Nuclear Weapons and Warfare

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Nuclear weapons, the means of producing them, and their potential use play significant roles in international relations and homeland security. Throughout its history, RAND has provided detailed analyses and recommendations for defense planners and helped policymakers make informed national security decisions with regard to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and the nuclear activities of India, Pakistan, China, North Korea, Iran, and other nations.

  • North Korea displays what appears to be its largest intercontinental ballistic missile during a parade to mark the 75th anniversary of the founding of its ruling Workers' Party, October 10, 2020, photo by KCNA

    Report

    Countering the Risks of North Korean Nuclear Weapons

    Apr 12, 2021

    There is a growing gap between North Korea's nuclear weapon threat and South Korean and U.S. capabilities to defeat it. Because these capabilities will take years to develop, attention should be focused on where the threat could be in the mid to late 2020s and strategy options that could be employed to counter it.

  • Children sing and dance in front of Children's Peace Monument to commemorate the coming into effect of the TPNW at Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima, Japan, January 22, 2021, photo by Osamu Kanazawa/Yomiuri Shimbun via Reuters

    Commentary

    Nuclear Ban Treaty Offers Rare Chance for Japan

    Apr 30, 2021

    As the only country to suffer the horrors of wartime atomic bombings, one would assume Japan would eagerly sign any treaty to ban such weapons. Why hasn't Japan signed the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which took effect in January 2021?

Explore Nuclear Weapons and Warfare

  • A Russian Yars intercontinental ballistic missile system drives during a rehearsal for the Victory Day parade in Red Square in central Moscow, Russia, May 7, 2021, photo by Maxim Shemetov/Reuters

    Commentary

    Book Review: 'Escalation and Deescalation of Crises, Armed Conflicts, and Wars'

    The evolving crisis in Ukraine has generated much discussion about whether Moscow would escalate the conflict, whether in frustration at the slow progress of its military operations, or in response to actions of other states, even possibly resorting to nuclear weapons. But what do Russian sources suggest about escalation?

    Apr 11, 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

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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

  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un speaks during a Report on Enlarged Meeting of the 2nd Political Bureau of the 8th Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea, in Pyongyang, North Korea, in this image released July 5, 2021, photo by KCNA via Reuters

    Report

    A Realistic Approach for Dealing with North Korea's Nuclear Weapons

    Pursuing the unachievable goal of convincing North Korea to surrender its nuclear weapons can only complicate the real challenge of managing a nuclear-armed North Korea. The United States and its allies should instead focus on deterrence and a series of negotiated agreements to control further development.

    Nov 3, 2021

  • Blog

    Nuclear Deterrence, COVID-19 and Infant Deaths, Criminal Justice Reform: RAND Weekly Recap

    This weekly recap focuses on why the United States doesn’t need more nuclear weapons, increased infant deaths during the pandemic, preventing veteran suicide, and more.

    Oct 22, 2021

  • A new submarine-launched ballistic missile is seen during a test in this undated photo released on October 19, 2021, photo by KCNA via Reuters

    Commentary

    Reducing the Role of U.S. Nuclear Weapons Could Make North Korea Happy

    The threats emanating from North Korea pose a useful case study for the potential implications of reducing the role of U.S. nuclear weapons. Additional U.S. nuclear deterrence declaratory strategy, backed up by appropriate nuclear weapon capabilities and planning, may be needed.

    Oct 20, 2021

  • Military vehicles carrying DF-5B intercontinental ballistic missiles in a military parade in Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China, October 1, 2019, photo by Jason Lee/Reuters

    Commentary

    The U.S. Doesn't Need More Nuclear Weapons to Counter China's New Missile Silos

    There's little reason for the United States to worry much about whatever the Chinese military is building in hundreds of new missile silos in China. America and its allies have ways to counter any threats these silo fields pose.

    Oct 18, 2021

  • North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un speaks at a plenary meeting of 8th central committee of the Workers' Party of Korea in this still image taken from KRT footage on June 16, 2021, photo by KRT TV/Reuters

    Report

    Engaging with North Korea: Lessons from Game Theory

    Applying game theory to the situation in North Korea may provide insights into how the United States can deal with Kim Jong-un and carry out negotiations on denuclearization.

    Aug 12, 2021

  • Chinese President Xi Jinping and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un take a walk in Pyongyang, North Korea, in this picture released by KCNA on June 21, 2019, photo by KCNA via Reuters

    Commentary

    Can China Be a Real Partner in Bringing North Korea to the Nuclear Negotiating Table?

    The United States remains committed to the goal of denuclearization of North Korea. China is more interested in maintaining a delicate geopolitical balance to counter U.S. influence in the region and in expanding its own reach. Thus, prospects for productive U.S.-China cooperation on the North Korean nuclear threat seem faint at best.

    Jul 14, 2021

  • North Korean leader Kim Jong-un inspects a long-range strategic ballistic rocket Hwasong-12 in an undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency, May 15, 2017, photo by KCNA via Reuters

    Commentary

    North Korean Nuclear Weapons Pose an Existential Threat to China

    Despite the current border closures between their two countries, China and North Korea remain resolutely pledged to a “blood-alliance.” But this partnership has vastly different implications depending on which side of the border you consider.

    Jul 13, 2021

  • A supporter of Ebrahim Raisi displays his portrait during a celebratory rally for his presidential election victory in Tehran, Iran, June 19, 2021, photo by Majid Asgaripour/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via Reuters

    Commentary

    Why Iran May Be in No Hurry to Get Nuclear Weapons Even Without a Nuclear Deal

    History shows that many countries with advanced nuclear technologies but without nuclear bombs opt to stay that way. There are reasons to believe that Iran, too, may choose to remain non-nuclear at least in the foreseeable future.

    Jun 28, 2021

  • A Russian Mi-8 military helicopter is seen through a window while flying during a rehearsal for the Navy Day parade in Saint Petersburg, Russia, July 21, 2019, photo by Anton Vaganov/Reuters

    Report

    How Would NATO Compete with Russia?

    Western threat perceptions of Russia have risen sharply in recent years, bolstered by its acts of military aggression, political interference, and efforts to expand its global influence. What would be the strengths, weaknesses, and risks for the United States, NATO, and Russia in a large-scale war?

    Jun 22, 2021

  • Journal Article

    Journal Article

    Bomber Strike Packages with Chinese Characteristics

    This book chapter traces the development of China's bomber strike packages and assesses how these flights support operational training for Chinese air force wartime missions.

    Jun 10, 2021