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.

  • Abstract background of spheres and wire-frame landscape, photo by gremlin/Getty Images

    Report

    Graph Theoretic Algorithms for the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent Program

    The Ground Based Strategic Deterrent is a complete replacement for an aging intercontinental ballistic missile system that is currently under development. What are quantitative methods that can be used to make the unified certification process for nuclear systems more rigorous and efficient?

    Nov 8, 2021

  • The launch of an unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile during a test at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, February 5, 2020, photo by SrA Clayton Wear/U.S. Air Force

    Report

    Weighing the Cost and Necessity of Nuclear Modernization

    The United States has fielded a Triad of air-, sea-, and land-based nuclear delivery systems since the 1950s. Major components are nearing the end of their service lives, raising the question of whether to extend or replace them. Meanwhile, Russia and China continue to modernize, diversify, and expand their nuclear arsenals.

    Jan 3, 2022

Explore Nuclear Deterrence

  • Kim Jong-un conducts a ground test of a high-thrust, solid-fuel engine at the Sohae Satellite Launch Station in Cholsan, North Korea, December 16, 2022, photo by KCNA/Pool/Latin America News Agency via Reuters

    Commentary

    Japanese 'Counterstrike' May Be Good for ROK Security

    Fully coordinated, the South Korean Kill Chain and Japanese counterstrike capability could be more effective in stopping North Korea from causing damage. And they could be more likely to deter Kim Jong-un, as Pyongyang recognizes that its efforts to militarily dominate the ROK are unlikely to succeed.

    Dec 28, 2022

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin attends the summit of leaders of the Commonwealth of Independent States in Astana, Kazakhstan October 14, 2022, photo by Turar Kazangapov/Reuters

    Report

    Responding to a Russian Attack on NATO During the Ukraine War

    The Ukraine war has created a unique set of circumstances that make a limited Russian attack against a NATO target plausible. If such an attack were to occur, how might the United States and NATO respond?

    Dec 20, 2022

  • Kim Jong -un and his daughter attend a photo session with the scientists, engineers, military officials and others involved in the test-fire of the country's new Hwasong-17 intercontinental ballistic missile in this undated photo released on November 27, 2022, photo by KCNA via Reuters

    Commentary

    North Korea's Version of 'Take Your Daughter to Work Day'

    With the spotlight having long been fixed on the nuclear issue, the public debut of Kim Jong-un's “most beloved” child seems as though it could be an impeccably timed distraction to keep the international community from focusing on seeking an enduring solution to Pyongyang's rapidly advancing weapons systems.

    Dec 12, 2022

  • Russia claims to have successfully test-launched its nuclear-capable Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile in Plesetsk, Russian Federation, in this photo released by the Russian Ministry of Defence, April 20, 2022, photo by Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation/Reuters

    Commentary

    Why Putin's Nuclear Gambit Is a Huge Mistake

    Russia is losing in Ukraine, and the rhetoric of Russian leaders has recently become ever more apocalyptic. The United States and its allies should be prepared in case Russia goes down the nuclear path, but fear should not drive the Western response to Russia's nuclear bluster.

    Oct 19, 2022

  • BTS perform during the 64th Annual Grammy Awards show in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S. April 3, 2022, photo by Mario Anzuoni/Reuters

    Commentary

    Could K-Pop Help Deter Kim Jong-un's Provocations?

    The United States and Republic of Korea could be more specific and creative in seeking to deter Kim Jong-un. The global popularity of K-Pop could be part of the strategy.

    Oct 11, 2022

  • Iran's President Ebrahim Raisi attends a news conference in Tehran, Iran, August 29, 2022, photo by Majid Asgaripour/WANA/Reuters

    Commentary

    The Iran Nuclear Deal: Is the Juice Still Worth the Squeeze?

    The talks to reinstate the Iran nuclear deal have been dragging on for 18 months. But the negotiations are not about very much; the general contours of the original agreement still hold. As the clock keeps ticking, though, it gets harder to revive it. At some point, the juice won't be worth the squeeze.

    Oct 10, 2022

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin declares the annexation of four Ukrainian provinces at the Great Kremlin Palace in Moscow, Russia, September 30, 2022, photo by Grigory Sysoyev/Pool via Reuters

    Commentary

    A Moment of Strategic Clarity

    With the Russian mobilization and declared annexation, whatever prospects there were for a negotiated peace seem to have all but vanished. Any result short of Ukrainian victory will be, in the long run, a worse outcome for the rules-based international order.

    Oct 3, 2022

  • RAND Weekly Recap

    Blog

    Veterans Health Care, Media Literacy, Sleep Retreats: RAND Weekly Recap

    This weekly recap focuses on the challenges of VA community care, the importance of improving middle schoolers' media literacy skills, tips to improve sleep, and more.

    Sep 9, 2022

  • RAND Weekly Recap

    Blog

    Back to School, Vaccinating Kids, Space Security: RAND Weekly Recap

    This weekly recap focuses on the well-being of America's educators, the effort to vaccinate kids and teens, security in outer space, and more.

    Sep 2, 2022

  • U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, and Ukraine's Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov in a Ukraine Defence Contact group meeting in Brussels, Belgium, June 15, 2022, photo by Yves Herman/Pool/Reuters

    Report

    Potential Pathways to Russian Escalation Against NATO

    A Russia-NATO war is far from an inevitable outcome of the current conflict in Ukraine. U.S. and allied policymakers should be concerned with specific pathways and potential triggers, but they need not operate under the assumption that every action will entail acute escalation risks.

    Jul 26, 2022

  • South Korea's new President Kim Dae-jung waves on the grounds of the National Assembly in Seoul, South Korea, February 25, 1998, photo by Str Old/Reuters

    Commentary

    Three Principles for Korean Peninsula Peace and Security

    In his inaugural address in 1998, former South Korean President Kim Dae-jung defined three principles for Korean Peninsula peace and security. How might these principles be adjusted to manage today's changing North Korean threats and the Korean security environment?

    May 20, 2022

  • A man looks at a street monitor showing a news report about North Korea's missile launch, in Tokyo, Japan, November 29, 2017

    Journal Article

    Nuclear-Use Cases for Contemplating Crisis and Conflict on the Korean Peninsula

    The paper identifies possible cases/scenarios that would lead to first use of nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula.

    Apr 5, 2022

  • Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Ali Bagheri Kani arrives at Palais Coburg for nuclear talks Vienna, Austria, February 28, 2022, photo by Leonhard Foeger/Reuters

    Commentary

    A Renewed Nuclear Deal With Iran: Turning Back the Clock?

    Diplomats from Europe, the United States, Russia, China, and Iran are in Vienna trying to revive the Iran nuclear agreement of 2015. But even if negotiations succeed, the post-deal environment could be much more unstable than it was seven years ago.

    Mar 4, 2022

  • An SM-3 Block IIA is launched from the USS John Paul Jones during a flight test off Hawaii resulting in the first intercept of a ballistic missile target by the SM-3IIA, February 3, 2017, photo by Missile Defense Agency

    Report

    Instability in the U.S.-Russia Deterrence Relationship

    U.S.-Russian strategic stability is based on mutual vulnerability to retaliation, which eliminates the incentive to strike first. But the United States has developed counterforce capabilities that Moscow fears could be used for a first strike. What could be done to address Russia's concerns and increase stability?

    Feb 17, 2022

  • Blog

    RAND Commentary Highlights of 2021

    Vaccine rollouts, an attack on the U.S. Capitol, massive ransomware attacks, the withdrawal from Afghanistan, record numbers of job openings and people quitting, and more. RAND researchers weighed in on all these topics and more.

    Dec 21, 2021

  • A new type of submarine-launched ballistic missile being launched in waters off the east coast of North Korea in a photo released by the North Korean Central News Agency on October 20, 2021, photo by KCNA via/Latin America News Agency via Reuters Connect

    Commentary

    North Korea's Nuclear Arsenal and Prospects for Regional Peace

    Nuclear talks between the United States and North Korea have hovered at a standstill since 2019. With the door to diplomacy seemingly closed and North Korea marching forward on weapons development and making threatening statements, what are the prospects for Pyongyang's denuclearization and peace on the Korean Peninsula?

    Dec 16, 2021

  • Composite image for the U.S. Capitol dome with clouds in the sky and U.S. currency superimposed on the sky, photo by Douglas Rissing/Getty Images

    Commentary

    Nuclear Strategists Know How Dangerous the Debt Fight Is

    Nuclear-war strategists' work offers a warning for Congress: The more times a game is played, the more treacherous it becomes, because when both sides believe catastrophe will always be averted in the end, each behaves more rashly. In the debt-ceiling dispute, the United States could end up defaulting precisely because each side keeps waiting for the other to blink.

    Nov 29, 2021

  • RAND Weekly Recap

    Blog

    North Korea, Sexual Violence in the U.S. Military, America's Labor Shortage: RAND Weekly Recap

    This weekly recap focuses on dealing with a nuclear North Korea, preventing sexual violence in the military, supporting immigrant children in U.S. schools, and more.

    Nov 5, 2021