In between “F*ck the EU” and the 2014 coup: a French analysis


May 29, 2017 – Fort Russ News –

– Sylvie Kauffman, in Le Monde, translated by Tom Winter –

“Victoria Nuland, at a press conference at the US Embassy in Kiev,  Friday February 7” [2014]

The five lessons of an American diplomat’s “fuck the EU! 
The damage* caused by a senior US diplomat’s gaffe could be more important than the anecdotal dimension of the case initially suggested.

It’s well known that, in the intimacy of the oval office, the late presidents Johnson and Nixon spoke like sailors; it was not known that some officials of American diplomacy perpetuate this tradition even today. Thanks to the Russians, it has been known since Thursday February 6 that Victoria Nuland, in charge of Europe in the State Department, is a worthy heiress of the White House crudeness, especially when she talks about her friends in the European Union: “Fuck the EU!” 

But the most interesting thing in this telephone conversation between Mrs Nuland and her ambassador in Kiev, Geoffrey Pyatt — delicately recorded, unbeknownst to them, presumably by Russian secret services — is not the ‘And, you know … Fuck the EU!” which punctuates the description by the US official of her strategy on the crisis of Ukraine. The expression gains in clarity what it loses in elegance, and after all, it wasn’t in the shadows that Dominique de Villepin at the Quai d’Orsay denounced the “assholes” on all sides. The most interesting part, in reality, is all that there is surrounding the interjection. Five lessons can be learned:

Moscow does not hesitate to resort to the old modes of the KGB
According to Reuters quoting a diplomatic source, the tape was broadcast on YouTube on Thursday by Dmitri Loskutov, a collaborator of Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitri Rogozin, with a transcript of the exchange in Russian, while Nuland arrived in Kiev.

Another less toxic telephone conversation was posted on YouTube at the same time between Helga Schmidt, an assistant to Catherine Ashton, head of European diplomacy, and the EU ambassador to Kiev, Jan Tombinski. Subliminal message: Western leaders come and go to Ukraine to support the Maidan movement, but the Russian secret services are right at home.

There is no more secret diplomacy 
After the gigantic flight of diplomatic telegrams in 2010 by Wikileaks, and the Snowden affair in 2013, the Americans are well positioned to know that NSA listens to the world — yet two senior US officials talk about one of the most sensitive global crises on their mobile phones without a worry. It is the bite of the boomerang. According to the American press, American diplomats of this rank are not equipped with encrypted mobile phones. Washington did not confirm the authenticity of the audio tape, but did not deny it either, and Victoria Nuland apologized to the EU.

- Advertisement -

Victoria Nuland’s remarks reveal deep differences between Americans and Europeans over Ukraine
The United States treats the Ukrainian affair as a crisis of the Cold War: West against Russia. They want to impose sanctions and do not understand the EU’s hesitance. The Europeans themselves see Ukraine as a crisis which concerns the EU and one of its neighbors, some of whose people aspire to join it. In addition, the United States is a federal state, while in Europe decisions are made by twenty-eight. It’s more complicated and that exasperates Washington. Victoria Nuland’s husband, Robert Kagan, is the author of a famous book: Of Paradise and Power: America and Europe in the New World Order, in which he explains “the Americans are from Mars and the Europeans are from Venus.” It is obviously a vision shared by Mrs Nuland. But the United States also has no key in hand to propose as a solution for the Ukraine crisis, except sanctions [on Russia! -tr]

The American maladroitness — even arrogance 
The familiarity with which the Deputy Secretary of State referred to the leaders of the Ukrainian opposition (“Yats” for Arseni Yatsenyuk, and “Klitsch” for Vitali Klitschko) and the posts she assigns to them in a possible government betrays an astonishing clumsiness, or even arrogance, in method, given the American failures at installing teams in power in foreign countries over the last ten years. She and Ambassador Pyatt talk about the protagonists of the Ukrainian crisis as if their fate depended on them, which is not the case. [Though this article was otherwise perceptive, it underestimated the US ‘soft power:’ Their fate did depend on Nuland and Pyatt! — tr.] Inevitably, the title of the audio tape on YouTube, in Russian, is: “Maidan’s puppets.”

The German exasperation
The case puts an extra wrinkle in German-US relations, and they are getting colder. Angela Merkel has not yet digested the NSA eavesdropping on her phone calls, having learned of it via Edward Snowden, and has been charging the Americans since, by highlighting the fury triggered in German public opinion by the revelations about the magnitude of the electronic surveillance. The Chancellor was the first to react on Friday, saying that she considered Mrs Nuland’s remarks to be “absolutely unacceptable,” followed on Saturday by Herman Von Rompuy, President of the European Council, who used the same term: “Unacceptable.” The other European leaders prefer to laugh or banter, or, like the EU ambassador to Washington, Joao Vale de Almeida, to retaliate with humor:

Finally, the damage might be greater than the anecdotal dimension of the Nuland gaffe was suggesting at the outset. Another nice coup by the Russians in the chess game that has been played since last summer between Moscow and Westerners.


*Translator comment: The “Gaffe” led to no damage at all. The EU should have declared Nuland persona non grata, as an ‘unacceptable’ representative of the US to Europe. But calling her language ‘unacceptable’ was nothing. Just like the Prime Minister of Montenegro, who keeps right on smiling when the US bullies him aside, the EU kept right on smiling and obeying, and smiles and obeys still.

Subscribe to our newsletter
Sign up here to get the latest news, updates and special offers delivered directly to your inbox.