European Union

US Senior Diplomat: "Fuck the EU"


Credit: Voice of America/wikimedia

Yesterday, a telephone conversation between Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland and U.S Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt was leaked on Youtube. In the conversation, Nuland and Pyatt discuss particular opposition leaders and the role of international bodies in resolving the ongoing crisis in Ukraine.

A Russian official has denied that he or the Russian government had anything to do with leaking the recording, although he did say that he posted the video after finding it on a social media site.

At the beginning of the call Nuland and Pyatt discuss opposition leaders Vitaly Klitschko, Arseniy Yatseniuk, and Oleh Tyahnybok. Nuland says that she does not think that Klitschko should be part of the government.

The next section of the call, in which Pyatt and Nuland discuss the United Nations and the European Union, is what has been making headlines (transcript from the BBC):

Nuland: OK… one more wrinkle for you Geoff. [A click can be heard] I can't remember if I told you this, or if I only told Washington this, that when I talked to Jeff Feltman [United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs] this morning, he had a new name for the UN guy Robert Serry did I write you that this morning?

Pyatt: Yeah I saw that.

Nuland: OK. He's now gotten both Serry and [UN Secretary General] Ban Ki-moon to agree that Serry could come in Monday or Tuesday. So that would be great, I think, to help glue this thing and to have the UN help glue it and, you know, Fuck the EU.

Nuland has apologized for the comment, and speaking about the recording said that "the tradecraft was really quite impressive." Understandably, Nuland's blunt assessment of how useful the E.U. will be in a solution to the crisis in Ukraine has upset at least one already irritated U.S. ally.

Credit: ??????? ??????/wikimedia

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has been critical of the NSA's behavior in the wake of Edward Snowden's revelations and whose phone was reportedly tapped by the intelligence agency, has condemned Nuland's comment.

While obviously crudely put and diplomatically embarrassing, Nuland's frustrations relating to the E.U.'s diplomatic influence is understandable. The protests in Ukraine began after the government there decided not to sign a trade deal with the E.U. that some think would have hurt the Russian economy. As the BBC's Jonathan Marcus notes:

Not for the first time in an international crisis, the US expresses frustration at the EU's efforts. Washington and Brussels have not been completely in step during the Ukraine crisis. The EU is divided and to some extent hesitant about picking a fight with Moscow. It certainly cannot win a short-term battle for Ukraine's affections with Moscow—it just does not have the cash inducements available. The EU has sought to play a longer game; banking on its attraction over time. But the US clearly is determined to take a much more activist role.

Moscow has been openly critical of the E.U.'s role during the crisis in Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin has criticized the E.U.'s diplomacy in Ukraine, and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said earlier this month that E.U. politicians were encouraging violent protests.

NEXT: Winter Storms Blamed for Low Obamacare Enrollment

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Can’t anybody have a private phone conversation anymore?

    1. No. Obama’s handling of the NSA has made this sort of thing entirely legitimate.

  2. Look, Europe can be annoying, but the fact is that we’re more allies than not. Might be a good idea not to shit on that too much. This administration is doing worse in that regard than the last, which is one of the few things that’s surprised me. I figured Obama and his team would be Europhiles, getting cozy and friendly. Nope.

    1. True, but I distinguish between Europe and the buraucratic entity known as the European Union.

      1. As do I, but I can say “Fuck the EU,” because I’m not one of these highly trained and highly professional diplomats, see.

        Oh, wait, I see the flaw in my argument.

        1. I used to hang out with ‘Diplomats’.

          My ex-GF first was a student, then worked for SIPA (the School of International Public Affairs) @ Columbia, which is like #2 on the list of places you need to go if you want to work for/with the UN. (#1 is Gtown)

          In public, they speak Diplomat. Which is a bullshit hodgepodge of neutral sounding terms and passive-voice rhetoric. In private, they’re like the cattiest group of bitchy teenage girls ever assembled outside of the San Fernando valley.

          Honestly Pro L, I think the term “Fuck the E.U.” has probably been used a million times since the organization came into existence, and in most cases with good cause.

          The E.U. has been losing its position as the center of international diplomacy steadily ever since the end of WWII, and even faster after the fall of the Berlin wall and the emergence of China. They act as though they swing far more weight than they do and the only reason any other nations pretend to take them seriously is out of generosity. Do they matter? In some things, sure. But every now and then the stage props are going to show and its going to become obvious they aren’t seated at the Big Boys table even though they act like they are.

          Helping resolve the Ukraine issue is some serious shit. What do they offer? Apparently they don’t want to get into a bidding war, nor do they want to back their support for democracy with any implicit security guarantees. color me unsurprised no on is impressed.

          1. The E.U. has been losing its position as the center of international diplomacy steadily ever since the end of WWII


            1. I don’t mean “the EU” there as much but rather the agglomeration of major European powers.

              while they’ve dominated the UN since the end of WWII, the loss of European colonial territories and subsequent emergence of these territories as significant independent economic powers in the world has steadily eroded their significance. Add to that the fecklessness of NATO as a military body or the historical failures of UN troops in ‘enforcing peace’ anywhere in the world, and you’ve got left ‘all mouth and no trousers’ as the English say. This particular episode in Ukraine highlights exactly that.

              1. Sure, Europe is a pain in the ass, and private conversations probably involve eye-rolling and “Fuck the EUs” all the time. But you’d think a good diplomat would take extra care in this era to not be heard saying such things. In public at all or on unsecure lines.

                1. No, a fucking awesome diplomat would do that.

    2. I shit on your notion. Bitch.

  3. I don’t see the problem.

  4. HIT & RUN BLOG RSS US Senior Diplomat: “Fuck the EU”

    We need more diplomats like that!

  5. The EU really isn’t all that, as Greeks and Spaniards will be quick to tell you. Russia can actually claim a growing middle class.

    1. The fact that Russia has a growing middle-class is pretty meaningless in the context of former communist states. Putin, for all his thuggery and fascism really can’t go wrong in the economy department considering the starting point. It’s impossible to measure wealth that was never produced.

      1. Sure, but it has much growth potential ahead of it, even as the EU struggles to explain what’s gone wrong with its own supposedly mature system.

  6. It seems in this case, the US is bitching because the EU isn’t being interventionist and meddlesome enough.

    Familiar tone. Lather, rinse, repeat.

  7. Fuck the EU.

    My initial reaction was “hell yeah”. But then I remembered this is an Obama crony, so I knew the real story would have an unhappy ending.

  8. Which position?

  9. Nuland says that she does not think that Klitschko should be part of the government.

    Which matters to whom, and for what reason?

    1. This isn’t about some bullshit uninhabited islands in the south china sea – this is about the future of one of the largest countries technically in the European ‘continent’ with vast material resources and with a long history of being push-pulled between competing interests in the region. Whether they be subsumed back into the Russian sphere, or they attain independent status and develop more lasting long term ties to the west, is of significant concern to anyone with economic or security interests in the region.

      Meaning, this is one of those cases where Almost Everyone Cares.

      1. Yeah, I really enjoyed hearing foreigners say the same about George Bush in the 2Ks accompanied by the idea they should get a say in our elections because of our significance in the world.

      2. “is of significant concern to anyone with economic or security interests in the region”

        So, nobody who isn’t a total twat.

        1. Libertarians aren’t really famous for their foreign policy nuance.

          1. That said, rejoice, Comrades:

            Americans are tilting more libertarian on foreign policy


            feel free to make any comparisons to US public sentiment following Spanish American War/WWI you want.

            I think it has much more to do with the air coming completely out of the post-cold war bubble where the US basically felt that we could establish global hegemony and reform national relations to our advantage in perpetuity, and utilize military force in a more ‘scientific’ manner…

            yeah, not so much.

            ‘Clash of Civilizations’ is still a very good book, fwiw.

      3. Okay, how about I put it a different way. How the hell is who’s in their government anyone’s business but the Ukrainians?

        1. You will note that the Ukrainians themselves are having some problems with that business.

          or, as the Invisible Finger put it, ‘why don’t just have their civil war already’?

          If diplomats express preferences for certain people, its because they want to get parties on either sides of a table who will ‘do business’ fairly and play nice. Some people obviously will get a fish-eye because they are seen as party-poopers.

          This may be seen as ‘meddling’ and ‘interventionist’ on a certain level, and perhaps it is.

          unless of course, you think a civil war *IS* in our and our allies interests.

          In which case you can then sometimes ‘meddle’ by doing absolutely nothing. Which is simply another way of saying, ‘we have no issues with Russian meddling in Ukranian affairs’.

          Its not pretty stuff, this ‘diplomacy’.

          1. “In which case you can then sometimes ‘meddle’ by doing absolutely nothing.”

            Tony? That you?

            1. har har.

              I think if you start overgeneralizing an idea to the point where you fail to distinguish differences in application of principles in domestic economics/civil liberties versus ‘international relations’ writ large, then the idea ceases to have any particular meaning at all.

              i.e. ‘non-interventionism’ is something of a canard unless you also control the ‘non-intervention’ of all interested parties. It seems to function under the idea that our “national interests” or those of our allies somehow exist on a plane independent of the actions of others. If you want to make a case there are ZERO interests at stake in the Ukraine, that is an argument that I think should be made. But I think the case that ‘Doing nothing’ is the default ‘best stance’ to take on anything is simply willful denial of geopolitics writ large.

              As I pointed out = American “independence” did not occur in a bubble. And arguably, nothing ever does.

            2. by the way, DR&S = your quote of me makes a lot more sense when you include the second part, “Which is simply another way of saying, ‘we [should] have no issues with Russian meddling in Ukranian affairs’.”

              If you feel that way, take that position and say why.

              But saying that ‘doing nothing’/aka ‘non-participation’ is somehow “a default behavior which always serves our and others best interests”, and just expecting that to be taken as ‘granted’, verges on insane.

              Unless you have some kind of thesis explicating the wondrous virtues of International Stoic Inaction as demonstrated throughout history?

              The US experienced a real golden age of ‘independence from foreign affairs’…for what, about 1784-1811? It all went downhill after that I guess…

          2. But, all this presumes we have to pick a side. Why? Why is it you think that one side or the other will inevitably give us the fish-eye? Couldn’t have anything to do with the fact that we backed the other guys, could it? And, honestly, a U.S. position of being willing to do business with whoever lands in power might very well lower the stakes enough to let everybody walk back.

            1. “Bill Dalasio|2.7.14 @ 3:09PM|#

              But, all this presumes we have to pick a side. Why?”

              It depends on the situation, which is exactly the reason that “non-interventionism” is unworkable as a ‘broad principle’, and probably far betterconsidered as a guideline unless events dictate otherwise.

              in the case of the Ukraine =


              the short of it is that they’ve been systematically undermined by the Russians since their independence, with the aim of subsuming them back into their economic control. In general I’d argue that it is in US/EU interests to help the Ukraine maintain independence and become a more transparent and legit democratic republic.

              I also don’t think we have fuck-all to lose trying, either. So why not? the fact that citizens are out on the street protesting for their own political independence is something I’d probably support on a philosophical level as well, although when it comes down to it, I think realpolitik tends to trump that.

              1. If I have to pay for one “diplomat’s” or socialite’s bar tab because Ukraine can’t handle its own shit, that is too much intervention.

              2. Yeah, let’s pick a side. Our diplomats can then taunt the opposing side until they give in. But let’s leave it at taunting, OK?

      4. Well, the let the f*cking EU deal with it. Let them send troops there. Let them pay and die for fixing whatever is wrong in one of the largest countries technically in the European ‘continent'”. It’s not our business. We don’t need the oil and we aren’t threatened by it.

        Our interest in the Ukraine is indirect: we don’t want our trading partner, Europe, to go to hell in a handbasket. But ultimately, that’s their decision to make, not ours; we can keep investing trillions trying to save them from their own stupidity, but we are not getting a good ROI.

  10. Speaking of other things to dismiss as completely useless self serving idiots =

    Pussy Riot Goes Mainstream = Journalist Realizes How Fucking Dumb Everyone Is…..mainstream

    Because painting a dick on a bridge doesn’t make you Michael Collins.

    1. I tried to comment there but I couldn’t sign in. I wanted to ask if anyone said a single word about repression of Bahrain’s Shi’ite majority by that country’s monarchy, which seems to me like a much bigger injustice than how vandalism and trespassing are handled by the Russian judiciary.

      1. You’re joking, right?

        ‘Injustice’ is much more of a popularity contest than strict-fact-based issue.

        Persecution of Shi’ites by our Arab Sunni ‘allies’ isn’t really de rigeur as a weep-moan issue in the Western World.

        For a while it was Women in Afghanistan. Then they realized that was a sure loser, so they’ve dumped that in favor of gays in Russia. Soon they’ll be back to Tibet or something. But never say, any complaining about the persecution of Uighurs. They stick to *popular* injustices. But only long enough to have a concert or two.

        1. I know all that, but these questions are worth asking whenever the new cause celebre has a pop culture moment, if for no other reason than to get people to think once in a while. There’s no shortage of issues to press them on, such as pre-1949 Tibetan feudalism, Uighur separatist violence, you name it.

  11. Ukraine should probably be split into two anyway. Why pick sides in a badly-needed civil war?

  12. “Earlier in the night, I conducted a little survey on the red carpet of the night’s stars. I asked them what they considered the most pressing human rights issue of the day. Debbie Harry shrugged, helplessly shook her head, and walked away. Isaac Slade of the pop-rock band The Fray delivered a lengthy answer about human trafficking, citing statistics and what seemed like a genuine interest in the topic. The very fidgety Wayne Coyne first asked me what Foreign Policy does and why I was at the concert. He then went on a slightly incomprehensible diatribe about how everyone should be able to do what they want, ending his rant by emphasizing the importance of legalizing marijuana. And then there was Colbie Caillat, the bizarrely tan pop sensation, who when asked about Pussy Riot answered that she “just learned about them.” “

    This reminds me in particular of a ‘Burlesque Performance Opposing the Iraq War” I attended in Williamsburg.

    I finally got one guy to admit that he’d 100% pretend to support the Invasion of Iraq if it ALSO meant Free Beer and Chicks Stripping for $5. We discussed potentially promoting such an event, until he insightfully offered, ‘Yeah, but the only chicks who’ll take off their clothes for like, Deep Irony? aren’t as hot as these. Tough sell, you know?’

  13. Fuck the EU, the UN, the Beastie Boys, and the Dolly Llama.

    1. Fuck the … Dolly Llama.

      What do you have against dressed-up alpacas?

  14. The very fidgety Wayne Coyne first asked me what Foreign Policy does and why I was at the concert. He then went on a slightly incomprehensible diatribe about how everyone should be able to do what they want, ending his rant by emphasizing the importance of legalizing marijuana.

    “Fine, thanks. I’ll just go ahead and put you down as libertarian, okay?”

    1. I like the Flaming Lips, but the last time I saw them was a couple years back at Centennial Olympic Park near downtown Atlanta at an all day music fest. FL was the last act. I don’t know if Wayne had been sitting around drinking or if he’s always that way, but damn did he say “fuck” a fucking lot. Which is fine, but there are housing high-rises all around the park which were full of people who had not paid to hear Wayne curse through giant speakers.

      Apparently he Did not Realize.

  15. To add to the “Fuck the E.U.”-awesome-classy-moments-in-diplomacy list

    I give you =

    “US/Russia Twitter Battles Over Pussy Riot!”…..ef=edition

    btw, I can totally see a thought bubble over Samantha Powers head reading, ‘Jesus, I traded Harvard for *this shit*?’

    “Philippines to China = You Stupid Like Hitler!
    “China to Philippines = You Are Historically Ignorant People Who Eat Dogs!”…..ef=edition

    Don’t worry = the very-polite insults being passed by Diplomats are NOTHING compared to what Asian commenters will say about each other. There is nothing more hilarious than a ‘who’s got a bigger dick contest’…between Asians. Yes, I went there. The most prevalent comment seems to be the Chinese offering, “YOU, Filippino, your monkey mother cleans my laundry!”. Which is maybe ironic from an American POV. Get it? Chinese? Laundry? Oh yeah.

  16. Ah, the irony and hypocrisy of all this is delicious: Obama, who wanted to restore relations with the rest of the world and getting the Nobel peace prize from Europe, failing so badly diplomatically; and Merkel, who gets all huffy about spying on diplomats, using the results of spying on US diplomats to make a big political point.

  17. Great T-shirt for my next visit to Europe:




Please to post comments

Comments are closed.