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

  • Congressional Briefing Podcast

    Multimedia

    United States and China: Trends in Military Competition

    In this October 2015 congressional briefing, Eric Heginbotham discusses relative U.S. and Chinese military capabilities, including the evolution of Chinese military capabilities, steps the United States can take to limit the impact of a growing Chinese military on deterrence, and other U.S. strategic interests.

    Oct 5, 2015

  • U.S. President Barack Obama and China's President Xi Jinping listen to national anthems during a ceremony in Beijing, November 12, 2014

    Commentary

    Nuclear Weapons Should Be on the U.S.-China Summit Agenda

    At the impending U.S.-China summit, it would make sense for Obama to put on the table official discussions of strategic nuclear issues between U.S. and Chinese government or military representatives.

    Sep 23, 2015

  • U.S. soldiers show an Estonian soldier how the mortar system operates during a call for fire live exercise in Estonia, Aug. 7, 2015

    Report

    Building the Army We Will Need

    Failure to correctly estimate the number of soldiers needed or to provide adequate resources to the U.S. Army can lead to a failure of U.S. strategy and subsequent regret. Policymakers should plan and resource a larger ground force to meet the commitments that the United States has made.

    Sep 23, 2015

  • News Release

    News Release

    China's Military Modernization Increasingly Challenges U.S. Defense Capabilities in Asia

    Although China continues to lag behind the United States in terms of aggregate military hardware and operational skills, it has improved its capabilities relative to those of the U.S. in many critical areas. Moreover, China does not need to catch up fully in order to challenge U.S. ability to conduct effective military operations near the Chinese mainland.

    Sep 14, 2015

  • U.S. Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Chinese army Gen. Fang Fenghui, China's chief of the general staff, salute during a ceremony in Beijing, April 22, 2013

    Research Brief

    Tallying the U.S.-China Military Scorecard

    A set of “scorecards” assesses the relative capabilities of U.S. and Chinese military forces in diverse types of conflict, at varying distances from the Chinese mainland, and at different points in time.

    Sep 14, 2015

  • Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy recruits march during a parade in Qingdao, Shandong province, December 5, 2013

    Report

    China's Military Modernization Increasingly Challenges U.S. Defense Capabilities in Asia

    Although China continues to lag behind the United States in terms of aggregate military hardware and operational skills, it has improved its capabilities relative to those of the U.S. in many critical areas. Moreover, China does not need to catch up fully in order to challenge U.S. ability to conduct effective military operations near the Chinese mainland.

    Sep 14, 2015

  • U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry testifies before a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on the Iran nuclear agreement in Washington, July 28, 2015

    Commentary

    The Only Iran Deal Alternative Worth Considering

    Now is the time for Washington to prove its leadership and implement the Iran nuclear deal. The alternative is a major diplomatic defeat for America and an unrestricted Iranian nuclear program.

    Aug 30, 2015

  • Iran flag above Tehran skyline

    Commentary

    A Better Deal for Iran

    It is critical for lawmakers to understand there will be serious consequences for rejecting the Iran deal. And those consequences look a lot worse for the United States and its partners than for Iran.

    Aug 24, 2015

  • A woman and child release lanterns into the Motoyasu River on the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima, Japan, August 6, 2015

    Commentary

    Out of the Mushroom Cloud's Shadow

    With Japan's nuclear restraint no longer the article of faith it once was, the significance of the nuclear pacts struck decades ago will become ever more consequential.

    Aug 6, 2015

  • Iranians celebrate after the announcement of a nuclear deal between Iran and the P5+1 countries, Tehran, July 14, 2015

    Commentary

    Opening Iran After the Nuclear Deal

    The nuclear accord paves the way for Iranian-Americans to help Iranians know the United States not for past perceived misdeeds, but future possibilities.

    Aug 3, 2015

  • U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry shakes hands with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif in Vienna, Austria, July 14, 2015

    Commentary

    Iran Deal or No Deal

    A U.S. rejection of the Iran nuclear agreement would send the wrong message, not only to Iran but also to America's closest allies, and it would not serve American interests in the region.

    Jul 22, 2015

  • Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at a July 14, 2015 news conference that Israel would not be bound by the nuclear deal between world powers and Iran

    Commentary

    Peace in the Middle East: America's New Post-Iran Deal Challenge

    It is no surprise that the final Iran nuclear deal was met with opposition in Israel and Saudi Arabia. For all the talk about whether or not this is a good deal, negotiating with Iran was the original sin from their perspective.

    Jul 20, 2015

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin and Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu arriving for the opening of the Army-2015 international military forum in Kubinka, Russia, June 16, 2015

    Commentary

    We Face a New, Dangerous Age of Nuclear Weapons Rivalry

    Escalating competition among major powers is amplifying the role of nuclear weapons in defense policies, including more easily used — and thus especially dangerous — tactical nuclear forces. Before it becomes too late, the U.S. should design and lead a new campaign to control nuclear risk.

    Jul 16, 2015

  • U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry reacts as he delivers a statement on the Iran deal at the Vienna International Center, Austria, July 14, 2015

    Commentary

    Iran Deal Not a Panacea, but a Pragmatic Necessity

    The nuclear agreement is not perfect and certainly does not attain the ideals of either side. But it prevents Iran from developing a nuclear weapons capability in the near future while giving some space for Iranian proponents of change.

    Jul 15, 2015

  • A poster of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Hezbollah Secretary-General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, and others behind Iranian, Syrian, Lebanese, and Hezbollah flags during Resistance and Liberation Day celebrations in Bint Jbeil, Lebanon, May 25, 2014

    Commentary

    Global Terror Network Will Get a Boost from Iran Nuclear Deal

    Iranian sponsorship of terrorist organizations cannot be divorced from the negotiations because the sanctions that will be lifted provide new sources of funding to reinforce the Iran threat network. A global strategy to address the Iran threat network is essential to stability in the region.

    Jul 15, 2015

  • Meeting to discuss Iran nuclear deal at the Beau Rivage Palace Hotel in Lausanne March 29, 2015

    Project

    The Days After a Deal with Iran

    Now that a nuclear agreement has been struck, what will be the implications for U.S. regional strategy, Iran's own foreign policy orientation, the response from regional partners, the global non-proliferation regime, and the role of Congress in implementation of the agreement?

    Jul 14, 2015

  • Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif waves after a plenary session at the UN building, Vienna, July 14, 2015

    Q&A

    The Iran Nuclear Deal: RAND Experts Answer Questions About the Days Ahead

    Diplomats have reached a nuclear agreement with Iran. Now, the United States faces important policy decisions that will help shape the days ahead and the relationship that emerges between Iran and the other parties involved.

    Jul 14, 2015

  • U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in front of Palais Coburg, the venue for the Iran nuclear talks, Vienna, Austria, July 5, 2015

    Commentary

    Here's What Will Happen If the Iran Deal Falls Through

    Even a strong nonproliferation agreement that prevents all pathways toward the Iranian bomb won't magically transform the Middle East. But on balance, the region would be better off with a good nuclear deal than without one.

    Jul 7, 2015

  • Report

    Report

    A Surprise Out of Zion? Case Studies in Israel's Decisions on Whether to Alert the United States to Preemptive and Preventive Strikes, from Suez to the Syrian Nuclear Reactor

    Examines four key historical cases in which Israeli prime ministers chose preemptive or preventive military strikes and had to decide whether to notify or consult with the United States.

    Jun 29, 2015

  • U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif

    Essay

    Nuclear Negotiations with Iran: Looking Ahead

    As world leaders work to piece together a nuclear deal with Iran, RAND experts asked, What would change on the day after a final deal? Their analysis helps clarify what a nuclear deal would mean for the United States, the region, and the world.

    May 4, 2015