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Nuland Working To Overthrow Ukraine Government

Did you hear the audio of the phone call between Assistant US Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and the American ambassador to Ukraine? The Russians apparently recorded it, and leaked it. Here’s a transcript from the BBC. [1] I agree with the analysis of BBC’s Jonathan Marcus:

The US says that it is working with all sides in the crisis to reach a peaceful solution, noting that “ultimately it is up to the Ukrainian people to decide their future”. However this transcript suggests that the US has very clear ideas about what the outcome should be and is striving to achieve these goals. Russian spokesmen have insisted that the US is meddling in Ukraine’s affairs – no more than Moscow, the cynic might say – but Washington clearly has its own game-plan. The clear purpose in leaking this conversation is to embarrass Washington and for audiences susceptible to Moscow’s message to portray the US as interfering in Ukraine’s domestic affairs.

Marcus goes on to say — rightly, I think — that this episode makes both the US and Russia look bad (the Russians, because it makes clear that they’re intercepting US diplomatic communications … but then, our NSA has been doing the same thing to foreign leaders, e.g., Angela Merkel [2], who leads a nation that is not an enemy or a rival, but an ally). Still, the big difference is that Ukraine is on Russia’s border, and well within its sphere of influence. I haven’t been following the Ukraine situation closely, and for all I know, those Europhile Ukrainians protesting the Yanukovych government are entirely in the right. But what business is it of the United States to manipulate Ukrainian politics? Marcus, the analyst, says that the EU is holding back on involving itself in Ukraine’s power struggle because it doesn’t see the relative value in offending Moscow over Kiev. Nuland’s response: “F–k the EU.”

Lovely. From a realist perspective, doesn’t the EU have the better of the argument? Last December, Robert Merry wrote about the Ukraine mess [3], explaining that Ukraine is divided between its Catholic, Europe-oriented west, and its Orthodox, Russia-oriented east. It’s not simply a matter of a corrupt authoritarian regime standing against the People. Excerpt:

Ukraine will have to find its way through its historical predicament. Russia no doubt will play a role in whatever outcome emerges, if any. After all, Russia has been involved in the fate of Ukraine since 1654. Europe may have a role to play as well, given its proximity and the Western affinity of Ukraine’s western regions. But the United States has almost no standing to interfere.

What will be the outcome? Will Ukraine eventually split in two, each half going in its favored direction? It’s difficult to see such an eventuality absent a major international crisis in the region, although there will always be those who advocate such a course. As one Russian general once mused, “Ukraine or rather Eastern Ukraine will come back [into the Russian fold] in five, ten or fifteen years. Western Ukraine can go to hell!”

More likely, the country will continue to muddle through its current political conundrum as best it can. Huntington speculated that “Ukraine will remain united, remain cleft, remain independent, and generally cooperate closely with Russia.” He quotes author John Morrison as saying that the Russian-Ukrainian relationship is to Eastern Europe what the Franco-German relationship is to western Europe. Huntington explains, “Just as the latter provides the core of the European Union, the former is the core essential to unity in the Orthodox world.”

The point is not that Russia’s hands are clean with regard to interfering with Ukraine’s internal affairs. Of course they aren’t; only a fool would believe that they are. The point is that the United States is involved in Ukraine’s internal politics so deeply that a senior American diplomat asserts the right to decide who among the Ukrainian opposition should go into the government, and who should not. Why? Why is this in America’s interest? As a general matter, it is better to have a pro-American government in power in a given country than an anti-American one. But is Ukraine really so important a prize as to risk our relationship with Russia, and with the EU? One understands that a crackpot hawk like John McCain would think so [4], but is this really how Barack Obama wants to carry on?

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53 Comments To "Nuland Working To Overthrow Ukraine Government"

#1 Comment By M_Young On February 11, 2014 @ 12:34 am

How one earth did the US survive 220 years or so with the Ukraine not only being ‘influenced’ by Russia, but being part of Russia.

Heck, the country’s very name shows that it belongs in the Russian sphere. Ukraine means ‘the frontier, the borderland’. That frontier is in relation to the Russian heartland. Unlike Estonians, or Georgians, or Turkmen, the cultural and political differentiation of ‘Ukrainians’ from ‘Russians’ or ‘Belorussians’ is deeply problematic.

#2 Comment By William Dalton On February 11, 2014 @ 12:57 am

Public Defender:

“I also agree with those who say that Dreher’s reading of the excerpt of the conversation was hyperbolic. This often happens when he blogs about topics he doesn’t know much about (or at least, no more than most of the people who post on his comboxes). In this case, the diplomat’s statements can be reasonably seen as the kind of frank advice given when nobody else is listening. And one-on-one conversations don’t bind the US the way presidential orders do, so the risks of further entanglement are much, much smaller.

“The biggest screwup probably was having the conversation on an unsecured line.”

I think I might find your argument persuasive, except for one thing. The substance of her obscenity-loaded comment betrayed the real fault in the thinking of the Obama Administration represented by Ms. Nuland, a political appointee in the State Department. There is clearly a contest between Russia and the EU to see which can draw the Ukraine more closely into its orbit. The EU made an offer Ukraine was about to accept when Russia made a better one. Now the EU is not showing much interest in getting into a bidding war with Russia. They know that Ukraine is more important to Russia than it is to the EU. In fact, with all its other obligations to support weak member states, the economic powers of the EU are not eager to take on underwriting the Ukraine’s economy as well. And the U.S., as is obvious from Ms. Nuland’s statement, is aware of this. So why would any rational American diplomat be seeking to push together the Ukraine and the E.U. more than is the E.U. itself, let alone a much divided Ukaine? It betrays a policy which has neither the best interests of the Ukraine or the E.U. at heart, but rather is interested in playing the petty games of international intrigue and rivalry that cost so much blood and treasure in the 20th Century. It sustains the military-industrial complex of the Washington-London axis, not the aspirations of any foreign peoples towards either liberty or democracy. It should be called out for what it is.

#3 Comment By MrsKrishan On February 11, 2014 @ 3:11 pm

“Why is this in America’s interest?” Rod your naivete in geopolitics is remarkable for its dogged persistence… have you never looked on a map at where the borders of the Ukraine actually lie? Along the natural gas pipeline that US-Islamic Gulf Monarchist petrochemical interests would so like to build up through Syria (or Iran) and on into Europe via Turkey?

Its not about petty hegemons, nor even the people who appointed them to serve, its about the dollar and our need to back it by something tangible, fungible and under our thumb/sphere of control (since we’re busy shipping all the gold not screwed down to China/India with glad abandon).