The latest wrinkle in Ukraine’s crisis doesn’t involve the government and the protesters there.
Instead, it has to do with the diplomats trying to resolve the crisis.
A leaked phone conversation between Victoria Nuland, the top U.S. diplomat for Europe, and Geoff Pyatt, the U.S. envoy to Kiev, appears to show them discussing the merits of Ukraine’s various opposition figures. In it, Nuland can also be heard using a distinctly undiplomatic phrase while describing the European Union.
Talking about the EU’s position in Ukraine, Nuland says, “F – – – the EU.”
The U.S. and the EU have both been involved in trying to settle the political turmoil in Ukraine, but haven’t been seeing eye-to-eye.
Nuland also appears to favor opposition leader Arseniy Yatsenyuk, who she says “is the guy who’s got the economic experience, the governing experience.” As for Vitali Klitschko, the boxer and opposition leader, Nuland says he’s inexperienced.
“I don’t think Klitschko should go into the government,” she says. “I don’t think it’s necessary. I don’t think it’s a good idea.”
The Associated Press notes that the audio, which was posted on YouTube, was first tweeted by an aide to Russian deputy prime minister, Dmitry Rogozin. It’s unclear how the tape was recorded.
Asked if it was authentic, White House spokesman Jay Carney would only say: “The video was first noted and tweeted out by the Russian government, I think it says something about Russia’s role.”
Those comments were echoed at the State Department, where spokeswoman Jen Psaki called it a “new low in Russian tradecraft.” Pressed if the call was authentic, she replied: “I didn’t say it was inauthentic.”
She added that Nuland had apologized to her EU counterparts for the comments.
The recording was posted on YouTube by a user called Puppets of Maidan, for the square in Kiev where anti-government protesters have gathered. As Reuters noted, the term “Puppets of Maidan” appeared intended to make Ukrainian opposition figures seem like U.S. stooges.
Russia, a key ally of the Ukrainian government, accuses the West of meddling in Ukraine’s internal affairs.
The AP quoted an unnamed State Department official as saying the audio sounds like a recording of a call that occurred last week.
Nuland was in Kiev on Thursday where she met with President Viktor Yanukovich to discuss a resolution to the protests.
Reporting on All Things Considered, NPR’s Michele Kelemen spoke to Matthew Rojansky, director of the Kennan Institute at the Wilson Center. He said the U.S. is losing credibility — in part because of the recording.
“It’s pretty clear that at least this group of U.S. officials has picked sides,” he said. “I mean putting forward candidates to serve in particular positions, talking about one option or another option … does not suggest the kind of … credibility that would be needed to play a productive role.”