Think tanks compromised

IssueFebruary - March 2023
Feature by Padraig McCarrick

The independence of Britain’s top thinktanks working in the area of nuclear weapons policy has been brought into question, after an academic survey found they had accepted funding from companies who manufacture or maintain nuclear weapons.

Researchers from an elite French university, Sciences Po, surveyed 45 of the world’s leading thinktanks specialising in foreign policy and national security. They all admitted that they received financing from nuclear arms contractors and/or from governments whose military policies are based on nuclear weapons.

Thinktank analysts who contributed to the wider survey said these financial links often led to self-censorship or tailoring of the agenda. In some cases, projects were dropped entirely after an injection of cash from a nuclear weapons-linked firm. Others said they were scared off pursuing more radical ideas around nuclear disarmament for fear of losing funding.

British think tanks in the survey included: Chatham House, the European Council on Foreign Relations, the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), and the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI).

Nuclear weapons-related firms who donated to these think tanks include: Airbus, BAE Systems, Boeing, Leonardo, Lockheed Martin and Rolls-Royce. For some of these thinktanks, total donations for one year were in the region of hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Unequal funding

The Science Po researchers pointed out that these nuclear arms-related donations might only make up a small fraction of the overall funding of a particular think tank – they don’t release enough information for us to know either way.

However, the scale of pro-nuclear weapons funding to these think tanks completely eclipses donations from those looking to challenge the place of nuclear weapons.

Responding to the research, CND general secretary Kate Hudson said: ‘This research is a shocking revelation of the far-reaching influence arms companies have in the debate around nuclear weapons and security policy – just like how fossil fuel firms have tried to use academia to push back against the realities of climate change.

‘At a time when the increasing risk of nuclear war is regularly featured in the news, it’s important for journalists and those in the media to be aware of these potential biases when featuring contributions from so-called independent think tanks – and to make sure to give a voice to those speaking out against nuclear.’

Topics: lobbying