Victoria Nuland, a high ranking diplomat in the United States State Department, dropped an “F-Bomb” on the European Union (EU) recently, criticizing their inability to resolve the political crisis in the Ukraine. A recording of a telephone call between Nuland and U.S. Ambassador to the Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt was made public and in this recording Nuland can be heard saying “F*** the EU” in an exchange with Pyatt regarding the Ukraine situation and the EU’s involvement there.
The exchange was immediately condemned by European allies with German Chancellor Angela Merkel leading the criticism. Merkel called the comments by Nuland “absolutely unacceptable” and went on to praise the involvement of EU diplomats in the Ukrainian crisis. Germany has had one of the most stable economies throughout the recent financial crisis and has become one of the leading voices in terms of European policy. Other EU members voiced stronger criticism with Austria demanding that either Nuland step down or that ongoing free trade negotiation between the U.S. and the EU be suspended.
The U.S. response was to point the finger at Russia and accuse them of wiretapping private conversations between U.S. diplomats. Nuland herself did not deny the accuracy of the conversation when pressed, but instead called it “a new low in Russian tradecraft,” implying that the conversation was deliberately released by the Russians in order to damage U.S. credibility in the Ukraine. The U.S. already faces criticism for its involvement in the Ukraine as critics contend that the U.S. is attempting to steer its own preferred politicians into power in the country. Nuland does in fact comment on the “desirability” of different Ukrainian opposition leaders at one point during the exchange.
The accusation of Russian wiretapping was also met with some cynicism. Some world leaders found it somewhat ironic for the U.S. to be offended by Russia’s intelligence gathering when the U.S. itself has come under extreme scrutiny for recently revealed programs that have focused on questionable collection of communications of foreign leaders. World opinion at this point seems to be much more focused on U.S. meddling in the Ukraine than the potential involvement of Russian intelligence in the release of the exchange. It is Victoria Nuland’s “F-Bomb” on the EU that is the focus of world attention currently.
The official response from the EU itself has been muted. No statement from the organization has been made, although several member countries have responded as noted above. Nuland herself quickly apologized and a statement from the State Department noted the longstanding relationship between the U.S. and Europe and drew attention to the fact that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry had visited Germany just last week.
Other European media outlets were not so quick to pounce on Nuland’s gaffe. Some called it simply business as usual in reference to perceived U.S. arrogance and dismissive attitude towards its allies. Others noted that the case demonstrates the “stupidity of wiretapping” in general and that no country should participate in attempting to record foreign leaders, be it the U.S., Russia, or any other country.
There is a saying about the “language of diplomacy,” meaning that there is a certain way to speak when attempting to negotiate agreements between countries. It is doubtful that U.S. diplomat Victoria Nuland’s “F-Bomb” on the EU would qualify as the type of language that saying is referring to.
By Christopher V. Spencer