Nuclear Deterrence

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The range of nuclear deterrence strategies includes minimal or "limited" deterrence, massive retaliation with a force greater than that originally used by the aggressor, and mutual assured destruction ("MAD"). From RAND's Soviet-era work on game theory to today's current states of concern, such as North Korea and Iran, RAND has applied strategic analysis to international deterrence efforts, with particular focus on the roles of both diplomacy and missile defense systems in global and regional security.

  • Iran flag and ICBM

    Commentary

    The Iran Deal Will Survive, at Least for Now

    Apr 4, 2018

    A U.S. unilateral withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal does not necessarily mean the deal will collapse. But a broader collapse of the agreement along with the imposition of harsh sanctions in the coming months could sharply escalate tensions with Iran.

  • AI robot pressing a nuclear launch button.

    Article

    How Artificial Intelligence Could Increase the Risk of Nuclear War

    Apr 24, 2018

    Advances in AI have provoked a new kind of arms race among nuclear powers. This technology could challenge the basic rules of nuclear deterrence and lead to catastrophic miscalculations.

Explore Nuclear Deterrence

  • U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un walk at the Capella Hotel on the island of Sentosa, Singapore, June 12, 2018

    Commentary

    North Korean Actions Speak Louder Than Its Words

    Kim Jong Un has regularly promised to denuclearize, but he's been all talk. And this year, North Korea has probably built five to nine more nuclear weapons. There are steps that could make a difference if taken before the North Korean nuclear weapon threat grows any further.

    Oct 11, 2018

  • Chief of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization Ali-Akbar Salehi makes a speech during a ceremony to receive locally-produced yellowcake, in Isfahan, Iran, December 5, 2010

    Commentary

    Can U.S. Pressure Lead to a New Iran Nuclear Deal?

    It could be a mistake for the United States to assume that more pressure will bring Iran closer to ending or reducing its ballistic missile and nuclear programs. When it comes to measures aimed at Iran's nuclear program, more pressure could worsen nuclear risks and further drive a wedge between the United States and its European allies.

    Sep 18, 2018

  • A simple radiation warning design on a concrete wall

    Commentary

    Is Nuclear Terrorism Distracting Attention from More Realistic Threats?

    A nuclear terrorist attack is currently not a realistic threat. It would require an unprecedented level of sophistication from terrorists. The majority of terrorist attacks are conducted with conventional explosives.

    Jul 27, 2018

  • Flags of the world

    Commentary

    Attempts to Order Geopolitics Have a Sobering History

    Past efforts to introduce world order have resulted less from foresighted statecraft than from cataclysmic upheavals such as World War II. If the current international system erodes, what might have to happen for a new one to emerge?

    Jul 25, 2018

  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un shakes hands with U.S. President Donald Trump at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore, June 12, 2018

    Multimedia

    What's Next for Korea?

    In this Call with the Experts, RAND's James Dobbins, Bruce Bennett, and Michael Mazarr discuss the historic summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

    Jul 10, 2018

  • Report

    Comprehensive Deterrence Forum: Proceedings and Commissioned Papers

    On October 30, 2015, U.S. Army Special Operations Command facilitated a forum to explore the concept of comprehensive deterrence. Part I of this report delivers a summary of the forum proceedings, and Part II includes papers examining the concept.

    Jun 7, 2018

  • North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (right) and North Korean official Kim Yong Chol (left) meet with South Korean President Moon Jae-in at the truce village of Panmunjom, North Korea, May 26, 2018

    Commentary

    North Korea Is Not Like Libya

    The prospect of a U.S.-North Korea summit has led to analogies between the present case and that of Libya, which abandoned its longstanding quest to develop nuclear weapons in 2003. But a better precedent would be the 2015 deal that froze Iran's nuclear weapons program.

    Jun 1, 2018

  • Map of the Korean Peninsula and Japan

    Report

    The Korean Peninsula: Three Dangerous Scenarios

    An analysis of three potential security challenges on the Korean Peninsula points to rising threats that will pose significant demands on the U.S. Army. The United States needs to think in new ways about how it should deter North Korea and prepare for a possible conflict on the peninsula.

    May 30, 2018

  • Women walk past a TV broadcasting a news report on the cancelled summit between the U.S. and North Korea, in Seoul, South Korea, May 25, 2018

    Commentary

    Canceled Summit Doesn't Spell End to U.S.-North Korea Nuclear Diplomacy

    President Trump canceled his June 12 meeting with Kim Jong-un but left the door open for a future one. Successful diplomacy will require tending and fostering U.S. relations with China, Japan, and South Korea while forging an entirely new relationship with North Korea.

    May 25, 2018

  • U.S. President Trump holds up a proclamation declaring his intention to withdraw from the JCPOA Iran nuclear agreement after signing it at the White House, May 8, 2018

    Commentary

    The U.S. Is Out of the Iran Deal. What Now?

    Abandoning the nuclear agreement with Iran isolates the United States, reneges on an American commitment, adds to the risk of a trade war with U.S. allies and a hot war with Iran, and diminishes the prospects of an agreement to eliminate the North Korean threat.

    May 9, 2018

  • A robot arm moves its index finger toward a nuclear button

    Commentary

    Will Artificial Intelligence Undermine Nuclear Stability?

    In the coming years, AI-enabled progress in tracking and targeting adversaries' nuclear weapons could undermine the foundations of nuclear stability. The chance that AI will someday be able to guide strategy decisions about escalation or even launching nuclear weapons is real.

    May 1, 2018

  • Report

    Strengthening U.S.-ROK Relations in the New Administrations of the United States and South Korea: Findings from an October 2016 RAND Corporation Conference

    This summary outlines presentations and discussions from an October 2016 conference on relations between the United States and the Republic of Korea, with a focus on strengthening regional security and economic relations.

    Apr 27, 2018

  • News Release

    By 2040, Artificial Intelligence Could Upend Nuclear Stability

    Artificial intelligence has the potential to upend the foundations of nuclear deterrence by the year 2040. While AI-controlled doomsday machines are considered unlikely, the hazards of artificial intelligence for nuclear security lie instead in its potential to encourage humans to take potentially apocalyptic risks

    Apr 24, 2018

  • Artificial intelligence playing Go

    Report

    How Might Artificial Intelligence Affect the Risk of Nuclear War?

    Experts agree that AI has significant potential to upset the foundations of nuclear security. But there are also ways that machines could help ease distrust among international powers and decrease the risk of nuclear war.

    Apr 24, 2018

  • U.S. soldiers serving with deterrence forces perform a scenario-based situation exercise with Polish soldiers acting as civilians near the Bemowo Piskie Training Area, Poland, February 6, 2018

    Report

    The Role of Deterrence in U.S. Defense Policy

    Deterrence is about much more than merely threatening an adversary. It must be conceived primarily as an effort to shape the thinking of a potential aggressor. Any strategy to prevent aggression must begin with an assessment of the potential aggressor's interests, motives, and imperatives.

    Apr 19, 2018

  • World map on abstract technology background

    Report

    New Challenges in Cross-Domain Deterrence

    America's ability to deter aggression in the traditional air, land, and sea domains of warfare has been cast in doubt. And new requirements to deter future aggression in the domains of space and cyberspace have arisen. How can the United States and its allies meet these challenges?

    Apr 12, 2018

  • Bruce Bennett discusses North Korea at a March event at RAND's Santa Monica headquarters

    Blog

    Preparing for U.S.-North Korea Talks

    What are the chances that a meeting between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and President Trump will lead to meaningful progress? And what should U.S. leaders be thinking about as they prepare? RAND's Bruce Bennett discusses.

    Apr 5, 2018

  • Multimedia

    Overcoming the Threats of Our Strategic Competitors

    What weapon systems and posture enhancements should Congress and the Defense Department consider to ensure that America is prepared for responsive and resilient operations in theaters of potential conflict? In this Congressional briefing, RAND's David Ochmanek discusses findings from his recent research.

    Mar 27, 2018