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.

  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un bids farewell before boarding his train to depart for North Korea at Dong Dang railway station in Vietnam, March 2, 2019, photo by Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters

    Commentary

    Where Do U.S.–North Korea Relations Go After the Hanoi Summit?

    Mar 13, 2019

    If Kim Jong-un is sincere about denuclearization, it is time for him to match his words with actions. If North Korea's nuclearization continues, the U.S. government may eventually face some pressure to take military action to stop it.

  • Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at a news conference in Baghdad, Iraq March 11, 2019, photo by Thaier al-Sudani/Reuters

    Commentary

    Can Anyone Save the Iran Nuclear Deal Now?

    May 10, 2019

    Europe faces mounting pressure from both Tehran and Washington regarding the Iran nuclear deal. European countries could take steps to signal their commitment to upholding the deal, but doing so may alienate the United States.

Explore Nuclear Deterrence

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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

  • Blog

    Youth Sports, Autonomous Vehicles, Mental Health: RAND Weekly Recap

    This weekly recap focuses on why low-income children aren't playing sports, who's liable when autonomous vehicles get hacked, supporting children with mental health issues, and more.

    Jul 19, 2019

  • U.S. President Donald Trump meets with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the demilitarized zone on the border of North and South Korea, June 30, 2019, photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

    Commentary

    Why U.S. Negotiators Face a Tough Task After the Trump-Kim DMZ Meeting

    Denuclearization talks between the United States and North Korea may be under time constraints tied to America's next presidential election. This further complicates the task facing U.S. negotiators, who seek to reach a deal that endures beyond 2020.

    Jul 15, 2019

  • U.S. President Donald Trump meets with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the demilitarized zone (DMZ) that separates the two Koreas, Panmunjom, South Korea, June 30, 2019, photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

    Commentary

    How Trump Reset U.S.–North Korea Relations

    The meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the DMZ may lead to follow-on talks. But the success of future negotiations depends on Kim actually taking action to denuclearize.

    Jul 2, 2019

  • Blog

    Iran, School Discipline, North Korea: RAND Weekly Recap

    This weekly recap focuses on the costs of U.S.–Iran confrontation, discipline reform in America's schools, why the North Korea problem is bigger than nukes, and more.

    Jun 21, 2019

  • The Iranian flag flutters in front the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) headquarters in Vienna, Austria, March 4, 2019, photo by Leonhard Foeger/Reuters

    Commentary

    A Post-2020 U.S. Return to the Iran Nuclear Deal?

    Now that the United States is out of the Iran nuclear deal, signing back on will not be as simple or as practical as some may hope. Too much has happened since it was first inked in 2015. With the political landscape in Tehran and Washington still taking shape, those who want to return to some kind of deal should start planning.

    Jun 20, 2019

  • Iran's President Hassan Rouhani and Russia's President Vladimir Putin attend a meeting on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, June 14, 2019, photo by Sputnik/Alexei Druzhinin/Kremlin via Reuters

    Commentary

    The Costs of Confrontation with Iran Are Mounting

    Even if the United States and Iran avoid a direct military clash, recent escalation and the U.S. maximum pressure campaign are exacting long-term costs for U.S. interests and regional stability in ways that may be difficult if not impossible to reverse.

    Jun 17, 2019

  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un supervises a strike drill during a military drill in North Korea, May 4, 2019, photo by KCNA/Reuters

    Commentary

    One Year After Singapore: The North Korea Problem Is Bigger Than Nukes

    After two summits between the United States and North Korea, and little to show in the way of deliverables on dismantlement, hopes that a third summit may yield a denuclearization deal seem a bit unrealistic. Essentially, there has been no indication of intent on Kim's part to denuclearize. But the North Korea problem is much greater than nukes.

    Jun 17, 2019

  • Blog

    ISIS, Homelessness, India's Election: RAND Weekly Recap

    This weekly recap focuses on what can be done about ISIS detainees, a program that helps reduce homelessness, Modi's reelection in India, and more.

    Jun 7, 2019

  • Missiles being launched during a military drill in North Korea, May 10, 2019, photo by KCNA/Reuters

    Commentary

    Downplaying North Korea's Missile Tests Carries Risks

    North Korea test-fired short-range ballistic missiles for the first time in 18 months. President Trump is downplaying the tests, refusing to call them a violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions. But if North Korea starts testing longer-range missiles, it could become harder for Washington to return to talks, risking the end of diplomacy with Pyongyang altogether.

    Jun 5, 2019

  • Blog

    Journalism, U.S.–Iranian Tensions, School Reform: RAND Weekly Recap

    This weekly recap focuses on how the news has changed in the digital age, rising U.S.–Iranian tensions, how educators feel about school improvement plans, and more.

    May 17, 2019

  • 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

    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?

    May 7, 2019