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

  • An army truck MZKT 79221 under missile Topol-M

    Commentary

    When Armies Divide: Securing Nuclear Arsenals During Internal Upheavals

    With an army divided, any type of foreign intervention would be complex and fraught with extraordinary risk—success would be a long shot. But the loss of a nuclear weapon or fissile material would change the world.

    Apr 12, 2013

  • Commercial Book

    Commercial Book

    When Armies Divide: The Security of Nuclear Arsenals During Revolts, Coups, and Civil Wars

    This book examines the security of nuclear arsenals during revolts, coups, and civil wars.

    Apr 11, 2013

  • Cover of Brian Michael Jenkins' "When Armies Divide" book

    Blog

    A New Book from Brian Michael Jenkins: When Armies Divide

    In 1961, four French generals launched a coup against the government of President Charles de Gaulle and conceivably might have ended up with a nuclear device. In When Armies Divide, RAND's Brian Michael Jenkins uses this unusual chapter in history to discuss what can happen when nuclear states are threatened by revolts, coups, and civil wars.

    Apr 11, 2013

  • ROK guards in the DMZ

    Commentary

    A Delicate Deterrence Dance with North Korea

    How does Washington signal tenacity to a pugnacious Pyongyang and demonstrate resolve to a jittery Seoul, all without inadvertently triggering an escalatory spiral?

    Apr 11, 2013

  • Israeli and Iranian flags, weapons, fire

    Commentary

    Khamenei's Mounting Pressures

    Khamenei's mounting pressures may compel him to be more flexible on the nuclear program, writes Alireza Nader. Otherwise, he will face greater sanctions, more internal political opposition, and, possibly, the wrath of his own people.

    Feb 11, 2013

  • Iran's Revolutionary guards commander Mohammad Ali Jafari speaks during a conference to mark the martyrs of terrorism in Tehran, September 6, 2011

    Commentary

    Profile: Revolutionary Guards Chief Gen. Jafari

    Jafari now commands one of the most feared militaries in the Middle East, which is also far better equipped than Iran’s conventional army, navy and air force, writes Alireza Nader. He has an estimated 150,000 troops under his control.

    Jan 22, 2013

  • James Dobbins at Politics Aside 2012

    Blog

    Dobbins to Debate Whether Israel Can Live with a Nuclear Iran

    Amb. James Dobbins, director of the RAND International Security and Defense Policy Center, argues that "Israel Can Live with a Nuclear Iran" Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013, in a live debate at 6:45 p.m. EST at Merkin Concert Hall in New York City.

    Jan 14, 2013

  • Members of the revolutionary guard attend the anniversary ceremony of Iran's Islamic Revolution at the Khomeini shrine in the Behesht Zahra cemetery, south of Tehran, February 1, 2012

    Commentary

    Sanctions Squeeze Revolutionary Guard

    Iran's inability to sell its oil due to sanctions will not only shrink the resources available to the Guard as a military force, but will crimp the wealth of individual Guard officers. This could erode the Guard's loyalty to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, writes Alireza Nader.

    Jan 8, 2013

  • Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque at Imam Square in Isfahan, Iran

    Commentary

    Iran: A Rough Year in 2013

    The Islamic Republic faces the potential of stronger economic sanctions and even a military strike because of its intransigence in complying with U.N. resolutions on its nuclear program. It also must deal with twin domestic challenges—deepening malaise among the young and increasing tensions among the political elite, writes Alireza Nader.

    Jan 2, 2013

  • Events @ RAND Audio Podcast

    Multimedia

    A Conversation with Harold Brown, Former U.S. Defense Secretary

    In a conversation with former Northrop Grumman CEO Kent Kresa, Brown shares stories from his new book, Star-Spangled Security: Applying Lessons Learned over Six Decades Safeguarding America, and reflects on what those experiences teach us about current and future challenges facing the United States and the world.

    Nov 17, 2012

  • flags of China and Iran

    Commentary

    Chinese-Iranian Ties in the Face of the Nuclear Crisis

    The U.S. effort to isolate and pressure Iran in order to extract concessions on the nuclear program faces a significant vulnerability: the ties between Iran and the People’s Republic of China, writes Alireza Nader.

    Nov 12, 2012

  • North Korean postage stamp

    Multimedia

    Deterrence and North Korea

    Senior defense analyst Bruce Bennett discusses why North Korea presents uniquely difficult challenges and suggests new and creative approaches to deterrence.

    Oct 30, 2012

  • U.S. Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney answers a question during the final U.S. presidential debate with President Barack Obama in Boca Raton, Florida, October 22, 2012

    Commentary

    A Crucial Difference on Iran

    The dilemma is how sanctions and pressure would dissuade Iran's leaders from pursuing their nuclear program (as Mr. Romney recommended) if a President Romney wouldn't agree to sit down and talk with them, writes Dalia Dassa Kaye.

    Oct 23, 2012

  • news stories about Iran and Israel showing in the Al Jazeera English newsroom

    Commentary

    Israel, Iran, and the Redline Debate

    Politicizing the Iran-Israel issue at Monday's presidential debate could prove a setback for efforts to ultimately prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, writes Dalia Dassa Kaye.

    Oct 18, 2012

  • News Release

    News Release

    RAND Stanton Research Fellows Issue New Studies Examining Nuclear Security Issues

    Three Stanton Nuclear Security Fellows at the RAND Corporation—Robert Reardon, Markus Schiller, and David Kearn—have published new research examining nuclear security issues.

    Oct 2, 2012

  • Iranian protest-rally against Ahmadinejad September 26, 2012 in NYC

    Commentary

    How Would Iran Fight Back?

    Iranian leaders are well aware that they cannot defeat the U.S. military in a face-to-face conflict. But as Hezbollah's 2006 war with Israel demonstrated, battlefield losses (or draws) can be turned into psychological victories, writes Alireza Nader.

    Oct 1, 2012

  • Report

    Containing Iran: Strategies for Addressing the Iranian Nuclear Challenge

    Iran's nuclear program is one of this century's principal foreign policy challenges. An assessment of U.S. policy options identifies a way forward, and considers how the United States might best mitigate the negative international effects of a nuclear-armed Iran.

    Sep 27, 2012

  • Iranian flag over archaeological site, Bishapur - Southwestern Iran

    Commentary

    Smart Sanctions: Actually, Obama's Iran Policy Is Working Great

    Not until the Obama administration had Iran faced sanctions with serious bite. The administration has managed to build a wide and deep international coalition against Iran, writes Alireza Nader.

    Sep 26, 2012

  • U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

    Commentary

    Israelis Need Convincing that a Military Attack on Iran Is a Bad Idea

    Instead of committing the United States to take military action against Iran, a better option would be convincing more Israeli leaders and people that a military attack is still a bad idea if the goal is to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power, writes Dalia Dassa Kaye.

    Sep 6, 2012

  • Events @ RAND Audio Podcast

    Multimedia

    Defusing Iran's Nuclear Threat

    On June 19, 2012, Alireza Nader, a senior international policy analyst and Iran expert at RAND, discussed Iran's internal political dynamics and U.S. economic, political, and military options in preventing a nuclear-armed Iran.

    Jun 19, 2012