US official apologises to EU counterparts for undiplomatic language
The frustration of the Obama administration at Europe’s hesitant policy over the pro-democracy protests in Ukraine has been laid bare in a leaked phone conversation between two senior US officials, one of whom declares: “Fuck the EU”.
The US state department did not directly confirm that the leaked audio clip posted on YouTube captures the voices of the top US diplomat for European and Eurasian affairs,Victoria Nuland, and US ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt. However, the department’s spokeswoman Jen Psaki said that Nuland, who made the disparaging remark about the EU, “has been in contact with her EU counterparts and of course has apologised for these reported comments”.
In an attempt at damage limitation, US officials tried to turn focus onto Russia, suggesting that Moscow had leaked the audio recording. They pointed to an early tweet from Dmitry Loskutov, an aide to the deputy prime minister of Russia Dmitry Rogozin, that said: “Sort of controversial judgment from Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland speaking about the EU.”
White House spokesman Jay Carney would not discuss the content of the conversation recorded in the clip, but he too invoked the Loskutov tweet. “I would say that since the video was first noted and tweeted out by the Russian government, I think it says something about Russia’s role,” he said.
At the State Department, Psaki said that if the Russians were responsible for listening to, recording and posting a private diplomatic telephone conversation, it would be “a new low in Russian tradecraft”. Pressed on whether the call was authentic, Psaki said: “I didn’t say it was inauthentic.”
Blaming the Russians for leaking a conversation that was presumably obtained by covert means poses problems for the US, as documents leaked by Edward Snowden reveal that the US has in the past listened into the communications of its allies, as well as enemies.
The conversation underlines mounting US frustration at the EU’s position on the ongoing democracy protests in Ukraine. The EU has held back from joining US threats to impose sanctions should the Ukrainian regime violently suppress the protests.
In the tapes, Nuland and Pyatt discuss the upheavals in Ukraine, and President Viktor Yanukovych’s offer last month to make opposition leader Arseniy Yatsenyuk the new prime minister and Vitali Klitschko deputy prime minister. Both men turned the offer down.
Nuland, who in December went to Independence Square in Kiev in a sign of support for the demonstrators, adds that she has also been told that the UN chief, Ban Ki-moon, is about to appoint a former Dutch ambassador to Kiev, Robert Serry, as his representative to Ukraine.
“That would be great I think to help glue this thing and have the UN glue it and you know, fuck the EU,“ she says, in an apparent reference to differences over their policies.
“We’ve got to do something to make it stick together, because you can be pretty sure that if it does start to gain altitude the Russians will be working behind the scenes to try to torpedo it,“ Pyatt replies.
Nuland was in Kiev on Thursday for a meeting with Yanukovych, who told her that he wanted to quickly adopt constitutional changes called for by pro-Western demonstrators.
By Ed Pilkington, theguardian.com