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

  • ROK Navy sailors wave U.S. and ROK flags to welcome Los Angeles-class submarine USS Cheyenne to Busan

    Commentary

    Enhancing Security Cooperation at the Korea-U.S. Summit

    The U.S.-South Korean Extended Deterrence Policy Committee was setup to deter North Korean threats. The upcoming summit should ratify the progress of this effort, reassuring both the Korean and U.S. people that these threats are being managed.

    May 7, 2013

  • nuclear war game maze

    Commentary

    Thinking Through Options on North Korea

    Obviously it will not always be possible to avoid the use of force and the risk of escalation. But the US and its allies cannot take the possibility of military responses against nuclear regional adversaries off the table without limiting its own strategic options, eroding its influence, and threatening its security.

    May 3, 2013

  • Marines practicing a chemical, biological, or radiological attack

    Commentary

    The Syrian Chemical Weapons Conundrum

    Dealing with chemical weapons in Syria is a complicated and dangerous task, but nowhere near the challenge of securing a nuclear arsenal in a country consumed by crisis, writes Brian Michael Jenkins.

    May 1, 2013

  • ROK guards in the DMZ

    Commentary

    A Delicate Deterrence Dance with North Korea

    How does Washington signal tenacity to a pugnacious Pyongyang and demonstrate resolve to a jittery Seoul, all without inadvertently triggering an escalatory spiral?

    Apr 11, 2013

  • Israeli and Iranian flags, weapons, fire

    Commentary

    Khamenei's Mounting Pressures

    Khamenei's mounting pressures may compel him to be more flexible on the nuclear program, writes Alireza Nader. Otherwise, he will face greater sanctions, more internal political opposition, and, possibly, the wrath of his own people.

    Feb 11, 2013

  • Iran's Revolutionary guards commander Mohammad Ali Jafari speaks during a conference to mark the martyrs of terrorism in Tehran, September 6, 2011

    Commentary

    Profile: Revolutionary Guards Chief Gen. Jafari

    Jafari now commands one of the most feared militaries in the Middle East, which is also far better equipped than Iran’s conventional army, navy and air force, writes Alireza Nader. He has an estimated 150,000 troops under his control.

    Jan 22, 2013

  • James Dobbins at Politics Aside 2012

    Blog

    Dobbins to Debate Whether Israel Can Live with a Nuclear Iran

    Amb. James Dobbins, director of the RAND International Security and Defense Policy Center, argues that "Israel Can Live with a Nuclear Iran" Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013, in a live debate at 6:45 p.m. EST at Merkin Concert Hall in New York City.

    Jan 14, 2013

  • Members of the revolutionary guard attend the anniversary ceremony of Iran's Islamic Revolution at the Khomeini shrine in the Behesht Zahra cemetery, south of Tehran, February 1, 2012

    Commentary

    Sanctions Squeeze Revolutionary Guard

    Iran's inability to sell its oil due to sanctions will not only shrink the resources available to the Guard as a military force, but will crimp the wealth of individual Guard officers. This could erode the Guard's loyalty to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, writes Alireza Nader.

    Jan 8, 2013

  • Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque at Imam Square in Isfahan, Iran

    Commentary

    Iran: A Rough Year in 2013

    The Islamic Republic faces the potential of stronger economic sanctions and even a military strike because of its intransigence in complying with U.N. resolutions on its nuclear program. It also must deal with twin domestic challenges—deepening malaise among the young and increasing tensions among the political elite, writes Alireza Nader.

    Jan 2, 2013

  • Events @ RAND Audio Podcast

    Multimedia

    A Conversation with Harold Brown, Former U.S. Defense Secretary

    In a conversation with former Northrop Grumman CEO Kent Kresa, Brown shares stories from his new book, Star-Spangled Security: Applying Lessons Learned over Six Decades Safeguarding America, and reflects on what those experiences teach us about current and future challenges facing the United States and the world.

    Nov 17, 2012

  • flags of China and Iran

    Commentary

    Chinese-Iranian Ties in the Face of the Nuclear Crisis

    The U.S. effort to isolate and pressure Iran in order to extract concessions on the nuclear program faces a significant vulnerability: the ties between Iran and the People’s Republic of China, writes Alireza Nader.

    Nov 12, 2012

  • North Korean postage stamp

    Multimedia

    Deterrence and North Korea

    Senior defense analyst Bruce Bennett discusses why North Korea presents uniquely difficult challenges and suggests new and creative approaches to deterrence.

    Oct 30, 2012

  • U.S. Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney answers a question during the final U.S. presidential debate with President Barack Obama in Boca Raton, Florida, October 22, 2012

    Commentary

    A Crucial Difference on Iran

    The dilemma is how sanctions and pressure would dissuade Iran's leaders from pursuing their nuclear program (as Mr. Romney recommended) if a President Romney wouldn't agree to sit down and talk with them, writes Dalia Dassa Kaye.

    Oct 23, 2012

  • news stories about Iran and Israel showing in the Al Jazeera English newsroom

    Commentary

    Israel, Iran, and the Redline Debate

    Politicizing the Iran-Israel issue at Monday's presidential debate could prove a setback for efforts to ultimately prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, writes Dalia Dassa Kaye.

    Oct 17, 2012

  • Iranian protest-rally against Ahmadinejad September 26, 2012 in NYC

    Commentary

    How Would Iran Fight Back?

    Iranian leaders are well aware that they cannot defeat the U.S. military in a face-to-face conflict. But as Hezbollah's 2006 war with Israel demonstrated, battlefield losses (or draws) can be turned into psychological victories, writes Alireza Nader.

    Oct 1, 2012

  • Iranian flag over archaeological site, Bishapur - Southwestern Iran

    Commentary

    Smart Sanctions: Actually, Obama's Iran Policy Is Working Great

    Not until the Obama administration had Iran faced sanctions with serious bite. The administration has managed to build a wide and deep international coalition against Iran, writes Alireza Nader.

    Sep 26, 2012

  • U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

    Commentary

    Israelis Need Convincing that a Military Attack on Iran Is a Bad Idea

    Instead of committing the United States to take military action against Iran, a better option would be convincing more Israeli leaders and people that a military attack is still a bad idea if the goal is to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power, writes Dalia Dassa Kaye.

    Sep 6, 2012

  • Events @ RAND Audio Podcast

    Multimedia

    Defusing Iran's Nuclear Threat

    On June 19, 2012, Alireza Nader, a senior international policy analyst and Iran expert at RAND, discussed Iran's internal political dynamics and U.S. economic, political, and military options in preventing a nuclear-armed Iran.

    Jun 19, 2012

  • Russian (L and R) and Iranian operators monitor the nuclear power plant unit in Bushehr, about 1,215 km (755 miles) south of Tehran, November 30, 2009

    Blog

    Defusing Iran's Nuclear Threat

    As nuclear negotiations with Iran resume, they might produce an agreement on interim steps to limit Iranian enrichment and a temporary hold on some international sanctions.

    Jun 14, 2012

  • A world map outline with glowing nuclear warning symbols over it

    Blog

    A Conversation with Philip Taubman, Author of The Partnership

    Philip Taubman discussed his book, The Partnership: Five Cold Warriors and Their Quest to Ban the Bomb, at a RAND event on June 1, 2012. The book offers a clear analysis of the danger of nuclear terrorism and how it can be prevented.

    Jun 8, 2012