The United States and Russia clashed over Ukraine this week. Russia is thought to be the source of a recorded phone conversation between two U.S. diplomats — one a senior State Department official, suspected to be Geoffrey Pyatt, and the other a U.S. ambassador to Kiev, Victoria Nuland. “Since the video was first noted and tweeted out by the Russian government, I think it says something about Russia’s role,” said Jay Carney, White House press secretary, in a press briefing Thursday.
Nuland — who was clearly unaware that the phone conversation was being recorded — spoke in frustration as to the role that the European Union would play in Ukrainian negotiations. “So that would be great I think, to help glue this thing and have the UN help glue it, and you know, [expletive] the EU,” was said near the end of the call in which Nuland and her counterpart discussed the role of Ukrainian protest leader, Vitali Klitschko, Russia’s role in the difficulty, and a potential outreach to Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukolvich.
Russian and American diplomatic efforts have been someone tense, with Russia announcing the decision not to follow through on an expected loan to the Ukraine — likely out of concerns that it’s trade policy may change with new alignments. The video places the United States in a difficult spot as it gives fodder to those who doubt the United State’s professed stance that Ukraine must sort out its own path with whatever international help they chose to accept.
“Well, certainly we think this is a new low in Russian trade-craft in terms of publicizing, posting. I don’t have any other independent details about the origin of the YouTube video, but this is something they’ve been actively promoting, posting on, tweeting about, and certainly that we feel that represents a new low,” said Jen Psaki, spokesperson for the U.S. Department of State.
When asked whether or not the recording added weight to Russian claims that the U.S. has been interfering with Ukrainian government, Psaki said “absolutely not,” adding that, “It should be no surprise that U.S. officials talk about issues around the world.” She noted that while the U.S. diplomats make recommendations, it’s ultimately up to Ukraine to decide which way to go. “There are discussions about what involvement the UN can have, what involvement or engagement should happen on the ground. That shouldn’t be a surprise. Of course these things are being discussed. It doesn’t change the fact that it’s up to the people on the ground, it is up to the people of Ukraine to determine what the path forward is,” she said.
Meanwhile, Ukraine continues to face protests and civil unrest, with opposition groups insisting on a return to the Constitution of 2004, and a repeal of undemocratic legislation passed on January 16. Allegations of torture and human rights violations have international groups and Ukrainian protestors insisting that Ukrainian officials make a thorough and transparent investigation into matters and punish those responsible. Both United Nations and European Union forces have sent representatives to aid in the discussions, and Klitschko, leader of the Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reform opposition group (or, UDAR) met with leaders of both Batkivshchyna and Svoboda, as well as with Nuland on Friday.