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

  • Congressional Briefing Podcast

    Multimedia

    Making Sense of Nuclear Negotiations with Iran: A Good Deal or a Bad Deal?

    In this January 2014 Congressional Briefing, a panel of experts discusses the negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 that have resulted in a first-step agreement of a possible comprehensive deal on the Iranian nuclear program.

    Jan 22, 2014

  • Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, President Hassan Rouhani, and Mohammad Nahavandian at the World Economic Forum

    Commentary

    Why New Sanctions on Iran Won't Work

    Sanctions are not a button that can be pushed to strengthen the U.S. position automatically; they must be used in tandem with diplomacy, and a deeper understanding of Iranian, Chinese and Russian motivations.

    Jan 22, 2014

  • Iran's ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency Reza Najafi attends a news conference in Vienna

    Commentary

    A 'Nixon to China' Moment with Iran?

    The current negotiations with Iran designed to eliminate its nuclear weapons capability seem to lack a broader strategic objective: stabilizing the Middle East with a regional balance of power. What does the China experience tell us about prospects for a strategic breakthrough with Iran?

    Dec 24, 2013

  • U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry sits between Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius at the United Nations Headquarters after the P5+1 member nations concluded a nuclear deal with Iran in Geneva, Switzerland, on November 24, 2013.

    Commentary

    A First Step in Geneva

    The Geneva agreement is only a first step toward a comprehensive deal but it is an important achievement. Iran's ability to move toward a nuclear weapons breakout capability has been halted in return for limited sanctions relief.

    Nov 25, 2013

  • U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry meets with Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem November 6, 2013

    Commentary

    Playing Good Cop, Bad Cop with Iran

    On the one hand, U.S. negotiators must convince their Iranian counterparts that the United States is serious about offering genuine sanctions relief in return for Tehran making concessions on its nuclear ambitions. On the other hand, the negotiating team must also assuage the concerns of allies and members of Congress.

    Nov 22, 2013

  • Nuclear talks at the United Nations European headquarters in Geneva November 20, 2013

    Commentary

    We're Close to a Good Deal with Iran. Why Sabotage It?

    It appears that Iran and the P5+1 are close to agreeing for Tehran to suspend major aspects of its program, including the enrichment of uranium to a medium level of 20 percent, and installation of more advanced centrifuges, in return for reversible and limited easing of sanctions.

    Nov 21, 2013

  • U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry addresses an international assembly of reporters upon arriving in Geneva

    Commentary

    The Geneva Blame Game

    Iran and the P5+1 (the U.S., Britain, France, China, and Russia plus Germany) came tantalizingly close to reaching a nuclear deal this past weekend in Geneva, but the talks ended without an agreement. Although both Iran and the United States expressed optimism that much was achieved, a blame game between the different players soon ensued.

    Nov 15, 2013

  • Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

    Commentary

    A Different Israeli Take on Iran

    An agreement did not come out of last week's talks. But when the participants resume negotiations later this month, they should keep one thing in mind: Not all Israelis are as alarmed about a potential deal as Netanyahu. Despite Netanyahu's hard line, many Israelis believe diplomacy can work.

    Nov 12, 2013

  • European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton speaks with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif before the start of two days of nuclear talks at the United Nations offices in Geneva October 15, 2013

    Commentary

    Pause on Additional Iran Sanctions Crucial to Negotiations

    The Nov. 7–8 negotiations between Iran and six world powers (the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Russia, China and Germany) could prove to be a critical point in the Iranian nuclear crisis. New sanctions under consideration by Congress could lead to a weakening of the overall U.S. position.

    Nov 6, 2013

  • President Barack Obama shakes hands with Jeh Johnson during an announcement for Johnson to be his nominee for Secretary of Homeland Security

    Commentary

    Challenges and Opportunities Ahead for New Homeland Security Secretary

    To ensure the Department of Homeland Security makes progress in the current constrained budget environment, its new secretary must put in place a strategic perspective to guide priorities for how to address the country's most pressing problems in disaster management, immigration reform, cybersecurity, violent extremism, and nuclear terrorism.

    Oct 24, 2013

  • Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif speaks to the media after a meeting of foreign ministers at the U.N. Headquarters in New York September 26, 2013

    Commentary

    Zero-Sum Enrichment

    Sanctions have taken a heavy toll on the Iranian economy, and the Islamic Republic may finally be motivated to take steps to rein in its nuclear program, including accepting limits on uranium enrichment, in exchange for lessening the pressure.

    Oct 14, 2013

  • Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei casts his ballot in central Tehran June 14, 2013

    Commentary

    Obama Should Take Iran's Overture Seriously

    If his words are any guide, Iran's supreme leader is pivoting to diplomacy. Long an advocate of “resistance” to the United States, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei now praises his new president, Hassan Rouhani, for his administration's “heroic” and “artful” approach toward foreign policy.

    Sep 22, 2013

  • Report

    Crisis Stability and Long-Range Strike: A Comparative Analysis of Fighters, Bombers, and Missiles

    In an international crisis, the United States must balance its threats with restraint while limiting its vulnerability. A RAND study sought to identify which long-range strike assets offer capabilities most conducive to stabilizing such crises.

    Jun 19, 2013

  • North Korean leader Kim Jong-un at the Supreme Command in Pyongyang, March 29, 2013

    Commentary

    4 Factors to Consider in US Options for North Korea

    The US, working closely with its allies, should approach each potential conflict with North Korea in its own context, sculpting policy that draws on experience as well as observations made through research, writes Lowell Schwartz.

    Jun 12, 2013

  • identity checks in the 2009 Iranian election

    Blog

    Previewing the Iranian Election

    The Iranian regime seeks to produce a 2013 election that at least appears to be popular and legitimate; but more importantly, Khamenei desires a president who will act as his prime minister, rather than as an independent power.

    Jun 11, 2013

  • Supporters of reformist candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi, some wearing green, the color of the party, gather on the streets June 13, 2009, to protest the results of the Iranian presidential election in Tehran, Iran

    Report

    Iran's 2013 Presidential Election

    Iran's June 14, 2013 election will take place in the shadow of the turbulent 2009 presidential election, after which Iran witnessed the largest protests since the 1979 revolution. An analysis of the upcoming election considers Khamenei's objectives, the regime's electoral strategy, the competing factions and personalities, and the potential implications for the U.S., especially concerning Iran's nuclear program.

    Jun 5, 2013

  • Nawaz Sharif billboard on Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Headquarters

    Commentary

    Preventing a Nuclear 'Great Game'

    America's imminent withdrawal from Afghanistan raises the possibility of renewed tension between Pakistan and India. With this month's election of Nawaz Sharif as Pakistan's next prime minister, Islamabad and New Delhi have a fleeting window of opportunity to improve relations.

    May 30, 2013

  • the Shrine of the Tomb of Imam Reza

    Commentary

    Think Again: A Nuclear Iran

    When contemplating the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran, we should all be grateful that notions of martyrdom and apocalyptic beliefs don't have a significant pull on Iranian decision-making, writes Alireza Nader.

    May 29, 2013

  • Iran's chief negotiator Saeed Jalili at a May 2013 news conference

    Report

    Iran After the Bomb: How Would a Nuclear-Armed Tehran Behave?

    Iran may feel more confident and gain a sense of prestige from a nuclear capability, but other factors, such as the regional geopolitical environment and Iran’s political, military, and economic capabilities, will have a greater bearing on Iranian calculations.

    May 17, 2013

  • 24th MEU,Realistic Urban Training,RUT,Sgt. Richard Blumenstein

    Report

    Brandishing Cyberattack Capabilities

    No one knows quite what would happen if a country suffered a full-fledged cyberattack, despite the plethora of skirmishes. But while cyberattack capabilities cannot easily be used to shape the behavior of others, this does not mean they cannot be used at all.

    May 13, 2013