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

  • Doves fly over the Peace Memorial Park with a view of the gutted A-bomb dome at a ceremony in Hiroshima, Japan

    Commentary

    5 Things That Should Happen When Obama Visits Hiroshima

    On May 27, President Barack Obama will be the first sitting U.S. president to visit the city of Hiroshima. The visit is a sign of respect and friendship between the American and Japanese people, and should make the two countries' ties even stronger.

    May 23, 2016

  • Dissertation

    Dissertation

    Deception in Covert Nuclear Weapons Development: A Framework to Identify, Analyze, and Mitigate Future Long-Term Deception Efforts

    Develops a framework to categorize observable signatures, formulate a judgement on whether long-term deception is taking place, and propose additional areas of collection that may yield evidence of in research and development.

    May 18, 2016

  • An A-29 Super Tucano flies over Afghanistan during a training mission, April 6, 2016

    Report

    Innovation in the United States Air Force

    An assessment of historical cases of Air Force innovation — or apparent failure to innovate — sheds light on whether the service is sufficiently innovative today and what can be done to make it more innovative for the future.

    May 13, 2016

  • U.S. President Barack Obama reviews an honor guard during a welcoming ceremony at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, Japan, April 24, 2014

    Commentary

    Obama Should Visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki

    During his upcoming visit to Japan, President Obama will have an opportunity to do something that none of his predecessors have ever done: visit the first and last cities to suffer atomic bombings.

    Apr 28, 2016

  • Tanks in Beijing during a training exercise for a military parade

    Report

    China's Evolving Approach to Strategic Deterrence May Prove Challenging to the U.S. and Its Allies

    China is rapidly closing what was once a substantial gap between the PLA's strategic weapons capabilities and its strategic deterrence concepts. The United States will likely need to assure its allies that it will continue to maintain the capability and the resolve to support them in a crisis.

    Apr 7, 2016

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu in a meeting dealing with the commissioning of military products at the National Defense Control Center in Moscow, March 11, 2016

    Commentary

    How Russia Undermines Nuclear Security

    Russian aggression in Ukraine and nuclear saber rattling are jeopardizing the very global nonproliferation efforts that this week's Nuclear Security Summit in Washington seeks to further. Moscow's actions deserve a stronger response than they have received.

    Apr 1, 2016

  • Report

    Will the Iran Deal Survive? Iran, Regional Crises, and U.S. Policy

    At this daylong conference hosted by the RAND Center for Middle East Public Policy, experts discussed current and future challenges facing the Iran nuclear deal and implications for Iran, the region, and U.S. policy. The panels also addressed a variety of non-nuclear issues.

    Mar 24, 2016

  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un holds a meeting of the Central Military Commission of the Workers' Party of Korea in Pyongyang

    Journal Article

    Deterrence and Stability for the Korean Peninsula

    Most trends on the Korean Peninsula favor South Korea, but North Korea's nuclear program is a great concern. Although unlikely, war is imaginable in the years ahead. The challenges for deterrence and strategic planning are greater than in the past.

    Mar 8, 2016

  • Iranian President Hassan Rouhani attend a news conference with Swiss President Johann Schneider-Ammann in Tehran, February 27, 2016

    Blog

    After the Iran Nuclear Deal: Challenges and Opportunities

    A series of panel discussions at RAND today drew a range of opinions on the Iran nuclear deal and its aftermath, but also general agreement that despite some improvement, the agreement has not halted Iran's provocative behavior in the region.

    Mar 3, 2016

  • German police found traces of radiation in Hamburg locations linked to a Russian businessman who had met the murdered ex-spy Alexander Litvinenko on the day he fell ill

    Commentary

    Russia on the Horns of a Nuclear Dilemma

    While the murder of Alexander Litvinenko is a human tragedy, broader concerns about the lowering of WMD norms and violations of international law should be addressed. The use of radioactive matter to kill him represents a serious breach of international agreements.

    Feb 19, 2016

  • A North Korean long-range rocket is launched at the Sohae launch site in North Korea, February 7, 2016

    Commentary

    North Korea Rocket Launch: Why Did Kim Fire a Missile Now?

    Kim Jong-un is probably seeking clear successes before his important Seventh Party Congress in May, when he wants to appear to be the all-powerful leader of North Korea.

    Feb 8, 2016

  • Report

    Report

    Identifying Key Workplace Stressors Affecting Twentieth Air Force: Analyses Conducted from December 2012 Through February 2013

    A series of focus groups with 20th Air Force personnel and their spouses helped assess such issues as job stress and satisfaction and problem behaviors and solicit suggestions for addressing them.

    Dec 23, 2015

  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un addresses the fourth conference of artillery personnel of the KPA in Pyongyang, December 5, 2015

    Commentary

    Does North Korea Really Have an H-Bomb?

    Kim Jong Un has claimed that North Korea has an H-bomb. Whether this claim is accurate, or an exaggeration, remains to be seen. But it does highlight how the country's leadership culture requires Kim to periodically demonstrate his power.

    Dec 16, 2015

  • Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks in Tehran after returning from the annual UN General Assembly, September 29, 2015

    Testimony

    The Impact of Sanctions Relief on Iran

    The Iran nuclear deal will provide Iran with significant sanctions relief and ease some of its economic stresses. But several factors will limit the regime's ability to grow the economy and use the new resources to achieve its foreign policy objectives.

    Nov 5, 2015

  • Report

    Report

    Confronting Emergent Nuclear-Armed Regional Adversaries: Prospects for Neutralization, Strategies for Escalation Management

    Discusses the challenges associated with potential confrontations between the United States and hostile states with small nuclear arsenals.

    Oct 27, 2015

  • News Release

    News Release

    U.S. Needs to Either Boost Defense Funding or Limit Military Commitments

    If policymakers wish to maintain the United States' international commitments, then to bolster deterrence the U.S. should increase its ground forces in Europe, accelerate modernization — especially of air and naval forces — and invest more in training, maintenance, and advanced munitions.

    Oct 19, 2015

  • The Ohio-Class ballistic missile submarine USS Nevada returns to homeport at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor following a strategic deterrent patrol

    Commentary

    If We Keep Cutting Defense Spending, We Must Do Less

    The United States is underinvesting in defense and other instruments of national influence just when they are most needed. Improving defenses needn't require Cold War levels of expenditure but Americans should look realistically at the demands being placed on their forces and generate the revenues to meet those demands.

    Oct 19, 2015

  • Two U.S. soldiers run communications equipment from a bunker in Wardak province, Afghanistan, January 9, 2011

    Research Brief

    Addressing the Imbalance Between Strategy and Resources in a Turbulent World

    Deterrence is infinitely preferable to war. But the United States now risks relying more on its reputation from past wars for deterrence than on actual military capabilities that can be brought to bear when and where needed.

    Oct 18, 2015

  • A U.S. soldier provides overwatch security atop a mountain at Paktika province, Afghanistan, May 25, 2011

    Report

    U.S. Needs to Either Boost Defense Funding or Limit Military Commitments

    Limitations on defense spending in the context of emerging threats are creating a U.S. “security deficit.” How might policymakers adjust to bring resources into better alignment with strategic demands?

    Oct 18, 2015

  • Staff raise Pakistan's flag in front of the Great Hall of the People ahead of a welcome ceremony for Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in Beijing, July 5, 2013

    Commentary

    Pakistan and China's Almost Alliance

    Policymakers in the United States and throughout Asia should take note of why the Sino-Pakistani relationship has endured for so long, what each partner gets from the other, and what inherent limitations prevent the union from developing into a true alliance.

    Oct 16, 2015