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, photo by Allexxandar/Getty Images

    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.

  • Nuclear missiles

    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

  • 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

    If a meeting between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and President Trump takes place, what are the chances it 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

  • Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks at an opening of a new session of parliament in Tokyo, January 22, 2018

    Commentary

    What Does Japan Think of the Iran Nuclear Deal?

    What is Tokyo's view of the Iran nuclear deal and how has Tokyo responded to the U.S. threat to withdraw from it? What role is Japan, the world's third-largest economy, a major U.S. ally, and the only country ever to be attacked with nuclear weapons, likely to play in attempting to preserve, improve, or scrap the deal?

    Mar 26, 2018

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin addresses the Federal Assembly, including the State Duma parliamentarians, members of the Federation Council, regional governors and other high-ranking officials, in Moscow, Russia, March 1, 2018

    Commentary

    Red Glare: The Origin and Implications of Russia's 'New' Nuclear Weapons

    Why would Russia, which has over 1,500 deployed strategic nuclear warheads that can be delivered from existing ballistic and cruise missiles, invest in new, exotic systems? The answer is deeply rooted in modern Russian and Soviet history.

    Mar 26, 2018

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin addresses the Federal Assembly in Moscow, Russia March 1, 2018

    Commentary

    Could Putin's Speech Signal the Erosion of Nuclear Nonproliferation?

    Russian President Vladimir Putin has linked the development of new nuclear weapons capabilities to the United States' refusal to collaborate on arms control. Perhaps before Russia goes down this path, another attempt at dialogue would be beneficial as both nations have expressed a shared interest in limiting nuclear proliferation.

    Mar 7, 2018

  • U.S. Army soldiers load military vehicles onto trains at Camp Carroll in Chilgok, South Korea, during the annual Key Resolve/Foal Eagle military exercises, March 6, 2012

    Commentary

    Joint Military Exercise Can Be a Bargaining Chip with North Korea

    Since 1976, the United States and South Korea have scheduled large-scale joint military exercises each year. Postponing the exercises this year has led to some signs that North Korea might be open to diplomacy. Delaying the exercises further could lead to direct talks between Washington and Pyongyang.

    Feb 23, 2018

  • U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and South Korea's President Moon Jae-in attend short track speed skating events in Pyeongchang, February 10, 2018

    Commentary

    At Olympics, U.S. and Korean Leaders Revive Familiar Roles

    The current spate of North-South Korean diplomacy could be short-lived, giving way to resumed tensions and mounting fears of war. It seems possible, however, that South Korean President Moon Jae-in will succeed in brokering direct talks between Pyongyang and Washington.

    Feb 22, 2018

  • Soldiers carry a PLA flag and Chinese national flags before the military parade to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the foundation of China's PLA at Zhurihe military base in Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China, July 30, 2017

    Testimony

    Addressing PLA Rocket Force Modernization

    China's growing missile capabilities could pose serious challenges for the United States and its allies. To protect its regional security interests, the United States should continue to monitor the PLA's modernization and adapt its own deterrence capabilities.

    Feb 15, 2018

  • North Korean cheerleaders await the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics, Pyeongchang, South Korea, February 9, 2018

    Commentary

    Countering North Korea's Political Warfare

    North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has outmaneuvered South Korean President Moon Jae-in in the month leading up to the Olympics. This has dangerous consequences for South Korea's security, democracy, and its alliance with the United States.

    Feb 11, 2018

  • U.S. President Donald Trump speaks about the administration's National Security Strategy at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington, D.C, December 18, 2017

    Commentary

    Return of Tactical Nuclear Weapons Would Send a Dangerous Signal

    A change in the U.S. nuclear posture to include low-yield nuclear weapons could make nonproliferation goals harder to achieve. But it could also signal a new willingness to consider these weapons as part of a spectrum of warfighting capabilities, rather than as a necessary component of the U.S. deterrence posture.

    Jan 19, 2018

  • People walk at the Grand Bazaar, a day after the presidential election, in central Tehran, Iran, May 20, 2017

    Commentary

    Killing Iran's Economy Won't Help the U.S.

    Iran's economy is likely to be damaged by any new U.S. sanctions, with foreign investment having already slowed in response to President Trump's rhetoric. The biggest losers will not be the Iranian regime but the Iranian people, whose striving the U.S. has long hoped would bring about a less antagonistic Iran.

    Oct 31, 2017

  • U.S. Army Pacific Commanding General, Gen. Robert Brown (left), and Philippines Army Commanding General, Lt. Gen. Glorioso, salute at an honor cordon convened on historic Palm Circle, Fort Shafter, Hawaii, to honor Glorioso's arrival February 1, 2017

    Commentary

    General Robert Brown on the U.S. Army's Role in Asia

    Gen. Robert B. Brown, Commanding General of U.S. Army Pacific (USARPAC), offers his perspective of key defense and security issues facing USARPAC in the Indo-Pacific region today. He discusses what the Army's role would be in any potential application of U.S. military power, as well as its peacetime role in strengthening U.S. alliances.

    Oct 25, 2017

  • An Iranian flag flutters in front of the International Atomic Energy Agency headquarters in Vienna, Austria, January 15, 2016

    Commentary

    Why the Iran Nuclear Deal Benefits the U.S.

    The Iran deal has stretched the time needed to produce a nuclear weapon from three to at least 12 months and has established the strongest inspections system ever negotiated. Walking away from the agreement now will only isolate the U.S. and provide Iran an easy excuse to join North Korea on the road toward nuclear weapons.

    Oct 23, 2017

  • Two U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancers deployed to Andersen Air Base, Guam, fly over the Republic of Korea Sept. 21, 2016

    Commentary

    The Rorschach Test of New Nuclear Powers: Analogies for North Korean Command and Control

    Is Pyongyang more like modern Islamabad or Soviet Moscow? The answer must draw on the expertise of scholars of civil-military relations as well as nuclear strategy. Even then analogy is only a starting point—North Korea may be more or less like previous cases, but will certainly be unique.

    Oct 6, 2017