President Obama's top diplomat to Europe has been caught on tape saying “F--k the EU.”
The conversation between Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and U.S. Ambassador to the Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt was anonymously leaked on YouTube.
Nuland is a former spokeswoman for the State Department, and her voice can be recognized on the tape. The State Department has not denied that the voices are those of Nuland and Pyatt.
It’s not clear who recorded or leaked the call, though speculation has immediately fallen on Moscow.
In the leaked telephone call, first reported by the Kyiv Post, Nuland sharply criticizes the European Union's handling of the Ukraine crisis and lays out the administration’s desired outcome for the crisis.
Nuland’s criticism of the EU comes in the context of praising United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon for picking an envoy to deal with the political crisis.
At least four people have been killed in protests that have rocked the ex-Soviet republic since President Viktor Yanukovych turned down an association agreement with the EU late last year in favor of closer ties with Russia.
Nuland argues that the U.N. envoy will “help glue this thing and to have the U.N. glue it. And you know, f--k the EU,” she adds.
“Exactly,” Pyatt can be heard replying. “And I think we got to do something to make it stick together, because you can be sure that if it does start to gain altitude the Russians will be working behind the scenes to torpedo it.”
The two also discuss how to achieve the Obama administration's preferred outcome.
Nuland calls former heavyweight championship boxer Vitali Klitschko the “top dog” among opposition leaders but suggests he shouldn't be given a top role in a new government. She favors fellow opposition leader Arseniy Yatsenyuk.
“I think Yats [Yatsenyuk] is the guy who’s got the economic experience, the governing experience,” Nuland says. “What he needs is Klitsch [Klitschko] and [Oleh] Tyahnybok on the outside. He needs to be talking to them four times a week, you know. I just think Klitsch going in, he’s going to be at that level, working for Yatsenyuk, it’s just not going to work.”
“Let me work on Klitschko,” he can be heard saying, “and I think we should get a Western personality to come out here (to Ukraine) and midwife this thing.”
Yanukovych offered to make Klitschko a deputy prime minister and fellow opposition leader Arseniy Yatsenyuk the prime minister late last month as a way out of the crisis, but both men refused — they're demanding Yatsenyuk's resignation and fresh presidential elections.