It was the “F-Bomb” heard ‘round the world.
Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland was secretly recorded during a private telephone conversation with the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt in which she remarked “Fuck the E.U.” Though she downplayed the gaffe, noting the Russian-leaked call concerning Ukrainian unrest “was pretty impressive tradecraft, the audio was extremely clear,” the incident speaks volumes about President Barack Obama’s senior foreign policy team.
By the way, we are talking about the same Victoria Nuland who, as the State Department’s chief spokeswoman, was a key figure in the 12 revisions of interagency talking points on Benghazi in which references to Al Qaeda and CIA warnings about the terror threat were deleted.
Based on this latest incident, let’s examine the Top 5 insights into the Obama Foreign Policy Team:
It punishes allies – Though the EU overlaps near identically with the 28-member North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), our strongest military alliance since 1949, Ms. Nuland didn’t hesitate to trash it. Moreover, the U.S.-EU are in the midst of negotiating the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) which would form the world’s largest trading block and boost economies on both sides of the Atlantic. No matter, she put the talks at risk through bashing the EU’s predictably slow response to the pro-EU protests rocking the Ukraine.
It rewards adversaries – Team Obama is rewarding Russia by helping to thwart central elements of the anti-Moscow opposition. Ukraine’s mass protests were caused by Vladimir Putin’s strongarm attempt to kill Ukraine’s efforts to join the EU, through granting a $15 billion loan and cutting energy prices. The Nuland-Pyatt phone call discussed strategies to resolve the unrest, pitting the Ukrainian-speaking pro-EU northwest half of the Ukraine, with the Russian-speaking pro-Moscow southeast that could split the country in two. Nuland schemed about sidelining former heavyweight boxing champion Vitali Klitschko, the leader of the pro-E.U. UDAR opposition party, from the Deputy Prime Minister’s spot which had been offered as a compromise by pro-Russian Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. As Klitschko is one of the Ukraine’s most popular figures and strongly pro-business, he could deliver a better policy for his nation through free markets, creating jobs and cracking down on rampant corruption that have made the Ukraine and Russia de facto mafia states. Yet Nuland-Pyatt would rather help Russia by knocking him out.
It is sloppy – Dropping the “F-Bomb” on a telephone call is not uncommon for Americans. Yet most Americans aren’t having their telephone conversations recorded by Russian agents, which might be reasonably expected by senior U.S. diplomats overseas. That is why diplomats and military officials have encrypted telephone lines and computers for sensitive communications. Ambassadors Nuland and Pyatt should not have discussed such topics on an open phone line. Talk about tradecraft, any entry level diplomat or military officer knows that.
It is crass – German Chancellor Angela Merkel was exactly right when she called Ms. Nuland’s remarks, “completely unacceptable.” If revelations that Ms. Merkel was spied upon by the NSA weren’t bad enough, now we have America’s top diplomat in Europe using vulgar language to demean the EU, modern Germany’s pride and joy. When I served as a Pentagon spokesman in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, profanity was severely frowned upon. It’s why I still use the word “flip.” Simply put, it was shocking to hear Ms. Nuland utter such words.
It is arrogant – Ms. Nuland’s insult to the 28-member European Union (E.U.) was about as demeaning and arrogant as it gets. It’s illuminating to see the true colors of senior officials who purport their brand of diplomacy as morally and intellectually superior to their predecessors. Then again, considering that notoriously smug Secretary John Kerry and former Secretary Hillary Clinton have run the State Department, perhaps this is no surprise.
So while one “F-Bomb” on a phone call might be dismissed by some as trivial, when we scratch just a couple layers below the surface, all Americans – and Europeans ought to be alarmed by the mindset and circumstances surrounding this incident. We deserve better from the White House and senior foreign policy team. They must be held accountable for how they govern in our name.
J.D. Gordon is a retired Navy Commander and former Pentagon spokesman who served in the Office of the Secretary of Defense from 2005-2009. He is a Senior Adviser to several think tanks based in Washington, DC.