Comment: Nuland’s leaked phone call is ‘populist intelligence’
February 10, 2014 4 Comments
By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
My phone started ringing off the hook on Thursday evening, when a video appeared on YouTube containing a frank conversation between Victoria Nuland and Geoffrey Pyatt. Nuland, Assistant Secretary at the United States Department of State, and Pyatt, US Ambassador to Ukraine, were discussing US diplomatic moves on the political standoff in Ukraine. In the conversation, which was clearly meant to be private, Nuland expresses frustration with efforts by the European Union, which she deems weak and inadequate. In a shocking display of candor, Nuland tells Pyatt that the US should “help glue this thing and […] have the UN help glue it and, you know, f**k the EU”.
On Thursday night I spoke at the main news program of BBC television, where I agreed with most observers —some of the US government officials— that Russia was the obvious culprit behind the leaked conversation. The geopolitical interests of Washington and Brussels coincide almost completely when it comes to Ukraine, as both wish to detach the former Soviet republic from the Russian sphere of influence. So driving a wedge between the two allied sides is clearly to the benefit of Moscow. I added that the two American officials should have known better than to speak so frankly on the phone, given the constant monitoring of diplomatic communications by both adversary and friendly intelligence services, which is common knowledge in diplomatic circles.
More to the point, I suggested that the leaked telephone conversation should be viewed within the wider context of the revelations by Edward Snowden, the American intelligence whistleblower who has been granted political asylum by Russia. It appears to me that Moscow is attempting a populist form of intelligence-based approach, by which it tries to “name and shame” America’s perceived hypocrisy on a number of hot-button issues, such as civil liberties and the treatment of allies, including the EU. Interestingly, Moscow is trying to damage the credibility of the US by communicating directly with Western populations —something that is perhaps reminiscent of the 1960 U-2 incident, though with the added factor of social networking outlets.
The BBC presenter asked me whether I thought the revelation of Nuland’s comment would impact the alliance between the US and the EU on Ukraine. I responded that, by itself, the leaked conversation represented a momentary crisis of embarrassment, which would be overcome relatively quickly. However, in connection with the wider revelations by Edward Snowden, this latest controversy could easily snowball into a protracted crisis in the relationship between Western Europe and the US. Germany has already made its displeasure about Nuland’s comments publicly known. It remains to be seen exactly how Berlin and other European capitals will react to these revelations.