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

  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un reacts as he attends a parade to mark the 75th anniversary of the founding of the ruling Workers' Party of Korea, in this image released by North Korea's Central News Agency on October 10, 2020, photo by KCNA/Reuters

    Commentary

    Biden's North Korea Policy Review Is Sparse on Details. Here's One Interpretation

    The Biden administration recently completed its North Korea policy review. Details have been sparse, but based on prior U.S. dealings with the Kims, some informed guesses about Washington's approach towards Pyongyang under the new administration can be had. Here's one.

    May 6, 2021

  • Blog

    COVID-19 Demographic Trends, Vaccinating 'High-Contact' People, the Iran Threat Network: RAND Weekly Recap

    This weekly recap focuses on how the pandemic is shaping demographic trends, targeting vaccines to "high-contact" people, the Iran Threat Network, and more.

    Apr 16, 2021

  • European External Action Service (EEAS) Deputy Secretary General Enrique Mora and Iranian Deputy at Ministry of Foreign Affairs Abbas Araghchi wait for the start of a meeting of the JCPOA Joint Commission in Vienna, Austria April 6, 2021

    Commentary

    The Biden Administration Will Find It Difficult to Contain Israel and Iran's Escalating Tensions

    Iran is blaming Israel for a blackout at one of its nuclear research facilities. This attack is likely to complicate nuclear diplomacy and further erode trust between Tehran and Washington. Also, it may only incentivize Iran to advance its nuclear program.

    Apr 14, 2021

  • Call with the Experts: The North Korean Nuclear Threat

    Multimedia

    The North Korean Nuclear Threat

    In this Call with the Experts podcast, Jeffrey Hiday, director of Media Relations at RAND, is joined by Bruce Bennett, RAND adjunct international/defense researcher, Bruce Bechtol, professor of political science at Angelo State University, and Bruce Klingner, senior research fellow with the Heritage Foundation, for a discussion about the North Korean nuclear threat.

    Apr 12, 2021

  • Report

    Report

    The U.S.-Japan Alliance and Rapid Change on the Korean Peninsula: Proceedings from a Pair of Conferences

    Few areas of the world are more geostrategically important to the United States and Japan than the Korean Peninsula. These conference proceedings explore how changes on the Korean Peninsula are seen by observers in Japan and the United States.

    Mar 26, 2021

  • Finger hovering over an illuminated button with a radiation warning sign, photo by davidhills/Getty Images

    Multimedia

    RAND Remote: A Disarming Mission, A RAND Conversation with William Perry and Tom Collina

    In this RAND Remote conversation, former Secretary of Defense William Perry and Tom Collina, director of policy at Ploughshares Fund, discuss nuclear executive authority and topics covered in their book, The Button: The New Nuclear Arms Race and Presidential Power from Truman to Trump.

    Mar 25, 2021

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin during an end-of-year videoconference with members of the Russian government at the Novo-Ogaryovo residence, December 24, 2020, photo by Mikhail Klimentyev/Reuters

    Commentary

    Arms Control Held Hostage

    President-elect Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin have wisely promised to extend the 2010 New START Treaty, which cuts long-range nuclear arms. The two leaders may also pursue a broader follow-on accord, but frigid U.S.-Russian relations could put this out of reach. Progress on arms control often comes when political winds are warmer.

    Dec 28, 2020

  • Journal Article

    Journal Article

    South Korea: Capable Now, Questions for the Future

    South Korea is a capable US military ally. It faces a substantial military threat from North Korea, especially North Korea's WMD. South Korea's demographics are shrinking its military, challenging South Korea's ability to defend itself in the future.

    Nov 3, 2020

  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un speaks during the 13th Political Bureau meeting of the 7th Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK) in this image released June 7, 2020 by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency, photo by KCNA/Reuters

    Commentary

    North Korea Has Agreed to Denuclearization. Trump Could Try to Make It Happen

    President Trump came into office determined to rein in the North Korean nuclear weapons program. But it has become quite clear that North Korea has no intention of giving it up. How might the United States bring North Korea into compliance with its denuclearization commitments?

    Sep 28, 2020

  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visits a drill of long-range artillery sub-units of the Korean People's Army, March 2, 2020, photo by KCNA/Reuters

    Report

    How Does North Korean Leadership Make Decisions?

    With talks between the United States and North Korea at a standstill, U.S. policymakers must consider what the regime might do next and know what signs or decisions to look for. Will Kim open the DPRK economy? What if conventional deterrence fails on the Korean Peninsula? And what could lead to the use of nuclear weapons?

    Aug 20, 2020

  • The U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., photo by lucky-photographer/Getty Images

    Blog

    Summer Reading List for Congress

    During the August recess Hill staff should have an opportunity to step back from the fast pace of votes and hearing preparation to examine priorities for the fall and beyond. This list of must-read research and commentary covers some policy issues they will likely be addressing after the break.

    Aug 18, 2020

  • A missile is seen launched during a military drill in North Korea, May 10, 2019, photo by Korean Central News Agency via Reuters

    Commentary

    In North Korea, The U.S. Could Take the Lead

    North Korea is hurting: its economy is stagnant and it is having trouble feeding even its elites because of the UN/U.S. sanctions designed to pressure North Korean toward denuclearization. A combined carrot and stick approach may help overcome some of North Korea's reluctance to negotiate the future of its nuclear weapons program.

    Aug 17, 2020

  • The U.N. Security Council's five permanent members (P5) attend a Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons conference in Beijing, China, January 30, 2019, photo by Thomas Peter/Reuters

    Commentary

    Negotiating with Great Powers on Nuclear Arms

    New START, the U.S.-Russia arms control treaty, expires in February 2021. Washington insists that any follow-on accord must include China. But overcoming Beijing's reticence to engage in nuclear talks will likely take deft diplomacy, time, and patience.

    Aug 3, 2020

  • A view of a damaged building after a fire broke out at Iran's Natanz Nuclear Facility, in Isfahan, Iran, July 2, 2020, photo by Wana News Agency/Reuters

    Commentary

    An Israeli Escalation Against Iran?

    Israeli involvement in recent attacks on Iran would not be surprising, and more such attacks might be coming. However, Israel's bet that the Iranians will not respond is risky. It's hard to control escalation when things are so volatile, especially as hardline Iranian leaders may increase pressure to retaliate.

    Jul 15, 2020

  • Russia's President Vladimir Putin gestures during the joint press conference with U.S. President Donald Trump in the Presidential Palace in Helsinki, Finland, July 16, 2018, photo by Lehtikuva/Jussi Nukari/Reuters

    Commentary

    Take the Bird in the Hand. Strike a Nuclear Weapons Deal with Russia

    By extending New START, the Trump administration would preserve verifiable constraints on Russia's nuclear arsenal, buy time to negotiate a more comprehensive agreement, and pave the way for arms talks about intermediate-range missiles.

    Jul 1, 2020

  • Signal cables are laid out at a test location on Yucca Flat, the principal underground nuclear weapons testing area at the Nevada Test Site, in the 1990s, photo courtesy of National Nuclear Security Administration/Nevada Field Office

    Commentary

    Nuclear Testing Not Needed Now

    Trump administration officials are reported to have recently discussed conducting a nuclear test, breaking a moratorium the United States has observed since 1992. Such a move is not necessary to ensure the reliability of the U.S. arsenal and could increase threats to U.S. and allied security by giving a green light to others to conduct nuclear tests.

    Jun 11, 2020

  • Periodical

    Periodical

    RAND Review: May-June 2020

    Feature stories explore how military and local governments can work together to prepare their communities for climate change, and the unmet needs of civilians who return from war zones and other hot spots throughout the world.

    May 22, 2020

  • Kim Jong Un attends the completion of a fertilizer plant with his younger sister Kim Yo Jong, in a region north of Pyongyang, May 2, 2020, photo by KCNA/Reuters

    Commentary

    North Korea Post–Kim Jong Un Reappearance: Expect Business as Usual in the Hermit Kingdom

    Kim Jong Un's return, while it leaves much to be desired in the way of explanation, should send one message to the international audience: North Korea's fate rests still in the hands of Kim Jong Un. And judging by appearances in recent days, Kim does not appear to intend to change the course of his strategy to reduce tensions with the United States.

    May 19, 2020