US Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and US Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt were caught in a phone conversation leaked yesterday actively plotting over which of the Ukrainian opposition figures should take which position in a post-coup Ukraine government. In the call, they were furious that the EU was not as quick to move from words to action as the US, and decided to bring in the UN to "glue" the "deal" together instead.
This is a major international scandal, and the implications of this clear evidence of direct US involvement in civil unrest in Ukraine are much more serious than most in the US and EU realize. As is to be expected, however, the US mainstream press is focused not on this evidence of extreme US recklessness and deception, but rather on whether the Russians leaked the call or not. They are ignoring the real core of the scandal to focus on salacious aspects, real or imagined.
Caught red-handed actively planning and manipulating internal politics and acting as if Ukrainian opposition politicians were literally US agents to be ordered into this position or that in a new government, the US State Department behaved as a child with his hand discovered in the cookie jar.
Witness the truly breathtaking performance by US State Department Spokesperson Jan Psaki today at a daily press briefing (and kudos to some of the journalists there who seem to be tuned in to the seriousness of this affair):
Q. Does not the fact that U.S. diplomats purportedly are discussing who should and should not be in the Ukrainian government hint at some possibility of U.S. interference here?The entire exchange must be watched to be believed. Even then the brazenness of the lies is unbelievable.
Absolutely not... It's up to the people of Ukraine, including officials from both sides, to determine the path forward. But it shouldn't be a surprise that there are discussions about events on the ground.
Q. This is more than discussions, though. This was two top U.S. officials that are on the ground discussing a plan that they have to broker a future government and bringing officials from the U.N. to kind of seal the deal. This is more than the U.S. trying to make suggestions. This is the U.S. midwifing the process.
: Well, Elise, you're talking about a private diplomatic conversation.... Of course these things are being discussed. It doesn't change the fact that it's up to the people on the ground. It is up to the people of Ukraine to determine what the path forward it.
: But I'm sorry, if you're saying privately behind the scenes that you're cooking up a deal, and then you're saying publicly that this is up for Ukrainians to decide, those are two totally different things. I understand that diplomatic discussions are sensitive and you don't want everything to come out, but those are two totally different -- totally different positions.
The US government has repeatedly denied and even ridiculed Russian suggestions that the US is playing an active role in the unrest in Ukraine. The tape erases any excuse they might have been able to field.
Here is where things get serious. Sergei Glazyev, advisor to Russian president Putin claimed today that the US was spending $20 million per week on the Ukrainian opposition, including supplying opposition with training and weapons. It is clear from recent photographs that street gangs are more organized and better equipped each day.
As Glazyev pointed out, this direct US involvement would be in violation of the Memorandum on Security Assurances, signed by both Russia and the United States in 1994. In the document, both sides agreed "to respect the Independence and Sovereignty and the existing borders of Ukraine."
Glazyev suggested that this evidence of US violation of the Memorandum may induce Russia to also intervene in the situation.
If it was in fact Russia that acquired this recording and decided to leak it, this is likely the most direct public warning to the United States government that it is treading on a serious red line, risking a conflict of perhaps unimaginable seriousness over what is on the surface a relatively minor trade agreement between Kiev and Brussels.
The US government is far too used to giving the orders and demanding they be heeded to listen to this carefully timed, carefully crafted warning. This is not another example of Putin offering a face-saving solution to the near-disaster of a US attack on Syria this past summer.
We do not make predictions here, but let us not rule out the possibility of some very quick and significant happenings on Ukraine. February 6, 2014 may be a date for the history books.