Warfare and Military Operations

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RAND researchers examine military and national security issues across a broad spectrum — from political dissent and military training to tactical operations and reconstruction efforts — and take a long-term, global perspective. Terrorism, types of warfare, and international intervention are among the many topics RAND explores.

  • An armoured vehicle of the Syrian Democratic Forces is seen along a road at the frontline in Raqqa, Syria, October 8, 2017, photo by Erik De Castro/Reuters

    Report

    Pentagon Processes on Civilian Casualties Inconsistent, in Need of Reform

    Jan 27, 2022

    The Department of Defense has committed to civilian-harm policies and processes, but inconsistencies remain. The Pentagon is not adequately organized or resourced to sufficiently assess, reduce, and respond to civilian-harm incidents. Reform will require institutional, not just operational, changes.

  • The launch of an unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile during a test at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, February 5, 2020, photo by SrA Clayton Wear/U.S. Air Force

    Report

    Weighing the Cost and Necessity of Nuclear Modernization

    Jan 3, 2022

    The United States has fielded a Triad of air-, sea-, and land-based nuclear delivery systems since the 1950s. Major components are nearing the end of their service lives, raising the question of whether to extend or replace them. Meanwhile, Russia and China continue to modernize, diversify, and expand their nuclear arsenals.

Explore Warfare and Military Operations

  • At sea aboard USS Hue City, view of the guided missile cruiser USS Vicksburg and the guided missile destroyers USS Roosevelt, USS Carney, and USS The Sullivans during an exercise, December 2003, photo by U.S. Navy

    Report

    What Would a Strategy of Restraint Mean for U.S. Security Policy?

    If the United States adopted a grand strategy of restraint in the Asia-Pacific, how would its posture in the region change and how would it determine when to use force? What warfighting scenarios involving the defense of Japan could guide defense planning?

    Mar 31, 2022

  • Smoke rises after shelling near Kyiv, Ukraine, March 25, 2022, photo by Gleb Garanich/Reuters

    Commentary

    Even as War Rages, It's Not Too Soon for U.S. Policymakers to Look Over Horizon

    As Russia's war in Ukraine grinds on and the humanitarian disaster deepens, Washington may be tempted to focus exclusively on punishing Putin. But that approach might well backfire. Over the long term, the United States wants stability and peace in and around Ukraine and to ensure that Moscow pays a cost for its aggression without making it a global pariah.

    Mar 30, 2022

  • Locals walk in the demolished town center after Ukrainian forces expelled Russian troops in Trostyanets, Ukraine, March 30, 2022, photo by Thomas Peter/Reuters

    Commentary

    The Art of Sitting on Bayonets

    Russian President Vladimir Putin might have assumed that once conquered, Ukraine would be easy to hold. But there has been no lightning success, no defecting Ukrainian soldiers. If he can't find collaborators, Putin's chances of achieving even reduced ambitions in Ukraine may be dim indeed.

    Mar 30, 2022

  • Officers of the Vietnamese Marine Guard monitor a Chinese coast guard vessel in the South China Sea, about 130 miles offshore of Vietnam, May 15, 2014, photo by Nguyen Minh/Reuters

    Research Brief

    How and Why China Uses Gray Zone Tactics

    China uses a variety of gray zone tactics—coercive actions that are shy of armed conflict but beyond normal diplomatic and economic activities—to advance its objectives, particularly in the Indo-Pacific. Which tactics should the United States prioritize countering?

    Mar 30, 2022

  • Russia's President Vladimir Putin and China's President Xi Jinping at the BRICS summit in Brasilia, Brazil, November 14, 2019, photo by Pavel Golovkin/Pool/Reuters

    Report

    Great Power Rivalry in a Changing International Order

    U.S. national security policy for the foreseeable future will be oriented around competition with China and Russia. Russia's invasion of Ukraine has intensified this rivalry and will likely have profound echo effects through the parallel U.S.-China rivalry and the international system.

    Mar 30, 2022

  • Report

    Report

    Competition in the Gray Zone: Countering China's Coercion Against U.S. Allies and Partners in the Indo-Pacific

    This report examines how and why China uses gray zone tactics—coercive activities beyond normal diplomacy and trade but below the use of kinetic military force—against U.S. allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific.

    Mar 30, 2022

  • Wrecks of Russian military vehicles on the front line as Russia's invasion of Ukraine continues, near Kyiv, Ukraine, March 29, 2022, photo by Gleb Garanich/Reuters

    Commentary

    The Will to Fight, Lessons from Ukraine

    In Ukraine, ferocious defense has stalled the invaders. Even if Kyiv falls, continued resistance seems likely. Ukraine has reminded the world that national unity in the face of existential threats, self-reliance strengthened by collective defense, and courage coupled with compassion can help underdog populations resist the mightiest military forces.

    Mar 29, 2022

  • Ukrainian Marines take part in multinational Sea Breeze 2021 military exercises involving more than 30 countries near Kherson, Ukraine, July 2, 2021.

    Multimedia

    Armed Resistance in Ukraine

    RAND senior political scientist Stephen J. Flanagan discusses the concept of a state-organized national resistance movement in Ukraine.

    Mar 29, 2022

  • Smoke rises after shelling near Kyiv, Ukraine, March 24, 2022, photo by Gleb Garanich/Reuters

    Commentary

    Russia Destroyed Grozny and Aleppo—Is Kyiv Next?

    Russia used a brutal approach in Grozny and Aleppo, and may use a similar approach against Ukraine's cities. But it could be less effective or riskier in Ukraine. Ukraine's determination to resist is strong, and the West is supplying an impressive array of advanced weaponry and intelligence support.

    Mar 28, 2022

  • Radio dial showing shortwave, medium wave, and FM frequencies, photo by Photonavor/Getty Images

    Commentary

    Why the BBC World Service's New Ukrainian Shortwave Service Matters

    Despite its age, shortwave remains an enduring tool in the global fight against disinformation. It can travel vast distances, cannot be hacked, and is notoriously difficult to jam. Perhaps it's time for the United States to consider whether it should follow the BBC's lead in restarting shortwave services to Ukraine and southeastern Russia.

    Mar 25, 2022

  • Blog

    Insights on Russia's War in Ukraine, Global Citizenship, Vaccination Equity: RAND Weekly Recap

    This weekly recap focuses on Russia's war on Ukraine, medication treatment for patients with opioid use disorder, promoting global citizenship in America, and more.

    Mar 25, 2022

  • A woman from Ukraine listens to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy's speech on a phone, at a refugee shelter after Russia's invasion of Ukraine, in Beregsurany, Hungary, February 28, 2022, photo by Bernadett Szabo/Reuters

    Commentary

    The Will to Fight in the Age of Social Media

    Social media messaging has played a decisive role in strengthening Ukraine's will to fight—arguably the single most important factor in war—against Russia.

    Mar 22, 2022

  • mage grab from handout footage released by the Russia Ministry of Defense allegedly shows Russian soldiers holding weapons allegedly taken from the Ukrainian army weapon depot in the Kherson region, Ukraine, March 16, 2022, photo by EyePress News via Reuters

    Commentary

    Russia's Problems with Military Professionalization

    Even if Russia manages to take control of the territory of Ukraine, the Russian military's underlying problems with professionalization may handicap these occupiers in their efforts to maintain control over that country for the long-term.

    Mar 21, 2022

  • Soldiers of China's People's Liberation Army Navy patrol at Woody Island, in the Paracel Archipelago, January 29, 2016, photo by China Stringer Network/Reuters

    Commentary

    Taiwan Isn't the Ukraine of the Indo-Pacific. Try Vietnam Instead

    Russia's war in Eastern Europe has prompted Indo-Pacific security watchers to draw comparisons between Ukraine's plight and that of Taiwan with regard to China. But the more-applicable analogy is a different Indo-Pacific country: Vietnam.

    Mar 21, 2022

  • A biohazard warning symbol and social media icons over a city, images by petrovv and soulcld/Getty Images; design by Rick Penn-Kraus/RAND Corporation

    Report

    Social Media Can Provide Insights About Chemical Weapons Incidents

    Social media can be collected instantly, can tap into a massive pool of observers, and is remotely accessible. Researchers developed a new approach for analyzing social media data to derive insights about chemical incidents. They used chemical weapons employment in Syria as a test case.

    Mar 21, 2022

  • Blog

    Keeping Russians Informed, No-Fly Zone Policy, Telehealth: RAND Weekly Recap

    This weekly recap focuses on how to ensure Russians have access to accurate news about the war in Ukraine, strategic considerations for keeping a no-fly zone option on the table, treating pain conditions among U.S. service members, and more.

    Mar 18, 2022

  • NATO foreign ministers gather for a meeting following Russia's invasion of Ukraine, at NATO Headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, March 4, 2022, photo by Olivier Douliery/Pool via Reuters

    Commentary

    After Russia's Ukraine Invasion, Seven Assumptions the U.S. and NATO Allies Should Drop

    Given the realizations wrought by the recent invasion of Ukraine, the United States and its NATO allies might reconsider several assumptions and arguments that have limited conventional military deterrence in Europe. Making sure we are ready to defend and thus deter a larger war that must never be fought is critically important.

    Mar 18, 2022

  • Taiwanese soldiers walk down a street in this undated photo posted to Twitter on March 11, 2022 by Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, photo courtesy of the Office of the President of Taiwan

    Commentary

    What the Invasion of Ukraine Might Teach Us About a Potential Taiwan Crisis

    Chinese leaders are learning from the conflict in Ukraine, not just by observing Russia's actions, but also the West's response. By also learning from the conflict, the United States, Taiwan, and other like-minded partners can help ensure that Beijing comes away from the current crisis with a greater appreciation of the risks that attacking Taiwan would entail.

    Mar 17, 2022

  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks during a news conference for foreign media in Kyiv, Ukraine, March 12, 2022, photo by Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Handout via Reuters

    Commentary

    What Is Continuity of Government, and Why Does It Matter for Ukraine?

    As Ukraine continues to resist Russian occupation, future-focused planning could help it win a longer-term struggle to protect its legitimate government and deny Russia the political consolidation it seeks. Ensuring the continuity of Ukraine's democratically elected government could be a means of preserving national sovereignty moving forward.

    Mar 17, 2022

  • President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine delivers a virtual address to Congress in the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., March 16, 2022, photo by Sarahbeth Maney/Pool/Sipa USA via Reuters

    Commentary

    Why It Could Be a Strategic Mistake to Rule Out a No-Fly Zone Policy

    The United States has been willing to entertain many forms of support to Ukraine, but senior administration and congressional leaders have categorically ruled out declaring a no-fly zone over the country. While American policymakers are rightfully hesitant to implement a no-fly zone policy, it could be a strategic mistake to say so in public.

    Mar 16, 2022