This entire story is quite disturbing if you spend a minute thinking about it. Two senior American diplomats discussed UN-Russia-Ukraine-EU politics by phone and came to the conclusion that “f— the EU” was a sound strategy. Here’s that leaked conversation, between two American diplomats, recorded secretly by a third party. They’re Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, and US Ambassador to the Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt.
Nuland was promoted to her current job from the post of State Department spokesman, where she played a central role in re-working the Benghazi talking points blaming a movie, not al Qaeda-linked terrorists, for the attack that killed four Americans. Nuland worked directly for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the time.
Now she is working for SecState John Kerry, who has her deeply involved in the unrest in Ukraine.
Someone has her communications bugged. Either that, or State leaked the call themselves for some purpose, but that doesn’t seem likely. Today Nuland is suggesting the former. Addressing the leaked call, Nuland today called it “pretty impressive tradecraft,” hinting that the Russians leaked it, and admitting that the recording is authentic.
Russia has accused the US and the EU of “meddling” in Ukraine, a charge that could more accurately be directed at Russia itself. Ukraine has been nominally independent since the death of the USSR, but Moscow has tried to control it through puppets and intimidation. The US and Russia stand on opposite sides in the current unrest, with Russia now making dark threats about sending in troops to crush the anti-government protests.
The US and EU are not-entirely-openly on the rebels’ side against the pro-Moscow government, but in the leaked call, Nuland is heard insulting the EU. That hasn’t gone unnoticed in Europe, where anger over NSA spying has not abated much.
The telephone conversation between Victoria Nuland and the US ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt, elicited critical comments both from the chancellor’s office and the German foreign ministry on Friday.
Deputy government speaker Christiane Wirtz told reporters in Berlin that Chancellor Angela Merkel considered Nuland’s phrase “F— the EU” to be “absolutely unacceptable.”
Wirtz also said that Merkel was of the opinion that EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton was doing “an outstanding job” in her efforts to mediate in Kyiv.
A spokesman for the foreign ministry in Berlin, meanwhile, joked that the uproar showed the problem with listening in on high-ranking phone calls, an apparent allusion to the NSA’s monitoring of the mobile phones of Chancellor Merkel and her predecessor, Gerhard Schröder.
The Russians denied involvement today, but come on. Who benefits most from embarrassing the Americans and creating another schism between us and the EU in a stroke? The Russians have Ed Snowden, there is no doubt that they know what he knows, and now they apparently have the US assistant secretary of state’s phone tapped. Well, or they have the US ambassador to Ukraine’s phone tapped. Or both. The Russians also have no fear of displaying their ability to wiretap us. All this coming as the Sochi Olympics open — games which are supposed to showcase global harmony but so far are mostly displaying Russian crappiness — just adds a bit more grit to the whole thing. Putin has played Obama twice, on Syria and Iran, and is quickly making Russia the most pivotal outside force in the Middle East at our expense. He clearly doesn’t think he has anything to lose by humiliating the US government one more time.