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Clinton’s Hawk-in-Waiting

The other day, a question popped up on a Facebook thread I was commenting on: “Where is Victoria Nuland?” The short answer, of course, is that she is still holding down her position as assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs.

But a related question begs for a more expansive response: Where will Victoria Nuland be after January? Nuland is one of Hillary Clinton’s protégés at the State Department, and she is also greatly admired by hardline Republicans. This suggests she would be easily approved by Congress as secretary of state or maybe even national-security adviser—which in turn suggests that her foreign-policy views deserve a closer look.

Nuland comes from what might be called the First Family of Military Interventionists. Her husband, Robert Kagan, is a leading neoconservative who co-founded the Project for the New American Century in 1998 around a demand for “regime change” in Iraq. He is currently a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, an author, and a regular contributor to the op-ed pages of a number of national newspapers. He has already declared that he will be voting for Hillary Clinton in November, a shift away from the GOP that many have seen as a clever career-enhancing move for both him and his wife.

Robert’s brother, Fred, is with the hawkish American Enterprise Institute, and his sister-in-law, Kimberly, is the head of the Institute for the Study of War, which is largely funded by defense contractors. The Kagans work to encourage military action, both through their positions in government and by influencing the public debate through think-tank reports and op-eds. It is a family enterprise that mirrors the military-industrial complex as a whole, with think tanks coming up with reasons to increase military spending and providing “expert” support for the government officials who actually promote and implement the policies. Defense contractors, meanwhile, benefit from the largesse and kick back some money to the think tanks, which then develop new reasons to spend still more on military procurement.

The Kagans’ underlying belief is that the United States has both the power and the obligation to replace governments that are considered either uncooperative with Washington (the “Leader of the Free World”) or hostile to American interests. American interests are, of course, mutable, and they include values like democracy and the rule of law as well as practical considerations such as economic and political competition. Given the elasticity of the interests, many countries can be and are considered potential targets for Washington’s tender ministrations.

For what it’s worth, President Obama is reportedly an admirer [1] of Robert Kagan’s books, which argue that the U.S. must maintain its military power to accommodate its “global responsibilities.” The persistence of neoconservative foreign-policy views in the Obama administration has often been remarked upon, though Democrats and Republicans embrace military interventionism for different reasons. The GOP sees it as an international leadership imperative driven by American “exceptionalism,” while the Dems romanticize “liberal intervention” as a sometimes-necessary evil undertaken most often for humanitarian reasons. But the result is the same, as no administration wants to be seen as weak when dealing with the outside world. George W. Bush’s catastrophic failures in Afghanistan and Iraq continue to bear fruit under a Democratic administration, while Obama has added a string of additional “boots on the ground” interventions in Libya, Syria, Yemen, the Philippines, and Somalia.

And Nuland herself [2]many will recall, was the driving force behind efforts to destabilize the Ukrainian government of President Viktor Yanukovych in 2013-14. Yanukovych, admittedly a corrupt autocrat, nevertheless assumed office after a free election. In spite of the fact that Washington and Kiev ostensibly had friendly relations, Nuland provided open support for the Maidan Square demonstrators opposed to Yanukovych’s government, passing out cookies [3] to protesters on the square and holding photo ops with a beaming Sen. John McCain.

Nuland started her rapid rise as an adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney. Subsequently, she was serially promoted by secretaries of state Hillary Clinton and John Kerry, attaining her current position in September 2013. But it was her behavior in Ukraine that made her a media figure. It is hard to imagine that any U.S. administration would tolerate a similar attempt by a foreign nation to interfere in domestic politics, particularly if it were backed by a $5 billion budget [4], but Washington has long adhered to a double standard when evaluating its own behavior.


Nuland is most famous for using foul language [5] when referring to the potential European role in managing the unrest in Ukraine that she and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) had helped create. She even discussed with U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt who the new leader of Ukraine ought to be. “Yats is the guy” she said (referring to Arseniy Yatsenyuk), while pondering how she would “glue this thing” as Pyatt simultaneously considered how to “midwife” it. Their insecure phone call was intercepted and leaked [6], possibly by the Russian intelligence service, though anyone equipped with a scanner could have done the job.

The inevitable replacement of the government in Kiev, actually a coup but sold to the media as a triumph for “democracy,” was only the prelude to a sharp break—and escalating conflict—with Moscow over Russia’s attempts to protect its own interests in Ukraine. The new regime in Kiev, as corrupt as its predecessor and supported by neo-Nazis and ultra-nationalists, was consistently whitewashed in the Western media, and the conflict was depicted as “pro-democracy” forces resisting unprovoked “Russian aggression.”

Indeed, the real objective of interfering in Ukraine was, right from the start, to install a regime hostile to Moscow. Carl Gershman, the head of the taxpayer-funded NED, called Ukraine [7] “the biggest prize” in the effort to topple Russian President Vladimir Putin, who “may find himself on the losing end not just in the near abroad but within Russia itself.” But Gershman and Nuland were playing with fire in their assessment, as Russia had vital interests at stake and is the only nation with the military capability to destroy the U.S.

And make no mistake about Nuland’s clear intention to expand the conflict and directly confront Moscow. In Senate testimony in May of 2014, she noted [8] how the Obama administration was “providing support to other frontline states like Moldova and Georgia.”

Nuland and her neoconservative allies celebrated their “regime change” in Kiev oblivious to the fact that Putin would recognize the strategic threat to his own country and would react, particularly to protect the historic Russian naval base at Sevastopol in Crimea. Barack Obama responded predictably, initiating what soon became something like a new Cold War against Russia, risking escalation into a possible nuclear confrontation. It was a crisis that would not have existed but for Nuland and her allies.

Though there was no evidence that Putin had initiated the Ukraine crisis and much evidence to the contrary, the U.S. government propaganda machine rolled into action, claiming that Russia’s measures in Ukraine would be the first step in an invasion of Eastern Europe. Former Secretary of State Clinton dutifully compared Putin [9] to Adolf Hitler. And Robert Kagan provided the argument for more intervention, producing a lengthy essay in The New Republic entitled “Superpowers Don’t Get to Retire [10],” in which he criticized President Obama for failing to maintain American dominance in the world. The New York Times revealed [11] that the essay was apparently part of a joint project in which Nuland regularly edited her husband’s articles, even though this particular piece attacked the administration she worked for.

As the situation in Ukraine continued to deteriorate in 2014, Nuland exerted herself to scuttle several European attempts to arrange a ceasefire. When NATO Commander Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove was cited as being in favor of sending more weapons to the Ukrainian government to “raise the battlefield cost for Putin,” Nuland commented [12], “I’d strongly urge you to use the phrase ‘defensive systems’ that we would deliver to oppose Putin’s ‘offensive systems.’”

To return to the initial question of where Victoria Nuland is, the long answer would be that while she is not much in the news, she is continuing to provide support for policies that the White House apparently approves of. Late last month, she was again in Kiev. She criticized Russia for its lack of press freedom and its “puppets” in the Donbas region while telling [13] a Ukrainian audience about a “strong U.S. commitment to stand with Ukraine as it stays on the path of a clean, democratic, European future. … We remain committed to retaining sanctions that apply to the situation in Crimea until Crimea is returned to Ukraine.” Before that, she was in Cyprus and France [14] discussing “a range of regional and global issues with senior government officials.”

But one has to suspect that, at this point, she is mainly waiting to see what happens in November. And wondering where she might be going in January.

Philip Giraldi, a former CIA officer, is executive director of the Council for the National Interest.

29 Comments (Open | Close)

29 Comments To "Clinton’s Hawk-in-Waiting"

#1 Comment By Fran Macadam On May 19, 2016 @ 12:25 am

“It is hard to imagine that any U.S. administration would tolerate a similar attempt by a foreign nation to interfere in domestic politics”

The neocon orientation of the Kagans puts them in close proximity to Israel-Firsters, whose policies are practically identical. Obama may have resisted to some extent the policies that are absolutely the worst for America, but a Clinton regime is promised to give veto power to Israel, which at this time is identical to allowing the tail on the Israeli Likud rump, to wag American policy.

#2 Comment By Murfree On May 19, 2016 @ 1:24 am

It’s not in the least surprising that these people are gravitating to Clinton. She’s the War Party personified. The gravy train for foreign parasites will continue at full throttle if she’s elected. Nuland and other Kaganites know it and are licking their chops.

#3 Comment By EliteCommInc. On May 19, 2016 @ 3:42 am

” . . . stand with Ukraine as it stays on the path of a clean, democratic, European future…”

A humorous admonition for someone with her hands and the country’s deep to their elbows in mud.

All of this is warning. Don’t invite people who don’t support your agenda over for dinner l’est they stay too long and make dinner you did not intend nor like, but will forced to eat and say, “Yum”.

#4 Comment By Chris Chuba On May 19, 2016 @ 7:57 am

Please tell me that the title of this article was pure click bait. Are you serious that Hillary has given some indication that she will retain the services of, or promote this vile creature?

I am already going to vote for Donald Trump, perhaps I should consider volunteering for his campaign. Saying that HRC was some sort of mentor to Nuland is like throwing salt in my eyes. Trump has one Lebanese advisor who has some really poisonous theories regarding Iran but that is basically HRC’s starting point.

We (Nuland et al) have done nothing but escalate violence and strife in Ukraine and used that as proof that we need to re-kindle the Cold War.

#5 Comment By Clint On May 19, 2016 @ 9:27 am

The Neoconservatives and The Liberal Interventionists of both Major Parties perpetuate the direction of the military industrial complex to play the dangerous game of playing global cop.

Hillary Clinton is a morphed NeoCon/Liberal Interventionist with dangerous friends with dangerous interests.

#6 Comment By El Alcázar On May 19, 2016 @ 10:10 am

Thank you, sir, for reminding us of what’s really at stake in this election.

We need to spread the name and crimes of Victoria Nuland far and wide. This could really change a lot of people’s minds. Even my international relations professor, who is an interventionist and a Hillary supporter, has said that Victoria Nuland is a dangerous ideologue who should not be allowed to work for the government.

People need to realize that even if Clinton does not appoint Nuland Secretary of State or National Security Advisor (it’s possible that after that leaked phone call, Nuland may be seen as too radioactive to hold either position), Nuland will nonetheless either remain in a position of influence in the Clinton Administration or in a position to influence the Clinton Administration. After all, her foreign policy views and Clinton’s foreign policy views are identical.

#7 Comment By Mark Thomason On May 19, 2016 @ 10:47 am

Well done article. This deserves a lot more attention, Nuland and Kagan in particular, the neocons more generally. It is the core of my concern about Hillary as President. She promises a return of near-W levels of folly.

#8 Comment By bt On May 19, 2016 @ 1:25 pm

This is all so depressing. These forces are entrenched and they seem to actually transcend the political parties.

But I remain convinced that the GOP can and would be worse. Small consolation.

#9 Comment By bt On May 19, 2016 @ 1:35 pm

And keep in mind, these (Neocon) people will simply gravitate to whoever they think will win. So if that looks like Hillary, so be it, they’ll work with it.

If Trump looked like a winner, you could expect him to be getting lots of phone calls from Bill Kristol, Max Boot and a Kagan or two. But don’t kid yourself, they are probably calling him anyway. Sheldon has already put his money on the pony.

#10 Comment By Myron Hudson On May 19, 2016 @ 2:06 pm

Chris Chuba you can be sure that folks like Kagan and Nuland will be part of the package because they already are. At this point I’m fairly confident that the Berners will torpedo her by writing in Bernie, and I’m inclined to encourage them just because of folks like Nuland.

America First.

#11 Comment By mike On May 19, 2016 @ 4:07 pm

And just how many in this family ever served in the military? Probably none would be my bet.

#12 Comment By Womba On May 19, 2016 @ 4:53 pm

“Nuland is one of Hillary Clinton’s protégés”
Wow. Does Huma know about this?

#13 Comment By Sentient On May 19, 2016 @ 4:57 pm

bt said “But I remain convinced that the GOP can and would be worse.” You might have a good point if we were talking about the GOP being the alternative to Hillary. Rather, we’re talking about Trump who – as Bill Kristol will tell you – is not a real Republican. And thank God for that. Go ahead and vote for Hillary – if you want WWIII. It’s she who should be allowed anywhere near the nuclear codes.

#14 Comment By will ling On May 19, 2016 @ 5:00 pm

vlad will bury us under 1000 one-hundred megatoners first.

#15 Comment By Simon94022 On May 19, 2016 @ 5:34 pm

As much as Trump strikes me as a dangerously impulsive character, it’s worth remembering that the Clinton-Nuland-Rice gang are far more likely to get the U.S. into a shooting war. And possibly a nuclear one.

#16 Comment By kalendjay On May 19, 2016 @ 5:58 pm

If you want to know in Kagan’s own words how ludicrous he is, take a look at his latest Washington Post article (but don’t expect to wedge yourselves among the 6000+ comments now in the blog).

Kagan likens Trump to a self-aggrandizing, destabilizing fascist, of whom Alexander Hamilton preternaturally feared would rouse the American citizenry to populist war.

Ironically, the War of 1812 was indeed roused,ostensibly on behalf of French Jacobins, by that pillar of Hamilton’s own Federalist Party, James Madison. Instead of responding to British impressments of US seamen with like writs of marque, or steady growth of the warfleet, the Party of Hamilton launched a territorial conquest of Canada. The ultimate victims were tradesmen of Boston, who were forced disproportionately to finance the war, nearly bankrupting Massachussets. The Hartford and Crittenden Resolutions ensued, which were as close to a disapproval of the federal government as you could get — without secession. Sound familiar.

As for Trump, he is emerging as a Bismarckian genius. He simultaneously advocates talking to Kim Jong Un, while condoning nuclear arming of Japan. Such thinking, not the creeping globalist security state, is closest to understanding the fractious stability of foreign affairs. Divide and conquer, the flattering of smaller states, and tolerance of ambiguous thinking about alliances is as old as Macchiavelli — and not the instrument of permanent war and tyranny. Macchiavelli, in numerous writings beyond “The Prince” foreshadowed the preservation and advancement of republican principles against unbridled use of force.

Old Niccollo himself argued that smaller states (read North Korea) were always in need of protection against larger more invasive ones; but that the niceties of remembering to stick up for potential allies means that such potentates will remember you when you are in need. Endless and formulaic military expansion without regard to changing circumstances and potential lessening of hostilities on the other hand, leads to aggrandizement of brutality and self interest.

Imagine Dennis Rodman with a world view!

#17 Comment By oldlib On May 19, 2016 @ 7:16 pm

Some points I’d like to make:
There’s no difference between a liberal interventionist and a neocon. It’s clear from Nuland’s statements that Ukraine was just a pawn, freedom or lack thereof unimportant as long as we were sticking a finger in Putin’s eye. It’s also clear that the ironically-named General Breedlove had zero consideration for the well-being of Ukraine’s citizens who have to live and survive in a war zone of our making. Just like the fate of the Iraqi man in the street, or the Vietnamese peasant meant nothing to our policymakers in generations past.

There’s no such thing as failure for these people either. We invade/bomb on their advice, things go horribly wrong, it’s never their fault. They move on to another think tank or to the next Administration and just keep causing the same havoc.

There are fortunes being made in the war for the Middle East. Armies of DC lobbyists and thousands of Defense contractors are essentially raiding the Federal treasury unimpeded. Defense contractors contribute to the think tanks, the think tanks provide staff for Congress and the White House, and there’s no end to it, mainly because there’s no vested interest in winning.

Worst of all, the American public is willfully ignorant. We don’t know about what’s being done with our money in our names, and we don’t want to know. We’re dumb cattle happily strolling to the slaughterhouse. How big of a shock will it take to wake us up again? Or is it already too late for that?

Forget about Trump. He’s one man and he’ll go along to get along if he wants to be re-elected. If we want to stop charlatans like the Kagans, we have to do it. We have to punish the politicians who’ve sold out to this monstrosity or it’ll just go on and on. I’m not optimistic about this, needless to say.

#18 Comment By Captain P On May 19, 2016 @ 7:44 pm

In a just world Nuland would be exiled to Ukraine and have to live in the mess that she played a key role in causing.

It’ll be quite fun to see all the interventionists joining up with Hillary be left out in the cold for good under President Trump. Let them write their Washington Post op-eds instead of take part in US policy.

#19 Comment By Strelnikov On May 19, 2016 @ 7:47 pm

I’m sorry, but all the signs are Putin punked her. Yanukovich had pretty well stolen all there was to steal, Kiev owed tons of money to Moscow, Putin hated the idea of Crimea as non-Russian, and he wanted to exploit fractures in the NATO alliance.

Today, he owns Crimea, as much as 30% of any aid to Kiev gets paid to Moscow to service the debt, even with falling gas prices he gets more money from Kiev for energy than he did, and NATO and especially the IMF own it all, while the US is pressuring its unhappy allies to increase defense spending they can’t afford.

Does it occur to anyone that Nuland and co. are really, really bad at the strategy thing?

#20 Comment By John S On May 20, 2016 @ 7:36 am

This narrative of events in Ukraine simply does not match up with the facts–almost humorously so with the suggestion that the US was on the threshold of a nuclear confrontation with Russia. Jump the shark much?

#21 Comment By druid55 On May 20, 2016 @ 11:52 am

Look for Debbie Wasserman Schultz to be there as well. This will add to my night-terrors!

#22 Comment By Junior On May 20, 2016 @ 12:40 pm

Great article!

Now that the GOP electorate has rejected them, the NeoCons are scurrying over to hide underneath the Democrats shadow like roaches when the lights come on. There is no doubt that Hillary would put Nuland in her cabinet and this alone should be enough for anyone with a soul in their body to have reason not to vote for her. Hillary is a war-mongerer that will put the NeoCons, like Nuland, back in charge of our foreign policy.

Here is a clip of a reporter, Matt Lee, exposing Nuland for the vile immoral hypocrite that she is. Please note how Nuland laughs and thinks her lack of morals is funny. If only we had more REAL Journalists like Matt Lee.

#23 Comment By Eileen Kuch On May 20, 2016 @ 7:53 pm

As Fran McAdam said, I doubt the US Administration would ever tolerate a foreign govt’s interference in US internal affairs and the ousting of its administration; and she’s 100% correct.
So, what right did the USG have to do the same with Ukraine under Viktor Yanukovych? None at all. Since the end of WWII, the USG has overthrown foreign govts it didn’t like. The Eisenhower regime ousted the democratically elected govt of Mossadegh in Iran; and several more such coups were orchestrated through the years .. the worst being that of the Allende govt in Chile, in which Allende was assassinated and replaced by one of the worst tyrannical regimes under Augusto Pinochet.
The ouster of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych has brought about the secessions of the Crimea and the Donbass from Ukraine and the reunion of Crimea with Russia and the loss of Donbass (now Novorossiya).
The intervention of Russia by invitation from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has prevented Assad’s own ouster; and, instead, strengthened his govt and sent Daesh extremists scurrying into neighboring Iraq and Turkey.

#24 Comment By Edward Jones On May 21, 2016 @ 1:35 am

God help us…

#25 Comment By Joe Lauria On May 21, 2016 @ 3:58 am

Excellent piece Phil. What an absolutely frightening thought: Nuland as Secretary of State.

#26 Comment By GPC On May 21, 2016 @ 5:12 am

Nuland should be watching for Russian ICBM & SLBM coming over her head. Perhaps she has already reserve a place in one of the deep underground shelter but still she needs to get there on time to enjoy the protection. She keeps laughing at Russia and has the audacity to visit Moscow to meet some “friends.”

As night follows day, the Russian will strike.

#27 Comment By Helen Marshall On May 21, 2016 @ 2:38 pm

Nuland actually began her rise to power in working for Bill Clinton’s #2 at State, Strobe Talbot, and she used that position to be excused from normal Foreign Service rules. It was obvious over 20 years ago that she was a ruthless self-promoter. (From a retired FSO who has followed her career with horror.)

#28 Comment By Philip Giraldi On May 23, 2016 @ 7:11 am

Just read a piece on what Robert Kagan is currently involved in:


#29 Comment By Archie1954 On August 17, 2016 @ 4:49 pm

Nuland’s undue influence in American belligerent foreign policy, points to major deception on the part of President Obama. He pretends to be the Nobel Peace Prize winner when, in fact, he is as bad as his predecessor but more clandestine about it. What I can’t understand though, is the timidity of European leaders. In the days of President De Gaulle for instance, Nuland would have become instantaneous persona non grata in the EU after her dirty language episode.