Who wants to go to war with Russia?

by Thinking Slow1

Anyone rational is concerned with the developments in Ukraine and the increasing prospect of nuclear confrontation. In a rational world, political leaders should be working towards a de-escalation, however, not only are Western leaders not working towards such a de-escalation, but even more bizarrely, those who suggest any type of peace arrangements are mercilessly attacked on social media. The Ukrainian ambassador to Germany, Mr. Andrij Melnyk, infamously told Mr. Elon Musk to “fxxk off” [i] in response to a reasonable four point de-escalation plan that Elon Musk floated.

We argue that the network of foreign policy related NGOs are working against the interests of the majority of European and American populations and often pursuing personal or profit related agendas. We believe that this arises from the heavily conflicted nature of the funding of foreign policy NGOs, which comes from both the arms industry and politically active oligarchs from the region. This funding is combined with the aggressive anti-Russian feelings of many individuals retained by those NGOs.

Foreign policy – more corrupt than public health?

If people learned only one lesson from the COVID response, it should be the lesson that oligarch funded foundations and pharmaceutical corporations exercise enormous influence over policy setting. One BMJ article in particular outlined the enormous share of the regulators’ budgets that are paid for by pharmaceutical companies [ii], which undermines their independence.

We believe that, if anything, the situation is even worse in the foreign policy sphere. There are a small number of NGOs who have a major impact on Ukraine related foreign policy such as: The Atlantic Council, CEPA and The German Marshall Fund. These think tanks style themselves as academic institutions and award their consultants academic titles such as; Distinguished Fellow, Senior Fellow and Fellow. In fact, these NGOs are self appointed entities funded by defence contractors and oligarchs, they seem to exercise significant influence over policy setting and operate independently of the election cycle. Collectively they constitute an important part of the so-called “Deep State” and their views matter.

The conflict of interest between arms manufacturers and foreign policy setting is not a new phenomenon and was famously flagged by President Eisenhower in his 1961 speech where he warned that “we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex”.

Little publicly available research has been done on the size and nature of this problem, one October 2020 study [iii] from the Centre for International Policy shows how the 5 largest U.S. defence contracts funding of a series of U.S. think tanks. The report includes a diagram, which summarises these financial flows, the thickness reflects the amount of funding provided, for example the largest contributor in the study was Northrop Grumman providing a total of USD 4.5 million over the period 2014-2019, with the other defence contractors providing proportionally less. The recipients are shown on the right hand side and indicate that the think tanks that received the most defence contractor funding were: Center for a New American Security, Center for Strategic and International Studies and the Atlantic Council.

We have expanded this analysis to look at all the sources of funding (not just defence contractors) for a number of the NGOs which have been seeking to expand the scope of the war in Ukraine and have voiced the strongest anti-Russian sentiments. The network diagram (graph) at the top of the research note shows two types of NGOs; one inside Ukraine (orange circles) and the other outside Ukraine (black circles) and some of their sources of funding. These sources of funding break down into three principal categories:

  • Oligarch related foundations in green.
  • Governments (particularly U.S.) in purple, and
  • Arms manufacturers in light blue (other multinationals are in red). In looking at the combination of these funding sources, we see several problems. The most noticeable is that the provision of funding from arms manufacturers to think tanks creates a very significant conflict of interest. The next problem is the feedback loop between the Government as provider of funds and often the recipient of advice and
  • reports from the various NGOs. There will be implicit incentives to provide advice that is favourably received by The United States Department of State (for example) even if it is biased. Finally, the individual political opinions of the oligarchs funding their respective foundations will likely have a significant impact on the views expressed by the NGOs. It is no secret that some oligarchs are heavily involved in politics, for example in the case of the funder of the Future of Russia Foundation (which funds the Atlantic Council), Mr. M. Khodorkovsky, who was preparing a presidential bid in 2003 prior to his arrest and is widely regarded as President Putin’s political foe.
  • Although NGOs regularly state that they are “fiercely independent,” it would be naïve to accept such an assurance at face value. A major failing of the NGO sector is to ignore well established thinking in the corporate sector which defines control and influence in terms of funding provided.
  • The case of CEPA
  • We focus in on one NGO where all of these factors come into play, the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA).

CEPA does not provide a breakdown of funding amounts by individual donor, but provides a list of funders. This really should be disclosed given that CEPA seems to have an outsized influence over U.S. policy setting. CEPA has a total income of around USD 5 million coming from the sources shown in the network diagram above.

Approximately 60% of CEPA’s total costs represent salaries, pensions and related benefits which means that four people receive incomes in excess of USD 200,000, with the highest salary being USD 265,010. CEPA does not provide any grants, de facto, all of its income is spent on lobbying and in the case of Ukraine, is spent on lobbying for the expansion of the war.

Victor Pinchuk is a billionaire Ukrainian and by a happy coincidence is the son-in-law of the former Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma. CEPA is based in Washington despite the European part of its name and run by Alina Polyakova, who was herself born in Ukraine.

Senior figures inside CEPA have made little secret of the fact that they view the war in Ukraine as a proxy war in which the United States has its own aims and that the desired outcome would be the destruction of the Russian Federation and its break-up. This view is regularly expressed by Ben Rogers, who was until recently the Pershing Chair in Strategic Studies (another made up academic title) at CEPA with an income of USD 200,000 per annum.

Doubtless, people inside Russia monitor the pronouncements of CEPA and related war mongering NGOs and based on Tweets like this from Ben Hodges, Russian officials would reach the reasonable conclusion that U.S. war aims represent an existential threat to the existence of the Russian Federation. This level of threat implies that Russia would be justified in using its nuclear deterrent and it is exactly this view that President Putin expressed in response to threats posted by Ben Hodges and others when stating on 20th September 2022 that “I’d like to remind those who make those statements …. in case of a threat against our country’s territorial integrity, we will certainly use all means at our disposal to protect Russia and our people. This is not a bluff.”

People matter

As a separate piece of work, we have looked at the connections between these NGOs in terms of advisors, board members and staff. In summary, it is clear that there is a very narrow clique of people who are currently driving U.S. and European policy on Ukraine. Generally speaking they have very strong enmity towards Russia for reasons of their own and in some cases are closely aligned with Ukrainian oligarchs. Perhaps the most vociferous of this group is Anders Aslund (a former Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council and closely associated with Ukrainian billionaire, Victor Pinchuk). He has tweeted out a number of suggestions to bomb Russia, as well as the overtly racist comments such as a picture of graffiti saying “no Russian is welcome, good or bad”.

In respect to any other nationality this would be considered to be an outrageous statement, but in respect to Russians this overt racism is deemed to be acceptable. Another important member of the Deep State foreign policy mafia is the former President of Estonia, Toomas Hendrik Ilves, a member of CEPA’s International Leadership Council and a Distinguished Senior Fellow (another made-up title). He has made a number of aggressive anti-Russian tweets, but the most overtly racist would be his description of Russians as “orc people”. The history of dehumanising people in this way is very dark, the fascist regime in Germany were infamous for referring to a number of ethnic groups as“Untermensch” thereby excusing the abuses that were inflicted on those ethnic groups.

Our conclusions

We believe that the setting of Western foreign policy is, if anything, more corrupt than the setting of pharma policy and heavily influenced by the profit motive, combined with underlying political intrigues and interests of a small group of oligarchs. There are obvious conflicts of interests between the provision of funding by arms manufacturers to organisations like CEPA and their pro-war/anti-Russian positions. This is further exasperated by the fact that funding and management comes from Ukrainian nationals, who clearly have very strong negative views of Russia. Almost all of the remaining individuals involved in the NGOs also have negative views on Russia based on various personal loyalties and historical hang ups.

As a result, the Deep State is lobbying for more aggressive U.S. (and by implication E.U.) foreign policy leading to increased risks of nuclear confrontation. These policies are the diametric opposite of the wishes of a very significant proportion of the population. Although survey results are somewhat mixed, one important survey from June 2022 showed that respondents across 10 countries expressed a strong preference for peace (green below) and that this group was significantly larger than those who wanted “justice” in all countries other than Poland [iv]. This is a significant result bearing in mind that most Governments in the West are carrying a “Slava Ukraini” propaganda blitzkrieg on their populations. In addition, these questions were asked at a time when real wages were just beginning to fall in the Eurozone and economic difficulties of the average citizen have deteriorated since then.

U.S. NGOs often complain about “state capture” in countries where powerful oligarchs and corporations obtain outsized influence, which they use to further their own narrow interests. We believe that has happened in the U.S. foreign policy space (and by implication the E.U. foreign policy space), where a small number of unrepresentative NGOs are lobbying for policies that are damaging the interests of the People in the United States and Europe. The tail is now wagging the dog.

Statistical Note on network diagram

The first diagram above shows connections between four NGOs and the providers of funding. The links (edges) from the sources of funding to the NGO recipients are not weighted by amounts involved. The network is taken to be directional (funding from provider to recipient) and the size of the actors (nodes) is based on the calculation of betweenness centrality. Briefly this measures how often a node is the shortest path between two other nodes in the network. The diagram is heavily influenced by the choice of betweenness centrality versus closeness or degree centrality.

Further work on our network analysis will be posted in due course.

https://twitter.com/MelnykAndrij/status/1576977000178208768?s=20&t=iH8ANXFa8BxxJCFcXSsHzg 

ii https://www.bmj.com/content/377/bmj.o1538.full

iii https://www.internationalpolicy.org/publications

iv https://ecfr.eu/publication/peace-versus-justice-the-coming-european-split-over-the-war-in-ukraine/

By Radiopatriot

Retired Talk Radio Host, Retired TV reporter/anchor, Retired Aerospace Public Relations Mgr, Retired Newspaper Columnist, Political Activist Twitter.com/RadioPatriot * Telegram/Radiopatriot * Telegram/Andrea Shea King Gettr/radiopatriot * TRUTHsocial/Radiopatriot

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