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“Fuck The EU,” Says America’s Top Europe Diplomat

fuck-the-EU

Victoria Nuland, Asistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, pithily expressed her frustrations about the European Union.

The Hill (“Obama official: ‘F–k the EU’“):

President Obama’s top diplomat to Europe has been caught on tape saying “F–k the EU.”

The conversation between Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and U.S. Ambassador to the Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt was anonymously leaked on YouTube.

Nuland and Pyatt are not identified on the recording, but the tape appears to be genuine.

Nuland is a former spokeswoman for the State Department, and her voice can be recognized on the tape. The State Department has not denied that the voices are those of Nuland and Pyatt.

It’s not clear who recorded or leaked the call, though speculation has immediately fallen on Moscow.

In the leaked telephone call, first reported by the Kyiv Post, Nuland sharply criticizes the European Union’s handling of the Ukraine crisis and lays out the administration’s desired outcome for the crisis.

Nuland’s criticism of the EU comes in the context of praising United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon for picking an envoy to deal with the political crisis.

At least four people have been killed in protests that have rocked the ex-Soviet republic since President Viktor Yanukovych turned down an association agreement with the EU late last year in favor of closer ties with Russia.

Nuland argues that the U.N. envoy will “help glue this thing and to have the U.N. glue it. And you know, f–k the EU,” she adds.

“Exactly,” Pyatt can be heard replying. “And I think we got to do something to make it stick together, because you can be sure that if it does start to gain altitude the Russians will be working behind the scenes to torpedo it.”

While this might make things a bit awkward her next trip to Brussels, this was a private conversation with a colleague, not a public appearance. Nuland is an Europe old hand, having served as our ambassador to NATO and as the State Department spokeswoman. Her bona fides as both a friend of Europe and a professional diplomat are unimpeachable.

And the phrase in question has likely been uttered by every European head of state.

UPDATE: James Gibney weighs in with more substantive analysis:

Those who find either the language or the tone of her conversation with Pyatt disturbing know nothing about diplomacy. For starters, the fecklessness of the EU when confronted with Russia’s bad behavior, whether in Ukraine or elsewhere, is a matter of ugly record. Moreover, if one F-bomb is too much for you, be glad you were never on the receiving end of a tirade from Nuland’s predecessor, Richard Holbrooke.

And as to those who are shocked, just shocked, by the U.S. attempt to manipulate Ukraine’s opposition, this is exactly what diplomats at higher levels try to do: All the foreign ambassadors in Washington worth their pensions have salty, Machiavellian conversations with their superiors and colleagues about how to shape votes of the U.S. Congress. If you’re an American, be glad that pros such as Nuland are on the job, and hope that your other diplomats aren’t sitting around munching cucumber sandwiches in between demarches.

Indeed.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He has a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. Matt Bernius says:

    And the phrase in question has likely been uttered by every European head of state.

    Not to mention, that similar words have been uttered, in assumed private situations, about the US by most every European head of state at sometime or another.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 0

  2. al-Ameda says:

    The conversation between Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and U.S. Ambassador to the Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt was anonymously leaked on YouTube.

    it’s almost to the point where government officials probably must meet secretly in order to speak frankly. I often wonder why, today, government officials would use email for anything other than the most mundane communications. God forbid that you be on the record for everything.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  3. legion says:

    In her defense, everyone knows they are actually pretty useless. But here’s what I want to know…

    It’s not clear who recorded or leaked the call, though speculation has immediately fallen on Moscow.

    Uh, if “Moscow” is able to clandestinely record diplomats’ conversations, isn’t that kinda huge?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  4. al-Ameda says:

    @legion:

    Uh, if “Moscow” is able to clandestinely record diplomats’ conversations, isn’t that kinda huge?

    Let’s ask Edward Snowden about this – see what he thinks. I’m sure he’s of the opinion that America is the only country that is involved in clandestine activities like that.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 1

  5. michael reynolds says:

    She could always run for Parliament in the UK if this gig doesn’t work out.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  6. gVOR08 says:

    Somewhere in the news this morning it was reported that in her younger days she somehow spent several months on a Russian fishing trawler. So this sort of thing, in at least two languages, probably comes pretty naturally, and pretty fluently.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  7. Pinky says:

    This might be the first time that a foreign diplomat’s off-the-cuff statement becomes a rallying cry across Europe.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  8. Jeremy R says:

    http://www.cbsnews.com/news/us-suspects-russia-behind-leak-of-envoys-bugged-call/

    [A]n aide to Russian deputy prime minister, Dmitry Rogozin, was among the first to tweet about a YouTube video that contains audio of the alleged call between the top US diplomat for Europe, Victoria Nuland, and the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt. The video, which shows photos of Nuland and Pyatt, is subtitled in Russian.

    In the tweet, posted some seven hours before existence of the video became widely known on Thursday, the Rogozin aide, Dmitry Loskutov, opined: “Sort of controversial judgment from Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland speaking about the EU.”

    Here’s the tweet: https://twitter.com/DLoskutov/status/431330171518345217

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  9. Mikey says:

    @Matt Bernius: One can also safely assume the phrase has been uttered by most Europeans…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  10. stonetools says:

    So those defenders of democracy and privacy, the Russians, are listening in US Diplomatic communications? Does Snowden and Greenwald know of this?

    Here is something else to consider: did the Russians recently get the ability to do this because of information gained from Snowden? Inquiring minds want to know…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  11. ernieyball says:

    From the OutsideTheBeltway policies page:

    The use of profanity stronger than that normally permitted on network television is prohibited. A substantial number of people read this site from an office or in a family environment.

    Not like I give a GudGodDamn. Why do posts get snagged in the SpamFilter for who knows what yet the title of this item is OK?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  12. MarkedMan says:

    FWIW, I have it from someone who would definitely know that ambassador’s, their families and staff are instructed to assume everything said anywhere in or near the embassy, official residence, frequent restaurant etc, is being recorded by the host country, enemy states, friendliest or combinations of the above.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  13. The problem is not “who tapes the phone call”. The important think is what she said. After the NSA scandal, this message confirm what we think The US thought about us. They can send their OBAMa in Brussels …
    A European citizen.
    (By the way, stop saying that Russians and Chineses are bad people)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  14. James Joyner says:

    @ernieyball: A fair point. Basically, it’s likely to lead to more abusive behavior in the comments section and, given the unmoderated nature of the discussion there, I can’t police it effectively. Conversely, we have three top level posters who write with any regularity and we’ll essentially never use it unless there’s a sound editorial reason.

    In this case, it seems silly to have a discussion about what Nuland said while being cryptic about what she said. Similarly, in posts discussing the public use (or non-use) of the word “nigger,” I’ll use that word rather than, as Louis CK says, making the reader supply the word themselves. But I flag it in the spam filter because I can’t allow it on a per-post basis and it’s otherwise almost never appropriate for use in the discussion.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  15. ernieyball says:

    Thanks for the reply. Makes sense to me.
    ——-
    I have been meaning to make you aware of this story as I think it is something you can relate to.
    http://thesouthern.com/news/hinson-takes-leave-after-son-in-law-s-death/article_1b9b3c70-6ebc-11e3-9622-0019bb2963f4.html

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  16. akavivisector says:

    I thought the neocons quietly left government after their Iraq War disgrace.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  17. Ben Wolf says:

    @stonetools:

    Here is something else to consider: did the Russians recently get the ability to do this because of information gained from Snowden? Inquiring minds want to know…

    Then try using your brain. You really think they could roll out what has taken the NSA fourteen years of constitution stomping in less than ten months? Not to mention that anything the Russians might have in some mystical fairy land won’t break diplomatic level hard encryption.

    These two fools were conversing over an unsecured line. Deal with it, because American officials are morons.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  18. rudderpedals says:

    NPR’s article http://www.npr.org/2014/02/08/273181826/a-possible-explanation-for-how-u-s-diplomats-call-was-tapped cites experts supporting the tapped insecure voice call hypotheses Ben mentions. NPR says some non-stupid people assume diplomat-diplomat calls default secure.

    We can’t discount, well we can discount it but not ignore the placed disinformation potential.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0