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 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?

    Aug 20, 2020

    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?

  • U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev sign the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty at Prague Castle in the Czech Republic, April 8, 2010, photo by Jason Reed/Reuters

    Report

    The Military Case for Extending New START

    Feb 14, 2020

    The most prudent course of action would be for Washington to extend the U.S.-Russia New START agreement before it expires in February 2021. This would constrain Russia's nuclear forces covered by the treaty for five more years. And it would buy time to pursue multilateral negotiations that also include China.

Explore Nuclear Weapons and Warfare

  • A military policeman looks through binoculars before the official groundbreaking ceremony of the site for the U.S. Aegis Ashore missile defense facility east of Bucharest, October 28, 2013

    Report

    Defending Against Iranian Missile Threats Without Diluting the Russian Deterrent

    In 2013, the U.S. opted to cancel Phase 4 of its European Phased Adaptive Approach missile defense system. Russia had cited it as a threat to its nuclear deterrent. The restructured U.S. system remains capable of reaching Iranian missiles without posing a threat to Russia's missile forces.

    Feb 13, 2015

  • Army and police officers loyal to the Iran-backed Houthi movement shout slogans as they take part in a demonstration to show support in Sanaa, January 23, 2015

    Commentary

    Relax, Iran Is Not Taking Over the Middle East

    Nuclear negotiations should not be held hostage to all of the things Iran may be doing right or wrong. The conflicts in the Middle East are much more complex than “Iran on the march” theories would have us believe.

    Feb 11, 2015

  • North Korean leader Kim Jong-un claps during a photo session at a meeting of military and political cadres in this undated photo released by the KCNA, February 2, 2015

    Commentary

    North Korean Charm Offensive: Peace for Our Time?

    Is North Korea really sincere about wanting to negotiate improved relations with South Korea and the United States? Or is it seeking to undermine the strength and sovereignty of its neighbor, just as Germany did before World War II?

    Feb 3, 2015

  • U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell welcomes newly elected Republican senators, November 12, 2014

    Report

    The Days After a Deal with Iran: Congress's Role in Implementing a Nuclear Agreement

    The president has extensive authority under the law to provide sanctions relief to Iran as part of a comprehensive nuclear agreement. Nevertheless, Congress can take a range of steps to facilitate, hinder, or even block the executive branch's efforts.

    Feb 2, 2015

  • A C-130H Hercules landing in its new home in Southwest Asia in September 2014

    Report

    The Role of the USAF in the Days After a Deal with Iran

    The U.S. will face a complex set of policy issues and trade-offs in the aftermath of a nuclear agreement with Iran. The U.S. Air Force should see itself as having a role in informing senior-level policy discussions as to how its military posture in the region could be designed in support of alternative U.S. policies toward Iran.

    Feb 2, 2015

  • Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif during the 2015 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons at UN headquarters, April 27, 2015

    Report

    The Days After a Deal with Iran: Implications for the Nuclear Nonproliferation Regime

    A final nuclear deal with Iran would have implications for the nuclear nonproliferation regime. Slowing or stopping Iran's nuclear development is an important nonproliferation accomplishment, but the international community will need to find ways to mitigate some of the deal's negative consequences.

    Feb 2, 2015

  • Iran's President Hassan Rouhani during a news conference at the 69th United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters in New York, September 26, 2014

    Commentary

    Congress Should Delay New Iran Sanctions

    The new Congress is racing to pass legislation that would institute new sanctions on Iran during ongoing nuclear negotiations. This undermines U.S. efforts to peacefully eliminate the threat of an Iranian nuclear weapon.

    Jan 23, 2015

  • An exhibit on the Cuban Missile Crisis at the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston, December 18, 2014

    Commentary

    Greater Disorder Does Not Imply Greater Insecurity

    President Obama said in June, “If you had to choose any moment to be born in human history…you'd choose this time. The world is less violent than it has ever been.” While his proposition may seem incongruous with the present crises across Eurasia, evidence suggests that the world is indeed becoming more secure.

    Jan 7, 2015

  • Russia's President Vladimir Putin, Kyrgyzstan's President Almazbek Atambayev, Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbayev, and Belarus' President Alexander Lukashenko visit the Russian Defense Ministry's control room, Moscow, December 23, 2014

    Commentary

    Yes, Russia's Military Is Getting More Aggressive

    As Russia's relations with the U.S. and Europe have deteriorated following Moscow's aggression in Ukraine, fly-bys of European neighbors by Russian aircraft have taken on new urgency. How should the West think about these provocative flights in light of understanding Russia's nuclear threat?

    Dec 31, 2014

  • U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif before a meeting in Vienna November 23, 2014

    Commentary

    An Iran Nuclear Deal Is Still Possible, and Here's Why

    The United States and other world powers returned to the negotiating table this week to try to finalize a nuclear agreement with Iran after announcing a seven-month extension in late November. How did the parties get this far?

    Dec 19, 2014

  • Congressional Briefing Podcast

    Multimedia

    Congressional Options and Their Likely Consequences for a Nuclear Deal with Iran

    In this December 2014 Congressional Briefing, Larry Hanauer identifies and assesses eight potential courses of action that Congress could take that might either facilitate, hinder, or block implementation of a nuclear deal with Iran.

    Dec 16, 2014

  • Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev meets with U.S. President Barack Obama during a nuclear security summit in April 2010

    Commentary

    Celebrating the Success of Project Sapphire

    Twenty years ago this week, the United States transported over 600 kilograms of at-risk, weapons-usable highly enriched uranium (HEU) from Kazakhstan to Oak Ridge, Tennessee, for safekeeping. Kazakhstan had the courage to trust its new relationship with the U.S. to help prevent the proliferation of dangerous material to countries that might seek to build nuclear weapons.

    Nov 21, 2014

  • Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tells the 69th U.N. General Assembly on September 29 that a nuclear-armed Iran would pose a far greater threat to the world than Islamic State militants

    Commentary

    Not to Worry, Israel

    Some Israelis worry that America's fight against the Islamic State is distracting from the Iranian nuclear challenge. But the idea that the U.S. would make additional concessions to Iran in the nuclear negotiations because of the anti-Islamic State group effort is not based on realities on the ground.

    Oct 23, 2014

  • Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov shake hands at a news conference in Moscow, August 29, 2014

    Commentary

    Why Iran Can't Walk Away from Nuclear Talks So Easily

    If the public inflexibility of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and his foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif isn't mere diplomatic posturing, they would be gambling not only with their own political futures, but the futures of 80 million Iranians as well.

    Sep 26, 2014

  • News Release

    News Release

    Pentagon Should Elevate the Importance of Eliminating Weapons of Mass Destruction in Operational Planning

    Although the United States military has determined countering proliferation of weapons of mass destruction to be a strategic priority, policymakers have invested too little in the forces and capabilities needed to eliminate vulnerable arsenals.

    Sep 24, 2014

  • A worker engages in decontamination procedures

    Research Brief

    Closing the Strategy-Policy Gap in Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction

    Two presidents have declared counterproliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) a top national priority, but it has not been budgeted or resourced as such. This brief summarizes ground force capacities and capabilities needed to eliminate WMD.

    Sep 24, 2014

  • The Flying Dragons flew in support of a joint air assault in which Soldiers conducted a search for illegal weapons on various compounds throughout Nawa Valley, Kandahar Province, Afghanistan, May 25, 2014

    Report

    Pentagon Should Elevate the Importance of Eliminating WMDs in Operational Planning

    Joint force commanders should carefully consider requirements for eliminating weapons of mass destruction in their contingency and operational planning. And DoD policy decisions involving Army force structure should consider the conventional ground force requirements of such operations.

    Sep 24, 2014

  • Iran's President Hassan Rouhani during a meeting in Ankara, June 10, 2014

    Commentary

    Nuclear Deal or No Deal, Don't Expect Iran Changes

    The impeachment of Iranian science minister Faraji-Dana, the latest in the struggle between Iran's so-called moderates and hard-liners, is likely a sign of troubling times ahead. Rouhani is the West's best hope of the nuclear issue being addressed, but a deal could energize his rivals in their bid to stave off change.

    Sep 8, 2014

  • A demonstrator, her face painted in the colors of the Palestinian flag, outside the Israeli Embassy in London, July 26, 2014

    Commentary

    Gaza and the Nuclear Negotiations

    Whether a deal materializes that meets Iranian demands for a civilian nuclear program, but is limited enough to satisfy the U.S. and its partners remains to be seen. But the longer the Gaza conflict continues, the harder it'll be to insulate the negotiations from broader regional trends.

    Jul 28, 2014

  • Multimedia

    Media Conference Call on Iran's Nuclear Program — U.S. Policy Choices and the Challenges Ahead

    RAND international security experts Lynn E. Davis and Alireza Nader discussed the July 20 deadline for the P5+1 (United States, Russia, China, United Kingdom, France, Germany) to reach a deal with Iran on its nuclear program, and the policy choices confronting the United States should an agreement be reached.

    Jul 14, 2014