Nuland phone leak: When Ukraine divides old allies


Listen: The conversation was leaked online, as Mark Mardell reports

The stand-off in Ukraine is creating new tensions. The country of 46 million people finds itself in the middle, with Russia pulling from one side and the EU from the other. Some of the language being tossed between Moscow and Washington echoes the Cold War and a leaked tape reveals discord between the European Union and the US.

Firstly European officials and leaders are furious that America's new top diplomat for Europe, Victoria Nuland, was captured on tape using the f-word about the EU. In Brussels officials were coy. "If we defend ourselves," said one, "we will do it somewhere other than here." But German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the use of the word was "absolutely unacceptable". She also gave her backing to the EU's foreign policy chief, Cathy Ashton, saying she was doing an "outstanding job". The US State Department has apologised for the use of the swear word.

But the conversation between Ms Nuland and Geoff Pyatt, the US ambassador to Kiev, reveals deeper tensions between America and Europe.

The US envisages a role for the UN in trying to put together a deal that would end the crisis. Washington seems to prefer a deal brokered by the UN than Brussels. If true, that would bruise the feelings of EU officials. They believe this is their crisis to solve.

Most of the protestors want a closer relationship with the EU, so a succession of EU officials have made their way to Kiev. It has incensed the Russians who believe the EU's actions amount to "outright interference" in Ukraine's affairs.

Then there is the issue of how these remarks by Ms Nuland were made public. They were intercepted and uploaded on to YouTube with Russian captions. The State Department clearly believes the Russians were bugging their diplomats' phones. Ms Nuland herself said the recording was "pretty impressive tradecraft". Certainly the purpose of releasing it seems to have been to drive a wedge between Washington and Brussels.

But behind the accusations of bugging and dirty tricks there is an old-fashioned struggle going on for the heart of Ukraine.

A Kremlin aide has warned that Moscow might act to block what it calls US "interference" in Kiev. A key Russian figure in this drama, Sergei Glazyev, not only urged the government in Ukraine to crack down on what it called "putschists" but it accused Washington of arming and training the protesters. Ms Nuland described the claim that militants were being trained in the grounds of the US embassy in Ukraine as "pure fantasy".

She went on to describe the relationship with Russia as "very comprehensive and complex". Only a reformed Ukraine, she said, could receive financial support from the West. Nobody would give support to an unreformed Ukraine.

Today's comments and accusations are a reminder that this crisis is far from over and that it has the potential to cause division and tension even between allies.

Gavin Hewitt Article written by Gavin Hewitt Gavin Hewitt Europe editor

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  • rate this

    Comment number 319.

    #317 quietoaktree
    They'll always be guilty until proven innocent if they're British?

  • rate this

    Comment number 318.

    #316 Aquiles

    For Germany it was at a price --also building house in Russia for the returning troops. I can´t remember the details for those troops in the Baltics, but Russian citizens had a hard time when the Russian troops left

    The UK can´t afford housing for the troops returning to the UK.

  • rate this

    Comment number 317.

    #314 kane

    "That is to suggest that the Brits must keep quiet regardless of todays events no matter how henous."

    --They do !

  • rate this

    Comment number 316.

    315.quietoaktree, I dont know this, but my common sense point to the fact that when USSR collapse, soviets troops moved out of Eastern Europe, but the empire still occupied Western Europe til this day.

  • rate this

    Comment number 315.


    The weakest link in European ´Freedom´is Germany.

    The secret price for losing WW2 and for re-unification are suspected by some as being the reason for US and UK arrogance towards Europe and the EU.

    The UK wanted the right to march its troops throughout the DDR as an extra ´price´.

    It can only be hoped that any such documents be revealed or leaked.

  • rate this

    Comment number 314.

    Your previous post complained of Brit involvement in the Americas. Now you broaden it to Africa & India to suit.
    Nonetheless, it's hardly hypocritical to discuss and criticise todays political arena merely because one is Brit and has a history. That is to suggest that the Brits must keep quiet regardless of todays events no matter how henous.
    I'm sure you see your error now.

  • rate this

    Comment number 313.

    While the EU preoccupies itself over a naughty word Russia is:

    Placing Iskander nuclear capable missiles in Kaliningrad
    Cheating on its mid range nuclear missile moratorium
    Sending agents into Ukraine to torture Ukranian activists
    Holding Europe hostage with its supplies of oil and gas
    Stomping over the EU on Ukraine
    And all the EU can do is blast its strongest friend. They deserve what they get

  • rate this

    Comment number 312.

    300. @ 295. '. he has tried his best to get out of two wars that Bush got into faster than a ... texan into a war.. right,..' Can you imagine the cabinet table (hand picked by Cheney) with Jr in charge (sic). Reagan, an actor, could remember his lines - Jr even flubbed reading the teleprompter: 'axis of evil' in the SOU speech. However, the Neo Cons are all still mostly there and waiting for 2017!

  • rate this

    Comment number 311.

    308.Atomic_Mash, i think it would be better to take care of yourself, because your government is going to shut down again.

  • rate this

    Comment number 310.

    #305 Aquiles

    #306 question answered.

    America is still in the ´Cold war´mode, and is willing to drag Europe into any abyss that develops.

    Kerry´s response to Germany / Europe highlighted the disregard for European citizens.

    A dangerous Hubris is apparent --supported by its UK ´poodle´

    --The status-quo must change.

  • rate this

    Comment number 309.

    304. correct kane Not at all dreadful. It has been no more the 60 yrs that England gave some kind of self rule to Africa,India and others.Your 300 years is quite a stretch.No attempt here at justifying anyones actions. Just simply illustrating the hypocrisies of those pointing fingers. And as far as who is a hostage. It seem others are hostage to a die heart no matter the fact hatred of America.

  • rate this

    Comment number 308.

    The incredible shrinking EU. Shrinking in stature by the day. When the US thinks that the UN, of all organizations, could be a better problem solver than the EU then you know the EU has reached a new low.

    This was proven correct when all Merkel felt compelled to do was to complain about a naughty word used in private.

  • rate this

    Comment number 307.

    306.quietoaktree, the empire that militarily occupied half of Europe, except France which DeGaulle had the guts to throw them out.

  • rate this

    Comment number 306.

    #301 Aquiles

    " but would be accepted by the empire which has the de facto control of the countries?"

    -- If you were more specific as to which ´Empire´--I could give my 2 cents worth.

    --Different ´Empires´different ´burps´

  • rate this

    Comment number 305.

    303.Atomic_Mash, be honest, i think this is a fight between Russia and USA, Europe is the prize. If USA lose Ucraine gambit, than EU would take a more independente course, even throw out the military occupation, just like what the ex- Warsaw Pact members did after the colapse of USSR.

  • rate this

    Comment number 304.

    It's dreadful when you have to go back 300 years into the past to point fingers at others to justify your actions in the present. It's a sure sign that someone hasn't signed up to evolution in a desperate attempt to hold others forever hostage to their past. Nice try, but transparant all the same.

  • rate this

    Comment number 303.

    If Ukraine does a U turn what can the EU provide Ukraine? Will they provide them with cheap oil and gas when the Russians jack up the price?
    Will they provide them with credit with no strings attached?
    No of course not. They are arrogant enough to think that even talking about EU membership is prize enough. The EU is no match for the Putin. They should be thankful the US is taking an interest.

  • rate this

    Comment number 302.

    #295 Centrist

    -Can you explain this deterioration ?

    #298 Andresmalo

    --She does !

    #297 dmt

    "so watch everyone freak out when NATO seriously shows some strain. "

    -- Like in Afghanistan ?

    For your info most European countries are NATO members --and not only USA or Canada.

  • rate this

    Comment number 301.

    299.quietoaktree, the goal for a European army is not a bad idea, but would be accepted by the empire which has the de facto control of the countries?

  • rate this

    Comment number 300.

    To be fair to the Big O, and I am not a great fan, he has tried his best to get out of two wars that Bush got into faster than a ... texan into a war.. right, and so it is a bit steep to claim that there is no difference between the regimes.

    Granted, The O likes his drone kill list of a friday, however Bush had folks to do that for him.

    Serial killers are mass murderers are very different.


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