UK's prestigious Royal Institute for International affairs (Chatham House) has been turned into a vehicle for hardline anti-Russian propaganda, but not without dissent as some organization’s members and financiers dare defy the new pro-war line
This article originally appeared at Dances with Bears
In the history of warfare there is nothing new in the engagement of mercenaries to do the fighting and run the risks. The mamelukes (mamluks) were the most successful at the game — they started as slaves, became a warfighting caste, and ended as the rulers of the countries they captured, including Egypt and Syria from 1250 to 1517, and Iraq from 1704 to 1831. They defeated the European Crusaders. From then on, the term mameluke, when applied to someone in Europe, meant slavish obedience — the antithesis of independence. Napoleon employed a corps of them, and his long-serving bodyguard was one.
Sir Roderic Lyne is the number-2 executive in charge of the Royal Institute for International affairs (RIIA), known by its residence in London as Chatham House. Insiders say Lyne, a former British ambassador to Russia, has captured the organization, and turned it into a warfighting unit against Russia, though, the sources say, not without a fight. Amongst the organization’s members and financiers, opponents of the Lyne line against Russia accuse him of suppressing independence, and by promoting war against Russia of violating the Chatham House charter.
The organization was the brainchild of British and American veterans of World War I, mostly senior diplomats and soldiers. At the start in 1919-20, the idea was an “Anglo-American Institute of foreign affairs to study international problems with a view to preventing future wars.” In the outcome, the British established an institute of their own, and the Americans did likewise. Chatham House, on St. James’s Square in London, was a gift from a Canadian mining mogul. As a think-tank today, it claims reputation among peers as “the No. 1 think tank outside the US for seven consecutive years and No. 2 worldwide for the past four years.”
The Charter, adopted in 1926 and amended several times through 2013, says at Article 6: “The Institute as such shall not express an opinion on any aspect of international affairs”. Art. 4( c) sets out the purpose “generally to encourage and facilitate the study of international information knowledge questions and to promote the exchange of information and thought on international affairs and the understanding of the circumstances, conditions and views of nations and peoples.”
Liquidating people and their views doesn’t quite meet the exchange criterion. But such outcomes can be purchased in secret from the organization, according to Art 5(d). This permits the receipt of money “subject or not subject to any special trusts or conditions.” The sub-section (f) also allows “to make and carry out any arrangement for joint working or co-operation with any other Society or Body whether incorporated or not carrying on work similar to any work for the time being carried on by the Institute.” Read: research and intelligence analysis for warfighting organizations belonging to governments, secret services, their proprietaries and fronts.
This is proving to be more lucrative than ever before. According to its annual report for 2013- 2014, Chatham House’s income shot up by almost 30% over the previous year — from £9.9 million to £12.8 million.
Compared to the year 2000, when revenue from selling research came to £1.2 million, the growth rate is 525%. There is now so much cash, Chatham House can’t spend it fast enough — a million-pound surplus was the result last year, and a 50% jump in the amount of money earned on investing it.
The Chatham House’s governing body, called the Council, is elected into office by the members voting at the Annual General Meeting. But members are appointed by the organization itself; both voters and Council candidates are regulated with “absolute discretion” of the apparatchiki. Byelaw 66 indemnifies Lyne and his other Council members “against all costs and losses for which he may become liable by reason of any act in the discharge of his duty.” Byelaw 54 defines the duty to “ensure the intellectual quality of the Institute, promote the Institute’s independence, and enhance its reputation” as belonging to the Council’s appointee as director. At the moment, that’s Robin Niblett (below). Lyne is off the independence hook, but he’s covered in case Russia warfighting triggers liabilities.
The annual report doesn’t give a count of member voters, but concedes that member subscriptions are growing so slowly, the count is unlikely to be growing at all. There are 62 corporate members classified as major on account of the price of their admission ticket; they include the British Army, the US Embassy in London; and Amsterdam & Partners, a publicist for Mikhail Khodorkovsky.
Lesser paying corporate members include the Polish Institute for Democracy and the Quakers in Britain. Embassies, NGOs, and universities make another 73, plus an uncounted number of individual subscribers. Not counting Khodorkovsky, and the Embassy in London, there is no Russian institution, bank, corporation or individual on the member list.
Last week Lyne led five co-authors in the release by Chatham House of their blueprint for warfare against Russia. Called “The Russian Challenge”, it has been analysed here. The Russian business ties of two of the co-authors, Lyne and Sir Andrew Wood, have been extensive, and continuing. Lyne’s promotion of the London-listed Russian goldminer Petropavlovsk plc, was analysed in Friday’s report. He is vocally in favour of tough Russian sanctions; he exempts himself.
In his Chatham House profile Wood is coy about identifying his paymasters, referring to “positions with a number of UK-based companies with Russian interests as well as others active in other former Soviet countries.”
Independent press reports identify Wood’s business as including the US advertising group PBN, Ernst & Young, and Renaissance Capital, after it was taken over by Mikhail Prokhorov. When he was chairman of PBN’s board of directors, Wood appears to have given his seal of approval for PBN contracts with Oleg Deripaska’s asset holding Basic Element; Victor Rashnikov’s Magnitogorsk Metallurgical Combine (MMK), as well as Gazprom, Lukoil, Sberbank, the Moscow-listed pharmacy Chain 36.6, and Renaissance Capital. During Wood’s time at PBN, he reported to control shareholder, the WPP conglomerate supervised by Philip Lader, a former US Ambassador to the UK. Lader was also on Deripaska’s payroll.
Summing up the lessons he had earned, Wood wrote — and Chatham House published in May 2011 — a briefing paper entitled “Russian business diplomacy”. “Western business experience beyond the ‘strategic’ sectors has been mixed,” he conceded, “but with the right local political and economic connections there is money to be made.” Wood was advertising himself. “Western figures have been recruited to the boards of directors of Russian companies and Western experts have been employed too… The greater the distance between the Russian state and the enterprise in question, the more effective Western participation has proved. But it is hard to sit on a board, let alone work for a company, and be too outspoken.”
At the end of “The Russian Challenge” report, there is the house motto, “Independent thinking since 1920.” At the front, in the small print below the charity registration number and the copyright notice, the charter requirement is set out out: “Chatham House, the Royal Institute of International Affairs, does not express opinions of its own. The opinions expressed in this publication are the responsibility of the authors.”
Member sources say this is not quite what happened in the run-up to the publication of Lyne’s line. Andrew Monaghan, a senior research fellow at the Russia and Eurasia programme at Chatham House, drafted a 14-page paper he called “A ‘New Cold War’? Abusing History, Misunderstanding Russia.”
It too carries the charter disclaimer: “Chatham House is an independent body that promotes the rigorous study of international questions and does not express opinions of its own. The opinions expressed in this publication are the responsibility of the author(s).”
But in Monaghan’s case, he proved to be much too independent in his views for Lyne to address when “The Russian Challenge” was compiled. On the organization website Monaghan’s paper is described as a “research paper”. Lyne’s report, however, is tagged a “Chatham House Report”. No free asparagus roll at a Chatham House event for figuring out which opinion is expressly endorsed by the organization, according to member sources.
Read Monaghan’s piece in full here. He received his academic training in Russian studies at UK universities and then did research at the NATO Defence College in Rome for five years. He is now the senior research fellow on Russia at Chatham House, with additional academic appointments at Oxford University.
The Lyne line marshalled three key terms for its declaration of war – truth (that’s Chatham House); falsehood (that’s Russia); and propaganda (everything running from the latter toward the former). The three terms do not appear in Monaghan’s paper. Instead, he provides a compendium of Russia mistakes by everyone he could find from ex-Polish foreign minister Radoslaw Sikorski, Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper, and two Chatham House sources – an Australian Russia-hater called Bobo Lo, and a Chatham House report of last year to the NATO Secretary-General.
Monaghan’s conclusion: “The discussion about today’s Russia therefore suffers from a repetitive plethora of absurdly simplified explanatory images in which Russian actions are associated with, though rarely rigorously compared to, those of the Soviet Union and/or Nazi Germany; and in which Vladimir Putin appears as the reincarnation of Joseph Stalin, Adolf Hitler or some blend of the two.”
Monaghan accepts that we are at “proxy war” in the Ukraine. He doesn’t endorse the accession of Crimea. He is cautious in recommending war-fighting because — he warns — Chatham House needs to go back to school first. “It’s worth asking what signals might be received in Moscow as a result of the references to appeasement and Hitler. The analogy, if pursued to its full conclusion, suggests that Europe should wage what is inevitable war on Russia, defeating and enforcing unconditional surrender on it, including a complete regime change…Policy-makers’ grasp of the Russian leadership’s motivations and decision-making processes, especially in respect of specifically military matters, has been degraded. So too, as a result, has the West’s ability to pursue effective policies of deterrence, since it remains unclear what actually deters the Russian leadership.”
It’s clear, say insiders, that Monaghan’s assessment has not been promoted as the Chatham House view. According to sources claiming to know, Monaghan’s report had run into internal opposition and been “excluded” from the Lyne report. While the publication of the two reports is close in time, that is coincidental, other sources say: the work started out separately, and was intended to stay that way. Asked to clarify the circumstances, Monaghan says: “My project was begun last year, and evolved this year. It has been fully peer-reviewed. There’s been no effort to prevent it from being published. It is completely separate.”
A well-known Chatham House member acknowledges something more than tolerance for Monaghan’s criticism is at stake. “CH has taken a very hawkish line on Russia before, but especially since the Ukraine conflict started. I have been quite outspoken in questioning whether this is the role of an academic institution.”
Francis Grove-White is the official spokesman for Chatham House. He was asked whether the organization’s leadership, including Lyne, consider the publication and promotion of “The Russian Challenge”, and its particular treatment of the concepts of truth, falsity, and propaganda, as a violation of Articles 4( c) and 6 of the organization’s Charter. “This is not a question for me”, he replied, referring to James Nixey, head of the Russian programme. By publication time, neither Grove-White, nor Lyne, nor Nixey had responded to the question.
One of the corporate financiers commented: “it’s well and good if Chatham House publishes views with which I, or others disagree. Nor is there an obvious problem of conflict of interest on the part of authors, subscribers, and research sponsors. The issue with independence is that there is now no attempt to provide an exchange or balance of views. Balance is the key. On Russia it’s gone.”