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

  • President Donald Trump walks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa Island in Singapore, June 12, 2018, photo by KCNA/Reuters

    Commentary

    Engagement with North Korea: Small Steps May Matter More Than Big Ones

    Kim Jong-Un has said he wants North Korea to become a normal country. Agreeing to a series of short-term measures could reveal his truthfulness as much as large measures could. This could also pave the way to eventually achieving the larger goals.

    Feb 21, 2019

  • Chinese ICBM missile with China flag graphic overlay, photo by Allexxandar/Getty Images

    Journal Article

    Of Bombs and Bureaucrats: Internal Drivers of Nuclear Force Building in China and the United States

    This article examines the domestic influences on US and Chinese nuclear forces. While strategic factors largely drive each side's, underappreciated domestic and organizational factors also influence outcomes.

    Feb 8, 2019

  • President Donald Trump and North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un walk together before their working lunch during their summit at the Capella Hotel on the resort island of Sentosa, Singapore, June 12, 2018, photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

    Commentary

    Hard to Predict Outcome of Second Trump-Kim Summit

    It's difficult to predict the outcome of the second summit between Kim Jong-Un and Donald Trump. At the first, Kim offered to fully denuclearize during President Trump's first term. But he continued building nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles. If Kim keeps stalling, serious tensions could follow.

    Feb 6, 2019

  • South Korean soldiers conduct a pass in review during a military parade to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the South Korean-U.S. alliance in Seoul, South Korea, October 1, 2013

    Tool

    Four Problems on the Korean Peninsula

    North Korean provocations and threats have created an unstable environment on the Korean Peninsula. The United States and its allies must attend to four interconnected problems. Failure to prepare will increase the chance of miscalculation and constrain options to reduce the likelihood or gravity of future conflicts.

    Jan 11, 2019

  • Russia's Tu-160 bomber at the military air base Libertador in Palo Negro, Venezuela, September 11, 2008

    Commentary

    In Venezuela, a Potential U.S.-Russian Crisis?

    In December, two supersonic nuclear-capable Russian bombers visited Venezuela, the third such excursion for the warplanes since 2008. Might Moscow intend to pose a threat, perhaps even nuclear, to the Western Hemisphere? If so, how could Washington respond?

    Jan 8, 2019

  • Blog

    Military Spouses, Exercise Incentives, Libraries: RAND Weekly Recap

    This weekly recap focuses on a scholarship program for military spouses, a wellness program that uses the Apple Watch, how libraries can improve public health, and more.

    Nov 30, 2018

  • A U.S. soldier takes part in a defense exercise with British and Lithuanian soldiers in Mikyciai, Lithuania, June 17, 2017

    Report

    Rethinking the U.S. Approach to Force Planning

    The force planning standard used since the end of the Cold War is ill-suited for today. Force planning should focus on modernizing the capabilities and posture of U.S. forces to better enable them to deter and defeat aggression by China, Russia, North Korea, Iran, and Salafist-jihadi groups.

    Nov 28, 2018

  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un leads the testing of a newly developed tactical weapon in this undated photo released on November 16, 2018

    Commentary

    Why North Korea Sanctions Relief Is Inappropriate at This Time

    In early 2018, Kim Jong Un signaled that he was ready to negotiate abandoning North Korea's nuclear weapons with the United States. But since then, Pyongyang hasn't taken steps to denuclearize. The DPRK's actions speak louder than its words.

    Nov 26, 2018

  • Senior military officials watch a parade at the main Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang, North Korea, September 9, 2018

    Commentary

    How America Can Test North Korea's True Intentions

    While North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has suggested he may be prepared to abandon his nuclear ambitions, there has been no proof that he is serious. The United States could take steps to discover Kim's true intentions.

    Nov 26, 2018

  • U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un walk at the Capella Hotel on the island of Sentosa, Singapore, June 12, 2018

    Commentary

    North Korean Actions Speak Louder Than Its Words

    Kim Jong Un has regularly promised to denuclearize, but he's been all talk. And this year, North Korea has probably built five to nine more nuclear weapons. There are steps that could make a difference if taken before the North Korean nuclear weapon threat grows any further.

    Oct 11, 2018

  • Chief of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization Ali-Akbar Salehi makes a speech during a ceremony to receive locally-produced yellowcake, in Isfahan, Iran, December 5, 2010

    Commentary

    Can U.S. Pressure Lead to a New Iran Nuclear Deal?

    It could be a mistake for the United States to assume that more pressure will bring Iran closer to ending or reducing its ballistic missile and nuclear programs. When it comes to measures aimed at Iran's nuclear program, more pressure could worsen nuclear risks and further drive a wedge between the United States and its European allies.

    Sep 18, 2018

  • U.S. President Trump arrives to announce his decision to withdraw from the JCPOA Iran nuclear agreement in the Diplomatic Room of the White House, May 8, 2018

    Commentary

    Bringing Back Sanctions Will Hurt U.S. Allies and Iran, but Will It Help America?

    What happens if leaving the Iran nuclear deal and applying “maximum pressure” doesn't lead Iran to change its behavior or the regime to collapse? The Trump administration may find that it's much easier to break a deal than to replace it with something better.

    Aug 7, 2018

  • A simple radiation warning design on a concrete wall

    Commentary

    Is Nuclear Terrorism Distracting Attention from More Realistic Threats?

    A nuclear terrorist attack is currently not a realistic threat. It would require an unprecedented level of sophistication from terrorists. The majority of terrorist attacks are conducted with conventional explosives.

    Jul 27, 2018

  • Flags of the world

    Commentary

    Attempts to Order Geopolitics Have a Sobering History

    Past efforts to introduce world order have resulted less from foresighted statecraft than from cataclysmic upheavals such as World War II. If the current international system erodes, what might have to happen for a new one to emerge?

    Jul 25, 2018

  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un shakes hands with U.S. President Donald Trump at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore, June 12, 2018

    Multimedia

    What's Next for Korea?

    In this Call with the Experts, RAND's James Dobbins, Bruce Bennett, and Michael Mazarr discuss the historic summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

    Jul 10, 2018

  • A mobile nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missile (Topol-M 187) in Red Square during a military parade in 2010.

    Multimedia

    Russian Nuclear Forces and Prospects for Arms Control

    An overview of testimony by Austin Long presented before the House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs, Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade on June 21, 2018.

    Jun 21, 2018

  • Russian RS-24 Yars/SS-27 Mod 2 solid-propellant intercontinental ballistic missiles drive during the Victory Day parade at Red Square in Moscow, Russia, May 9, 2015

    Testimony

    Russian Nuclear Forces and Prospects for Arms Control

    During the years between the 2010 and 2018 Nuclear Posture Reviews, U.S.-Russia relations have grown increasingly confrontational. How have Russia's nuclear arsenal and strategy developed over the past eight years? And what do these developments mean for arms control?

    Jun 21, 2018

  • Group of millennial business people

    Report

    What Do Millennials Think About Security Issues?

    As millennials become more prominent in the public and private sectors, their views will have greater influence. How do their attitudes toward security differ from those of previous generations? And what do these perceptions imply for U.S. security policy in 2040?

    Jun 14, 2018

  • Report

    Report

    Comprehensive Deterrence Forum: Proceedings and Commissioned Papers

    On October 30, 2015, U.S. Army Special Operations Command facilitated a forum to explore the concept of comprehensive deterrence. Part I of this report delivers a summary of the forum proceedings, and Part II includes papers examining the concept.

    Jun 7, 2018

  • U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Washington, D.C., May 17, 2018, and in Panmunjom, South Korea, April 27, 2018, respectively

    Commentary

    Six Lessons for Today from Past Summits

    To prepare for possible meetings with his North Korean and Russian counterparts, President Trump can learn lessons from decades of high-profile summits between U.S. presidents and Kremlin leaders.

    Jun 5, 2018