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.

  • 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

  • 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

Explore Nuclear Weapons and Warfare

  • Kim Jong-un conducts a ground test of a high-thrust, solid-fuel engine at the Sohae Satellite Launch Station in Cholsan, North Korea, December 16, 2022, photo by KCNA/Pool/Latin America News Agency via Reuters

    Commentary

    Japanese 'Counterstrike' May Be Good for ROK Security

    Fully coordinated, the South Korean Kill Chain and Japanese counterstrike capability could be more effective in stopping North Korea from causing damage. And they could be more likely to deter Kim Jong-un, as Pyongyang recognizes that its efforts to militarily dominate the ROK are unlikely to succeed.

    Dec 28, 2022

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin attends the summit of leaders of the Commonwealth of Independent States in Astana, Kazakhstan October 14, 2022, photo by Turar Kazangapov/Reuters

    Report

    Responding to a Russian Attack on NATO During the Ukraine War

    The Ukraine war has created a unique set of circumstances that make a limited Russian attack against a NATO target plausible. If such an attack were to occur, how might the United States and NATO respond?

    Dec 20, 2022

  • Kim Jong -un and his daughter attend a photo session with the scientists, engineers, military officials and others involved in the test-fire of the country's new Hwasong-17 intercontinental ballistic missile in this undated photo released on November 27, 2022, photo by KCNA via Reuters

    Commentary

    North Korea's Version of 'Take Your Daughter to Work Day'

    With the spotlight having long been fixed on the nuclear issue, the public debut of Kim Jong-un's “most beloved” child seems as though it could be an impeccably timed distraction to keep the international community from focusing on seeking an enduring solution to Pyongyang's rapidly advancing weapons systems.

    Dec 12, 2022

  • A Tupolev Tu-95 aircraft, photo by Fedor Leukhin

    Report

    Russian Military Strategy: Organizing Operations for the Initial Period of War

    The authors of this report identify and examine several factors to assess the orientation of Russian military strategy, including the balance of power, Russian diplomacy with China, views on future war, and trends in force readiness and mobilization.

    Nov 22, 2022

  • Dissertation

    Dissertation

    Thinking About the Unthinkable: Examining North Korea's Military Threat to China

    Examines North Korea's military threat to China.

    Nov 8, 2022

  • Russian President Putin attends a conference of heads of security and intelligence agencies of the Commonwealth of Independent States member countries remotely in Moscow, Russia, September 29, 2022, photo by Gavriil Grigorov/Sputnik via Reuters

    Commentary

    Nuclear Weapons and Putin's 'Holy War'

    Russia's nuclear saber-rattling has shifted the stakes of the war in Ukraine. But enabling Russia's blackmail doesn't prevent the catastrophic costs of nuclear escalation. It merely shifts those costs away from Russia and into the future, inviting other nuclear states to pull the same move for their conquests.

    Nov 2, 2022

  • RAND Weekly Recap

    Blog

    Putin's Gambits, Xi Jinping, Machine Learning: RAND Weekly Recap

    This weekly recap focuses on Putin's latest “desperate measures” in Ukraine, support for Xi Jinping, whether machine-learning tools can tell if you're lying, and more.

    Oct 21, 2022

  • Russia claims to have successfully test-launched its nuclear-capable Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile in Plesetsk, Russian Federation, in this photo released by the Russian Ministry of Defence, April 20, 2022, photo by Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation/Reuters

    Commentary

    Why Putin's Nuclear Gambit Is a Huge Mistake

    Russia is losing in Ukraine, and the rhetoric of Russian leaders has recently become ever more apocalyptic. The United States and its allies should be prepared in case Russia goes down the nuclear path, but fear should not drive the Western response to Russia's nuclear bluster.

    Oct 19, 2022

  • RAND Weekly Recap

    Blog

    Legalizing Cannabis, the Russian Nuclear Threat, Digital Offshoring: RAND Weekly Recap

    This weekly recap focuses on cannabis legalization, the Russian nuclear threat, the effects of digital offshoring, and more.

    Oct 14, 2022

  • BTS perform during the 64th Annual Grammy Awards show in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S. April 3, 2022, photo by Mario Anzuoni/Reuters

    Commentary

    Could K-Pop Help Deter Kim Jong-un's Provocations?

    The United States and Republic of Korea could be more specific and creative in seeking to deter Kim Jong-un. The global popularity of K-Pop could be part of the strategy.

    Oct 11, 2022

  • Iran's President Ebrahim Raisi attends a news conference in Tehran, Iran, August 29, 2022, photo by Majid Asgaripour/WANA/Reuters

    Commentary

    The Iran Nuclear Deal: Is the Juice Still Worth the Squeeze?

    The talks to reinstate the Iran nuclear deal have been dragging on for 18 months. But the negotiations are not about very much; the general contours of the original agreement still hold. As the clock keeps ticking, though, it gets harder to revive it. At some point, the juice won't be worth the squeeze.

    Oct 10, 2022

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin declares the annexation of four Ukrainian provinces at the Great Kremlin Palace in Moscow, Russia, September 30, 2022, photo by Grigory Sysoyev/Pool via Reuters

    Commentary

    A Moment of Strategic Clarity

    With the Russian mobilization and declared annexation, whatever prospects there were for a negotiated peace seem to have all but vanished. Any result short of Ukrainian victory will be, in the long run, a worse outcome for the rules-based international order.

    Oct 3, 2022

  • RAND Weekly Recap

    Blog

    Veterans Health Care, Media Literacy, Sleep Retreats: RAND Weekly Recap

    This weekly recap focuses on the challenges of VA community care, the importance of improving middle schoolers' media literacy skills, tips to improve sleep, and more.

    Sep 9, 2022

  • RAND Weekly Recap

    Blog

    Back to School, Vaccinating Kids, Space Security: RAND Weekly Recap

    This weekly recap focuses on the well-being of America's educators, the effort to vaccinate kids and teens, security in outer space, and more.

    Sep 2, 2022

  • Kim Jong-un watches a military parade in Pyongyang to mark the 90th anniversary of the founding of the North Korean People's Revolutionary Army in this image released by KCNA on April 26, 2022, photo by EyePress via Reuters

    Report

    The Risks of North Korean Weapons of Mass Destruction

    In addition to its nuclear weapons, North Korea has amassed chemical, biological, and electromagnetic pulse weapons. It has also created an active cyber hacker force. What can the United States and South Korea do to deter and, if necessary, counter these threats?

    Aug 29, 2022

  • A Ukrainian army officer looks at a destroyed SS-24 missile silo near the town of Pervomaisk, Ukraine, October 30, 2001, photo by Gleb Garanich CVI/CLH//Reuters

    Commentary

    How Russia's Nuclear Double Cross of Ukraine Teaches Dangerous Lessons

    Since Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the West's support for Kyiv has been tempered by an ace up Vladimir Putin's sleeve: the potential use of nuclear weapons. But other countries are taking notice, which could imperil world stability even further.

    Aug 16, 2022

  • U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, and Ukraine's Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov in a Ukraine Defence Contact group meeting in Brussels, Belgium, June 15, 2022, photo by Yves Herman/Pool/Reuters

    Report

    Potential Pathways to Russian Escalation Against NATO

    A Russia-NATO war is far from an inevitable outcome of the current conflict in Ukraine. U.S. and allied policymakers should be concerned with specific pathways and potential triggers, but they need not operate under the assumption that every action will entail acute escalation risks.

    Jul 26, 2022

  • South Korea's new President Kim Dae-jung waves on the grounds of the National Assembly in Seoul, South Korea, February 25, 1998, photo by Str Old/Reuters

    Commentary

    Three Principles for Korean Peninsula Peace and Security

    In his inaugural address in 1998, former South Korean President Kim Dae-jung defined three principles for Korean Peninsula peace and security. How might these principles be adjusted to manage today's changing North Korean threats and the Korean security environment?

    May 20, 2022

  • 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