The United States Institute of Peace is a publicly funded national institution chartered by the U.S. government to promote international peace through nonviolent conflict resolution.
But its chairman, Stephen Hadley, is a relentless hawk whose advocacy for greater military intervention often dovetails closely with the interests of Raytheon, a major defense contractor that pays him handsomely as a member of its board of directors.
Hadley, the former national security adviser to President George W. Bush, was an advocate for the 2003 invasion of Iraq and more recently appeared in the media to call for massive airstrikes in Syria. Over the last year, he has called for escalating the conflict in Ukraine.
In a speech at Poland’s Wroclaw Global Forum in June, Hadley argued in favor of arming the Ukrainian government in part because that would “raise the cost for what Russia is doing in Ukraine.” Specifically, he said, “even President Putin is sensitive to body bags — it sounds coarse to say, but it’s true — but body bags of Russian soldiers who have been killed.”
Hadley also called for European governments to broadly boost military spending, ideally doubling it. “You know, let’s show that Europe is going to have real commitment to military forces,” he said.
The call to flood Ukraine with weapons not only contrasts sharply with the stated mission of the Institute of Peace, but many scholars believe doing so would provoke more conflict.
“Arming Ukraine is a very bad idea,” says Stephen Walt, professor of international affairs at Harvard University. “The core problem is that Ukraine’s political alignment is a vital interest for Russia, which is why it intervened in the first place. It is right next door to Russia, which means Moscow both cares more about the outcome and can escalate there much more easily than we can. Doubling down now will intensify and prolong the fighting and get more Ukrainians killed.”
Kevin Connor, director of the Public Accountability Initiative, a watchdog group that has criticized Hadley’s work for Raytheon in the past, is calling for Hadley to step aside.
“If the U.S. Institute of Peace is just an Orwellian absurdity, then Hadley is an appropriate chairman,” says Connor. “If it wants to demonstrate that it isn’t that, Hadley’s resignation or removal would be a step in the right direction.”
Scholars formerly affiliated with the Institute of Peace played down Hadley’s role at the institute. Daniel Serwer, the institute’s former vice president for peacebuilding innovation, told The Intercept that the board of directors has a “role in setting Institute goals and policy, but generally stays out of day-to-day operations.” Hadley “seemed to me a natural as a Republican board member and as chair, but I was not privy to the selection process,” Serwer added.
“I have a lot of respect for Steve Hadley and all the former national security advisers, so it doesn’t concern me,” says Tara Sonenshine, the former executive vice president of the institute.
The institute’s “core principles” start with “1. We believe conflicts can be resolved without violence.”
But by the law that established it in 1984, it is also bipartisan: No more than eight voting members of board of directors can be from the same political party.
The stock and trade of the institute includes regular lectures on conflict resolution, programs to facilitate cultural exchange, and research regarding international conflicts. The institute website highlights a “culturally-sensitive policing practices” grant for Israeli law enforcement.
But it’s not the first time the institute has served as a platform for American hawkish foreign policy. Robert Turner, the first president of the institute and an appointee by President Ronald Reagan, voiced support for the right-wing death squads in Nicaragua known as the Contras.
In more recent history, the institute’s board has included neoconservative leaders such as Daniel Pipes, an advocate for ethnic profiling and the invasion of Middle East countries. Eric Edelman, a current board member, has called for the Obama administration to hike military spending, for the U.S. to support an Israeli military strike on Iran, and for NATO countries to deploy nuclear weapons into former Warsaw Pact states that are now NATO members in an effort to confront Russia.
In 2009, Hadley joined with other former Bush officials to launch a consulting firm now known as RiceHadleyGates LLC. The firm says it helps corporations “develop and implement their international strategic plans.”
Hadley also serves as a highly paid board member of Raytheon, a company that stands to gain from increased military assistance to Ukraine. Hadley has been a Raytheon board member since 2009 and was paid cash and stock awards worth $290,025 in 2014 alone.
For companies like Raytheon, global instability and intervention have been good for business.
The conflict in Ukraine raised regional defense spending, a dynamic that has greatly boosted profits for Raytheon, which recently posted higher-than-expected quarterly earnings. Dave Wajsgras, Raytheon’s chief financial officer, told the Wall Street Journal that European states are hiking their defense budgets in the wake of tensions between Russia and Ukraine, leading to higher revenues for his company.
Raytheon vice president, Tom Kennedy, told investors in October 2014 that his company is competing “in Poland for an integrated air and missile defense system,” explaining that the deal “had a heightened sense of urgency in Poland relative to the activities going on in eastern Europe, especially relative to Ukraine.”
In July, Senate Armed Services Chairman Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said the U.S. should supply Ukraine with the Javelin portable missile system produced by Lockheed Martin and Raytheon. “They need a Javelin,” McCain said, speaking at the Heritage Foundation.
Through his relationship with RiceHadleyGates, Hadley works for APCO Worldwide, an international lobbying firm for which he serves on the firm’s international advisory council. The RiceHadleyGates-APCO business partnership was announced in 2011.
In March of this year, APCO won two contracts to represent the Ukrainian prime minister and Ukraine’s minister of finance to help influence relations with the American government and media. The Ministry of Finance has asked international creditors to renegotiate the terms of the country’s sovereign debt as Ukraine has struggled to make payments.
Last week, Hadley weighed in on this topic, arguing in a column for the Wall Street Journal that Western powers should extend debt reduction for Ukraine. “The odds may be long, but the prize is great, and the trans-Atlantic community will never have a better chance to invest in Ukraine’s success,” Hadley wrote.
Hadley, who serves on the Council on Foreign Relations and the State Department’s foreign affairs policy board, is also advising Jeb Bush’s presidential campaign on foreign policy and national security issues.
In 2011, a bipartisan group of lawmakers in the House voted to withhold the institute’s funds — two of them called it “a case study in how government waste thrives.” But the funding — $40 million that year — was restored in committee. The institute, housed in a new $186 million palatial building overlooking the National Mall in Washington, D.C., is also supported by private donations, including a $1 million grant from weapons maker Lockheed Martin.
Photo: Stephen J. Hadley
In the year since George Floyd’s murder, conservative news outlets have endlessly hyped distorted stories about violence at Black Lives Matter protests. Key videos they used come from a tight-knit group of eight young journalists.