties in an overview of a September 5th congressional briefing.

    Multimedia

    Extending Russia

    What policies could the United States adopt to stress Russia’s military, its economy, or the regime’s political standing at home and abroad? In this congressional briefing summary, former Ambassador James Dobbins, Raphael Cohen, and Howard Shatz discuss Russia’s economic, political, and military vulnerabilities and anxieties; nonviolent, cost-imposing options that the United States and its allies could pursue to stress Russia; and the costs, benefits, and implications of those options.

    Sep 5, 2019