Consent for War: Think Tanks and the Russia-Ukraine Conflict

Former US Special Forces Soldier Greg Stoker reveals how think tanks, heavily funded by the military-industrial complex, shape US foreign policy towards Russia, driving endless conflict for profit.

Think Tanks have a benign dictionary definition – an organization that gathers groups of interdisciplinary scholars to perform research around particular policies, issues or ideas ranging from social policy to culture and technology.

However, the great unspoken negative aspect of think tanks is the power they wield. They control information, shape and legitimize government policy, and serve as a waiting room for politicians out of office. Their established business model sells political influence in Washington and manufactures consent amongst the voting public. The Military Industrial Complex, a voraciously for-profit industry, is the primary donor for many leading think tanks, which engenders a bias toward military solutions and the perpetuation of global war.

In this episode of State of Play, we examine the hawkish world of prominent think tanks within the context of the defense industry and the war in Ukraine. How do they function, and how have they influenced US policies towards Russia?

Russia is a primary geostrategic adversary of Western global hegemony and has been used as a perennial bogeyman both during and after the fall of the USSR to justify exorbitant defense spending by Washington. Think Thanks, therefore, have an overriding profit incentive to push for a belligerent posture towards Russia as they are inextricably joined to an industry where war or the possibility of war is profitable and peace fails to produce attractive quarterly returns.

Let us take the RAND Corporation as a case study. According to their About page, “RAND is a research organization that develops solutions to public policy challenges to help make communities throughout the world safer and more secure, healthier and more prosperous.”

However, even a cursory examination of their 2023 fiscal year revenue casts serious doubt on their self-proclaimed “objective analysis.” Over $43 million from the US Army, $50 million from the US Air Force and $68.9 million from the US Secretary of Defense and other national security agencies. There is an inescapable nexus between think tanks, governments and the military-industrial complex.

The military, intelligence community, and various governmental departments sponsor think tanks, which in turn advise those institutions with confrontational policy stances. The advisory product of these think tanks is then used to legitimize hawkish policy and the government funding defense contracts. Research and development contracts for next-generation weapons and deterrents, which may never even be used beyond existing theoretically, are the most stable and reliable sources of income for the military-industrial complex.

The amount of public money flowing into defense R&D dwarfs the amount spent on other prominent innovation policy tools in the United States. Consent for armed belligerence can be easily manufactured as long as a convenient and established boogeyman exists.

In 2019, the RAND Corporation released a report titled “Over Extending and Unbalancing Russia,” espousing the US goal of undermining Russia just as it did the USSR during the Cold War. It is easy to condemn Russian military action in Ukraine, but one must also recognize a bellicose Western foreign policy that bulldozed over very public Russian diplomatic and military redlines. You will never hear of these.

Consent and legitimacy for the ongoing proxy war in Ukraine are manufactured and legitimized by the Media and think tanks, portraying the West as all good and Russia as all bad. The truth, however, exists in the gray and is inextricably linked to the profit motive. Join us tonight for an in-depth discussion on the world of think tanks.

Greg Stoker is a former US Army Ranger with a background in human intelligence collection and analysis. After serving four combat deployments in Afghanistan, he studied anthropology and International Relations at Columbia University. He is currently a military and geopolitical analyst, and a social media “influencer,” though he hates the term.

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