Victoria Nuland is Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs at the United States Department of State. As such, the situation in Ukraine is one of her many problems. Geoffrey Pyatt is America’s Ambassador to Ukraine, and as such, he has reason to talk to Ms. Nuland. A recording of a recent phone conversation of theirs hit the Internet yesterday in which Ms. Nuland says, “Fuck the EU.” Some people are angry with her, and others with the Russians who most assuredly recorded and leaked the conversation. However, this journal is angry with American counter-intelligence for letting it happen in the first place.
In discussing putting together a government drawn from the Ukrainian opposition, the two diplomats ran through the qualifications and personalities of a few of the leaders. Then, the conversation turned to UN participation in the discussions, which would effectively cut the EU out of the smoke-filled-room discussions. The conversation according to a BBC transcript went:
Nuland: when I talked to Jeff Feltman [United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs] this morning, he had a new name for the UN guy Robert Serry did I write you that this morning?
Pyatt: Yeah I saw that.
Nuland: OK. He’s now gotten both Serry and [UN Secretary General] Ban Ki-moon to agree that Serry could come in Monday or Tuesday. So that would be great, I think, to help glue this thing and to have the UN help glue it and, you know, Fuck the EU.
Naturally, this upset the EU big-shots. Angela Merkel, whose behavior in the euro crisis truly did fuck the EU, said that Ms. Nuland’s comment was “totally unacceptable.” So, of course, Ms. Nuland has apologized, and she has wisely decided not to make a public statement. She did, however, note that the leak was “pretty impressive tradecraft [spy stuff]. [The] audio quality was very good.”
White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters that the recording “was first noted and tweeted out by the Russian government. I think it says something about Russia’s role.” The Washington Post reported, “The recording surfaced on YouTube on Thursday, just as Nuland arrived in Ukraine for talks. It was also widely viewed on a Russian-language Web site, where it appeared online along with a photo montage of Nuland, Pyatt, and opposition figures. The Russian caption reads, ‘Puppets of the Maidan,’ the colloquial name for Kiev’s Independence Square.”
The Associated Press says, “A Russian government aide who was among the first to post a video online containing a bugged phone call between two U.S. diplomats denied Friday that he or the government played a role in leaking the recording. Dmitry Loskutov said he was surfing a social networking website on Thursday when he came across the video, in which the top U.S. diplomat for Europe, Victoria Nuland, disparages the European Union . . . . [he added] his decision to repost the video had no connection to his work for the Russian government.”
The truth is diplomats don’t always use diplomatic language, but Ms. Nuland broke rule of diplomacy — “thou shalt not speak ill of thy allies.” The Russians are, of course, at fault here, but their actions were only to be expected. Their spy services are supposed to do this kind of thing, and based on the quality of the recording, they remain in the major leagues despite any decline in Russian power elsewhere.
The American counter-intelligence team, though, has completely and utterly failed here. While it is the job of the Russian spies to get hold of this kind of material, it is the job of the CI kids to prevent it. Having a secure-line so badly compromised is beyond belief. Careers need to end and agencies need to be reformed or replaced.