Nuclear Proliferation

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The U.S.-Soviet nuclear arms race ended in détente, but nuclear development efforts and WMD proliferation in India, Pakistan, North Korea, and Iran have caused geopolitical instability since the Cold War's end. RAND has applied strategic analysis to nuclear confrontation scenarios and international deterrence efforts since its earliest work on game theory, with particular focus on the roles of both diplomacy and missile defense systems in global as well as regional security.

  • AI robot pressing a nuclear launch button.

    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.

  • Iran flag and ICBM

    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.

Explore Arms Proliferation and Control

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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

  • People walk in front of a monitor showing news of North Korea's fresh threat in Tokyo, Japan, August 10, 2017, photo by Toru Hanai/Reuters

    Tool

    DPRK Sanctions: Countering DPRK Proliferation Activities

    This tool provides an understanding of sanctions regimes currently in force against the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

    Apr 29, 2019

  • Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin attend a welcome ceremony outside the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China June 8, 2018

    Testimony

    What the Demise of the INF Could Mean for Russia-China Relations

    The U.S.-Russia impasse and effective collapse in recent months of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) will likely affect Russia-China relations. The impact will depend on future U.S. and Russian decisions about INF missiles and on the broader dynamics in great-power relations.

    Apr 10, 2019

  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un attends wreath laying ceremony at Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum in Hanoi, Vietnam March 2, 2019, photo by Jorge Silva/Pool/Reuters

    Commentary

    After the Hanoi Summit

    The best-case scenario for future U.S.-North Korea relations is that President Trump and Kim Jong-un remain committed to diplomacy. In the worst case, both countries' frustrations could spiral out of control.

    Mar 13, 2019

  • 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 in the Aftermath of the Hanoi Summit?

    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.

    Mar 13, 2019

  • North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un and Vietnam's President Nguyen Phu Trong review an honor guard during a welcome ceremony in Hanoi, Vietnam, March 1, 2019, photo by Luong Thai Linh/Reuters

    Commentary

    The Hidden Components of the North Korean Military Challenge

    In an era of global competition in which U.S. military resources are stretched thin, the United States should consider looking for opportunities to scale back potential overcommitment. The current inter-Korean dialogue presents such an opportunity.

    Mar 12, 2019

  • U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un shake hands before their one-on-one chat during the second U.S.-North Korea summit at the Metropole Hotel in Hanoi, Vietnam, February 27, 2019, photo by Leah Millis/Reuters

    Commentary

    Declaring an End to the Korean War

    President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un might agree at their summit this week in Hanoi, Vietnam, to declare an end to the Korean War. Since this conflict stopped 66 years ago, what would be the practical impact of such declaration?

    Feb 28, 2019

  • Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif speaks during the annual Munich Security Conference in Munich, Germany, February 17, 2019, photo by Andreas Gebert/Reuters

    Commentary

    Behind the 'Surprise' Resignation of Iran's Foreign Minister

    Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran's foreign minister, announced his resignation after a nearly six-year tenure. His resignation has sparked as much controversy as his tenure, one dominated by overtures to the West and resulting tensions at home. Although his departure will likely be felt most acutely in Europe, it may have a deeper impact in Tehran.

    Feb 26, 2019

  • President Donald Trump walks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa Island in Singapore, June 12, 2018, photo by KCNA/Reuters

    Commentary

    Engagement with North Korea: Small Steps May Matter More Than Big Ones

    Kim Jong-Un has said he wants North Korea to become a normal country. Agreeing to a series of short-term measures could reveal his truthfulness as much as large measures could. This could also pave the way to eventually achieving the larger goals.

    Feb 21, 2019

  • Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev addresses the first meeting of the Madrid Peace Conference in Madrid, Spain, October 30, 1991, photo by Jim Hollander/Reuters

    Commentary

    The Warsaw Summit Is No Madrid

    The peace process begun in Madrid nearly 30 years ago showed promise, but ultimately stalled, and will need rethinking to adapt to today's Middle East. The world could use a worthy successor. The Warsaw summit probably isn't it.

    Feb 13, 2019

  • President Donald Trump and North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un walk together before their working lunch during their summit at the Capella Hotel on the resort island of Sentosa, Singapore, June 12, 2018, photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

    Commentary

    Hard to Predict Outcome of Second Trump-Kim Summit

    It's difficult to predict the outcome of the second summit between Kim Jong-Un and Donald Trump. At the first, Kim offered to fully denuclearize during President Trump's first term. But he continued building nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles. If Kim keeps stalling, serious tensions could follow.

    Feb 6, 2019

  • Vice President Mike Pence and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi listen as President Donald Trump delivers his second State of the Union address in Washington, February 5, 2019

    Blog

    State of the Union: Insights from RAND

    To shed light on a wide range of topics that figured in President Trump's second State of the Union address, we've rounded up insights from some of RAND's objective and nonpartisan research, analysis, and expertise.

    Feb 6, 2019

  • Senators Marco Rubio (left) and Jim Risch speak at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Capitol Hill, June 13, 2017

    Commentary

    Congress Can Save Arms Control

    The Trump administration is seeking agreements with North Korea and Iran to eliminate their nuclear arms potential. Success may hinge on cooperation between the White House and Congress.

    Nov 27, 2018

  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un leads the testing of a newly developed tactical weapon in this undated photo released on November 16, 2018

    Commentary

    Why North Korea Sanctions Relief Is Inappropriate at This Time

    In early 2018, Kim Jong Un signaled that he was ready to negotiate abandoning North Korea's nuclear weapons with the United States. But since then, Pyongyang hasn't taken steps to denuclearize. The DPRK's actions speak louder than its words.

    Nov 26, 2018

  • Senior military officials watch a parade at the main Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang, North Korea, September 9, 2018

    Commentary

    How America Can Test North Korea's True Intentions

    While North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has suggested he may be prepared to abandon his nuclear ambitions, there has been no proof that he is serious. The United States could take steps to discover Kim's true intentions.

    Nov 26, 2018

  • U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un walk at the Capella Hotel on the island of Sentosa, Singapore, June 12, 2018

    Commentary

    North Korean Actions Speak Louder Than Its Words

    Kim Jong Un has regularly promised to denuclearize, but he's been all talk. And this year, North Korea has probably built five to nine more nuclear weapons. There are steps that could make a difference if taken before the North Korean nuclear weapon threat grows any further.

    Oct 11, 2018