When you work for the U.S. Department of State, there are a few four-letter words you just shouldn't say over the phone. It's a lesson Victoria Nuland, the Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, is learning the hard way.
A leaked phone call recording appears to feature Nuland on a call with U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffery Pyatt. They discuss the roles of the opposition in Ukraine's government — and then Nuland drops the bomb. (Via U.S. Department of State)
NULAND: "So that would be great, I think, to help glue this thing and have the U.N. help glue it. And, y'know, f*** the EU."
PYATT: "No, exactly, and I think we've got to do something to make it stick together." (Via YouTube / Lev Nikolaevich Myshkin)
That's apparently a reference to the European Union's unwillingness to back sanctions over Ukraine's treatment of protesters. The U.S. is currently weighing that proposal.
Reaction to the video has been mixed in the U.S. A former State Department official downplayed Nuland's comments, telling The Daily Beast "What she is saying is we've got a crisis here, we've got to move, we can't go by EU business as usual. ... Finally, the U.S. is using its leverage and getting involved. ... It's actually trying to make policy, that's the good part."
But the director of the Kennan Institute told NPR Nuland's comments undermine the credibility of the State Department in Ukraine's ongoing dispute.
"It's pretty clear that at least this group of U.S. officials has picked sides. ... I mean putting forward candidates to serve in particular positions, talking about one option or another option ... does not suggest the kind of ... credibility that would be needed to play a productive role."
The audio has made waves with Russia's politicians and media. It was first discovered and tweeted about by an aide to Russia's deputy prime minister, who called the comments a "sort of controversial judgment." (Via Twitter / @DLostkutov)
And outlets like RT say the video is evidence of the U.S.'s deep, secretive meddling in Ukraine's affairs.
"It's a bit shocking, I had to listen to it a few times to really grasp the fact that they're strategizing about how to put together the government of another country."
But the State Department is hitting back, with spokeswoman Jen Psaki attacking the Russian government's extensive coverage of the leak. "This is something they've been actively promoting, posting on, tweeting about. And certainly we feel that represents a new low."
And a CNN reporter suggests the Russian government itself might have been behind the leak, using it to discredit Ukraine's anti-government protesters.
"It also fuels this idea that the protesters are not independent, that they are being fueled and prodded by the Americans. That fits that narrative for them."
The State Department refused to confirm or deny the authenticity of the recording, but Psaki told reporters Nuland has apologized for the alleged remarks.