fbpx
Politics Foreign Affairs Culture Fellows Program

Nuland Should Have Gone Sooner

She deserved to leave in disgrace, not retire on her own terms after being passed over for a promotion.

Screen Shot 2022-03-10 at 5.36.20 PM

I wish I could take more pleasure in Victoria Nuland’s retirement from government service, which the State Department announced today. Don’t get me wrong; I take some pleasure in it. Who could not? For more than three decades, under six presidents (but notably not Donald Trump), Nuland pushed American foreign policy in a neoconservative direction and sowed instability around the globe.

But the truth is that Nuland’s retirement probably does not signal much of an ideological shift at State. The primary motivation may well be sour grapes: Nuland was passed over for a promotion last year when China specialist Kurt Campbell was elevated to the number 2 spot under Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Nuland’s friends vented to Puck reporter Julia Ioffe about how much more qualified she was than Campbell for a gossipy piece published under the headline “Bad Blood at State.”

Advertisement

“She’s not going to work for Kurt,” an anonymous source told Puck, predicting that Nuland would resign soon after Campbell was confirmed. 

Nuland kept working to the end. She was in Kiev a month ago, a few days before President Volodymyr Zelensky sacked his top military commander, presumably either at Nuland’s behest or with her approval. Even with her eye on the exit, she remained committed to our proxy war against Russia, which was her baby from the beginning, going back to the Maidan Revolution in 2014—and before.

In the 1990s, Nuland worked in the U.S. Embassy in Moscow and then as chief of staff to Strobe Talbott, the Clinton administration’s point man on Russia policy. She was a hawk then, too. When Boris Yeltsin went to war in Chechnya in 1994 to prevent the Russian Federation from breaking apart, Nuland was among those arguing for the U.S. to do more to punish Russia for its war effort. “In Chechnya,” she told an interviewer years later, “many people were arguing inside, myself among them, that there ought to be a way to make it hurt and there needed to be a way to make it hurt.”

Her calls to punish Russia over Chechnya were not heeded, thankfully (an independent Chechnya would have been a nightmare). She had more success later. During the George W. Bush years, she worked for Vice President Dick Cheney. Her husband is Robert Kagan, the neoconservative author and pundit, and the two were touted as a neocon power couple.

Nuland’s career flourished in the Obama years under Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, but she refused to serve in Donald Trump’s administration—a ringing endorsement of Trump. Instead she spent her time boosting the Russiagate hoax. She met with Glenn Simpson of Fusion GPS in the fall of 2016 and played a role—which she later downplayed—in promoting the Steele dossier.

Nuland’s return to government service under Biden signaled that the Russia hawks were back in control after four years in exile. It would be lovely if her departure signaled a reversal. It probably doesn’t, but at least the war party will have to pursue its destructive Russia policy without its most committed and doctrinaire champion.