The United States increases pressure on Ukraine while preparing sanctions against the country. It sends a high-level State Department official to visit the country only a month after her previous visit. US Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland is going to Kiev on Thursday, February 6. The event is coordinated with the European partners. EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton will also visit Ukraine on February 5.
According to US State Department’s statement, in Kiev the Assistant Secretary will meet with government officials, opposition leaders, civil society and business leaders “to encourage agreement on a new government and plan of action that can put Ukraine back on track toward fulfilling the aspirations of the Ukrainian people for democracy, respect for human rights, European integration and economic growth.” It means the US is to lend a helping hand only to the Ukrainians who want to associate with the EU. Those who don’t should be looking for support somewhere else. No taking sides and meddling, of course. That’s how democracy and impartiality are interpreted by the State Department.
The visit is taking place against the background of announcements from the White House that the US is reportedly readying financial sanctions that could be levied against Ukrainian government officials and opposition leaders. U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden has made at least three phone calls in recent weeks to press Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych to accept forming a government akin to Western interests.
Victoria Nuland — an instrument of brazen interference
Victoria Nuland is a dry-behind-the-ears career diplomat with experience holding senior positions in the George W. Bush and Obama administrations. She also has served as a foreign policy adviser to former Republican Vice President Dick Cheney and then as US ambassador to NATO. Mrs. Nuland is married to well-known conservative foreign policy pundit Robert Kagan who pushed for the Iraq war. He has always spoken unfavorably about Russia and wants the administration to get tough on Ukraine. Some people call him a neocon.
The Assistant Secretary was under fire, accused of lying to the American people as State Department spokesperson. She allegedly persuaded more senior officials to delete information on at least five attacks against foreign interests in Libya by unidentified assailants. Some Republicans said at the confirmation hearings in July 2013 that she helped State Department superiors water down the now-infamous talking points used by the administration to inform Americans about the attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi.
The issue was raised during a Senate Committee on Foreign Relations hearing on the nomination to become assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian Affairs. Questions were asked about the role she played in shaping the administration’s unwillingness to characterize the attacks as a premeditated act of terrorism, especially about a series of emails she wrote three days after the attacks in which she claimed her “building leadership” had “issues” with talking points about Benghazi that the administration was drafting. An initial version of the talking points had made references to al Qaeda and to “at least five other attacks” on foreign interests that had occurred in Benghazi prior to attacks that killed U.S. Ambassador Stevens and three other Americans. But, following Mrs. Nuland’s input, those references were removed from a final version the White House gave to former UN Ambassador S. Rice for making a reference on several news talk shows.
As a result Susan Rice made no mention of Al Qaeda or terrorists on the talk shows, and instead said the Benghazi attacks had grown out of a spontaneous protest against an anti-Islam video. Republicans had for months insinuated that the talking points were watered down as part of a White House strategy to downplay the possibility that a U.S. ambassador was killed on Mr. Obama’s watch in a terrorist attack. The strategy’s goal, the argument goes, was to protect Mr. Obama’s national security record in the midst of hotly contested presidential campaign. As a result, Republicans claim the talking points were cleansed by senior officials. “At no point,” said Nuland, “did I talk about the talking points with Secretary Clinton.”
“There are still some things that need to be known,” said Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. Paul told the Associated Press he hoped to learn at the confirmation hearing whether weapons the assailants used in the Sept. 11 Benghazi attack had any connection to U.S. intelligence operations in Libya or Syria. He said, “Nuland was Hillary Clinton’s spokeswoman and I’m guessing she was in the room for a lot of conversations.” Back then she received ardent support from…nobody else but leading neocons: Republican Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.
Finger in every pie
During her December 2013 visit to Ukraine, US diplomat Nuland officially endorsed and encouraged protesters in Maidan square, including the National Socialist Svoboda party’s protesters who honor former Ukrainian SS troops who carried out massacres in the country as “liberators.” She hit the pages of world media outlets by handing-out of buns and cookies to protesters becoming a graphic illustration of the US “policy of non-interference.” An odd bit of American largesse. She went to meet demonstrators before meeting the head of state to teach him on the ways to deal with the opposition. The interference was outright and ostentatious, but that’s the way Victoria Nuland promotes foreign policy goals. As confirmation of US neutrality, Senator McCain followed Nuland to Maidan Square.
A couple of days later after her Maidan adventures, Mrs. Nuland addressed the “Ukraine in Washington 2013” conference. She shared her personal impressions after the visit, while never saying a word about the violence or seizures of administrative buildings — something the whole world was talking about as the events clearly turned into the wrong direction. The presidential residence was attacked on December 1, but the Assistant Secretary never even mentioned the fact. A good example of State Department officials’ impartiality.
When Ukrainian President Victor Yanukovych told the EU of his decision not to sign the association agreement last November, Victoria Nuland’s spokesperson issued the following statement: “We continue to support the aspirations of the Ukrainian people to achieve a prosperous European democracy. European integration is the surest course to economic growth and strengthening Ukraine’s democracy” — an ostentatious and egregious intervention to embolden the opposition on the side of the protesters the opposition. She did it again on December 5 after her meeting Vitaly Klitschko in Kiev, “There should be no doubt about where the United States stands on this. We stand with the people of Ukraine who see their future in Europe…”
On January 15, after attacking Russia for granting a vital $15 billion bond purchase to help stabilize Ukraine, Nuland all but outlined the plan to intervene in Ukraine by telling the US Senate, “the use of violence and acts of repression carried out by government security forces and their surrogates have compelled us to make clear publicly and privately to the government of Ukraine that we will consider a broad range of tools at our disposal if those in positions of authority in Ukraine employ or encourage violence against their own citizens.”
She went on: “We call on him to make it credible through concrete actions to restore government accountability, rule of law and engagement with Europe and the IMF.” Then, referencing the planned 2015 national Ukraine elections, she added, “US pre-election assistance to Ukraine likely will include programs to support citizen oversight of the campaign environment and the conduct of the elections, independent media coverage and informed civic awareness and participation.” Anybody asked the US to do that? And finally, “The State Department and USAID are reviewing how best to support Ukrainian civil society and media.” She means the very USAID that is notorious for being a cover for CIA operations abroad.
Bride at every wedding
There had been other instances of Mrs. Nuland unique ability to behave like a bull in a china shop dealing with international issues. She is known in Russia for that. In March last year she said the spot-checks on NGOs in Russia was some kind of witch hunt, “The sheer scope of these inspections, which target not just NGOs but also civil organizations like religious and educational institutions… really gives us concern that this is some kind of a witch hunt.” Nuland added “we are providing funding through platforms outside of Russia for those organizations that continue to want to work with us, understanding that they have to report that work now to their own government.”
Back then the Russia’s Foreign Ministry condemned the US over its plan to continue financing certain Russian NGOs. Moscow has accused Washington of meddling in its domestic affairs. “We consider the statement by the US State Department official representative Victoria Nuland, saying the US is going to continue financing some of Russia’s NGOs through intermediaries in third countries, avoiding the Russian legislature, a blatant interference into our internal affairs,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Alexander Lukashevich said in a statement.
In August 2012 she could not but meddle into the Pussy Riot case. As U.S. State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland issued a brief response to the sentence: “The United States is concerned about both the verdict and the disproportionate sentences handed down by a Moscow court in the case against the members of the band Pussy Riot and the negative impact on freedom of expression in Russia,” she said. “We urge Russian authorities to review this case and ensure that the right to freedom of expression is upheld.” Mrs. Nuland failed to understand that Russia’s authorities cannot override court rulings.
One more deed of Mrs. Assistant Secretary is to be recalled. After the presidential election in Russia was over, the United States congratulated the Russian people on the completion of the presidential election, but hesitated to congratulate Vladimir Putin personally. “The United States congratulates the Russian people on the completion of the presidential elections, and looks forward to working with the president-elect after the results are certified and he is sworn in,” read the statement issued by then State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland.
As one can see for oneself Mrs. Nuland has her finger in every pie, the Assistant Secretary is the bride at every wedding, the corpse at every funeral. The examples mentioned above raise the question if she is the right person to deal with Russia, Ukraine and other states of the region having this kind of reputation. After all the art of flagrant interference has little to do with the art of real diplomacy expected from someone holding the position of US Assistant Secretary of State.
Reprinted with permission from the Strategic Culture Foundation.