Category Archives: EU

Diplomat Drops “Fuck the EU” in Private Chat — Cover Your Ears, It Might Ruin You Forever!

– Domani Spero

The State Department’s Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs, Victoria Nuland was caught on tape with Geoffrey Pyatt, the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine working the diplomatic sausage over the Ukraine crisis.  The private conversation was recorded and uploaded to YouTube by an anonymous user/s who made an effort to include a photo collage of the individuals referred to in the conversation. The leaked recording is available here and has been viewed 485,122.

The State Department spokeswoman was asked if this call is “an authentic recording of an authentic conversation between Assistant Secretary Nuland and Ambassador Pyatt?”  As can be expected, Ms. Psaki replied:

“Well, I’m not going to confirm or outline details. I understand there are a lot of reports out there and there’s a recording out there, but I’m not going to confirm private diplomatic conversations.”

Hilarious exchange followed:

QUESTION: As related to Assistant Secretary Nuland’s comments about the European Union, do – are the United States and the EU on the same page on what to deal – how to deal with the situation in Ukraine and how best to resolve the crisis?
MS. PSAKI: Well, let me first say, obviously, we work incredibly closely with the EU and with representatives of the EU, and Assistant Secretary Nuland certainly does as it relates to Ukraine. And she’s been in close contact with EU High Representative Ashton. Also, let me convey that she has been in contact with her EU counterparts, and of course, has apologized. But –
QUESTION: What did she apologize for?
MS. PSAKI: For these reported comments, of course.
QUESTION: So you’re not confirming that the comments are accurate? She’s –
MS. PSAKI: I’m just not going to speak to a private diplomatic conversation, Arshad, but I’m obviously speaking to the content of the reports.

Ukraine’s Security Service has reportedly declined to comment on a leaked recording of this telephone conversation.

The Guardian says that Germany condemns the comments made by Assistant Secretary Nuland:

The German spokeswoman Christiane Wirtz said Merkel appreciated the work of Catherine Ashton, the EU’s foreign policy chief, who had tried to mediate between the Ukrainian president, Viktor Yanukovych, and protesters who have taken to the streets. “The chancellor finds these remarks totally unacceptable and wants to emphasise that Mrs Ashton is doing an outstanding job,” Wirtz said.

Meanwhile, Polish Minister of Foreign Affairs Radosław Sikorski tweeted his support:

@sikorskiradek  Critics of @VictoriaNuland worldwide: let him who has never used strong language in private cast the first stone.

In Kiev, Assistant Secretary Nuland also refused to comment “on a private diplomatic conversation” except to say “It was pretty impressive tradecraft. [The] audio quality was very good.” And so here we are:


Check out Bloomberg View’s James Gibney (@jamesgibney) with count your blessing, that’s not one of our bumbling hacks — but:

And as to those who are shocked, just shocked, by the U.S. attempt to manipulate Ukraine’s opposition, this is exactly what diplomats at higher levels try to do: All the foreign ambassadors in Washington worth their pensions have salty, Machiavellian conversations with their superiors and colleagues about how to shape votes of the U.S. Congress. If you’re an American, be glad that pros such as Nuland are on the job, and hope that your other diplomats aren’t sitting around munching cucumber sandwiches in between demarches.

That said, here is one scandal that this intercepted call does point to, however: Were Nuland and Pyatt speaking, as they should have been, on the kind of encrypted phone designed for such discussions? If not, that’s a major diplo-no-no. If they were, and some foreign power still managed to crack the code, then Uncle Sam needs to invest in some new phones ASAP.

Continue reading Sometimes Diplomacy Needs the F-Word.

This is a congressional hearing just waiting to happen.  Where did you learn such language?  Who did what, where, when with these phones and how come you did not know that you were bugged?  Congress is always curious about those things.

Now, please do us a favor and stop sending us hate mail for Ms. Nuland.

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Interim Win For Diplomats Slows Down March To Another War. For Now.

– Domani Spero

(L to R) British Foreign Secretary William Hague, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, Catherine Ashton, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, and US Secretary of State John Kerry,, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Laurent Fabius, the French foreign minister

(L to R) British Foreign Secretary William Hague, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, EU’s Catherine Ashton, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, US Secretary of State John Kerry, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Laurent Fabius, the French Foreign Minister (Photo via US Mission Geneva)

Here is the Fact Sheet: First Step Understandings Regarding the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Nuclear Program released by the WH on November 23.  You might also want to read Jeffrey Lewis’ piece on FP asking, if we can’t ease sanctions in exchange for concessions, what was the point of pressuring Iran. He is the director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies.

Lots of articles coming out right now on the Geneva deal, but there are a couple you don’t want to miss.  The Associated Press reported on the cloak and dagger diplomacy that happened behind the klieg lights with Deputy Secretary of State William Burns, Jake Sullivan, Vice President Joe Biden’s top foreign policy adviser, and National Security Council aide Puneet Talwar. See Secret talks between U.S., Iran set stage for historic nuclear deal.  As well, see Al-Monitor’s Exclusive: Burns led secret US back channel to Iran.

Of course, now folks will start wondering what’s real in the public schedule posted on

But please — a toast to the diplomats and the support staff!  For every foreign minister present in the photo above, there were numerous nameless individuals who made the work in Geneva possible. Bravissimo for a win that did not involved a drone, a gun, or a deadly karate chop! Diplomacy still works and it did not wear combat boots this time.

Also, yesterday, Reuters reported that former hostage Bruce Laingen, the US chargé d’affaires in Tehran in 1979 favors diplomacy, “despite humiliation, solitary confinement and having a gun held to his head during the U.S. Embassy crisis in Iran three decades ago.” The report notes that “Former hostages who were diplomats appear more in favor of rebuilding a relationship with Iran than those who were military personnel at the time.” See  Former Iran hostages: amid rapprochement they still want apologies.   

Apparently, some pols are livid about this Iran deal, lining up before microphones, furiously writing op-eds, plotting the next moves and …..

Oh, hey, accuweather says the East Coast winter storm will snark Thanksgiving travel.  Safe travel peeps!

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Filed under 68, Diplomacy, Diplomatic History, EU, FCO, Foreign Affairs, Foreign Service, FSOs, Govt Reports/Documents, Iran, John F. Kerry, Politics, Secretary of State, State Department

FCO to reposition diplomats, EU diplos under fire, India, India, India and more….

Serious concerns are being voiced that the newly-created European External Action Service (EEAS) – known as “Europe’s State Department” – and the EU Commission are going beyond their remit to speak for the EU – {The Telegraph}

FCO is increasing its presence in India and China, the world’s two emerging superpowers; 50 diplomats to be deployed to China and 30 to India.  {VOA}

India has long shown mouselike diplomatic clout but that’s changing as it starts to make waves in Africa {The Economist}.

State Department’s “Experience America” to Bring Ambassadors to Alaska {Alaska Journal}

U.S. authorities are investigating whether an Indian software giant Infosys Technologies Ltd.  repeatedly violated American visa laws in order to place its own foreign employees in temporary jobs at some big corporate clients in the U.S. {Wall Street Journal}

Diplomatic Immunity Interpretation: US  vs. India {Hindustantimes}

Tom Shah and Molly Huckaby Hardy were among the 44 U.S. Embassy employees killed when a truck bomb exploded outside the embassy compound in Kenya in 1998. Though it has never been publicly acknowledged, the two were working undercover for the CIA. In al-Qaida’s war on the United States, they are believed to be the first CIA casualties.

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The "Invisible Woman" in "Europe’s State Department" Wants a Bigger Purse

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton...Image via WikipediaVia The Telegraph’s Nick Meo in Brussels | 07 May 2011:

She took up her highly-paid post promising to be a powerful new voice in foreign affairs, part of a bold strategy to make Europe a global player on the world stage. But to the private delight of her opponents, and the dismay of the federalist supporters who created her job, the lacklustre performance of Baroness Ashton of Upholland after more than a year in office has earned her the nickname “the invisible woman”.
The Sunday Telegraph has learned that Baroness Ashton, who was pushed into the plum position during Gordon Brown’s last few months in office, is formally requesting a 5.8 per cent budget increase next year – an extra €27 million – to pay the spiralling wage bill of the new European External Affairs Service, around 100 of whose diplomats earn more than the British foreign secretary.
Baroness Ashton’s supporters argue that to run a truly effective foreign service – “Europe’s State Department”, as they like to call it – she needs a bigger budget; her detractors accuse her of committing too much money in an effort to woo high calibre staff with lavish perks and salaries.
Staff costs have proved to be highly controversial for the new service, which pays top ambassadors €188,000 (£165,000). Around 100 officials earn more than the £134,565 salary paid to William Hague, the Foreign Secretary.

Read in full here.

Related posts:
Deadly crackdown of protesters in #Libya … paging EU’s Catherine Ashton, where are you? |Saturday, February 19, 2011 

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#Libya violence and economic relations, Europe under hot pressure to act….


As I was putting this up, I see that the EU ministers have condemned the bloody crackdown on protesters. Via ABC news:

We condemn the repression against peaceful demonstrators and deplore the violence and the death of civilians,” said a statement issued after a meeting of European foreign ministers.

“The EU urges the authorities to exercise restraint and calm and to immediately refrain from further use of violence against peaceful demonstrators,” the ministers said, adding that “the legitimate aspirations and demands of the people for reform” must be addressed through dialogue.

Note that these words of condemnation (not even actions) did not sit well with the Libyan regime who has warned the EU against lending vocal support to the protesters.  AlertNet Reuters reports that “The Hungarian ambassador was called in in Libya on Thursday and was given the message that Libya is going to suspend cooperation with the EU on immigration issues if the EU keeps making statements in support of Libyan pro-democracy protests,” a spokesman for Hungary, which holds the EU’s rotating six-month presidency, said.

Apparently, Libya has frequently threatened to cancel cooperation with the EU on illegal migration in the past. In December, a minister said Libya would scale back efforts to stem the flow of migrants unless the EU paid 5 billion euros ($6.8 billion) a year.

Via Reuters:

The International Organization for Migration estimates that migrants from across Africa account for about 10 percent of Libya’s six million population, although only a minority of those attempt to travel on to Europe to find work.Tens of thousands of illegal migrants try to make the journey from the northern coasts of Tunisia and Libya to islands off Italy every year, with hundreds having to be rescued by Italy’s coastguard and housed in migration centres.The European Commission said in October it would spend 50 million euros to help Libya tackle illegal migration and protect migrants’ rights.

Just after midnight in WDC on Sunday, Reuters is reporting that the US has issued its strongest condemnation yet of Libya’s violent crackdown on protesters, citing what it called credible reports of hundreds of deaths and injuries and threatening to take “all appropriate actions” in response.

Libya will surely have a come back for that. I suspect that the ordered departure for US personnel in Tripoli can happen quickly.

Related post:
Deadly crackdown of protesters in #Libya … paging EU’s Catherine Ashton, where are you? | February 19, 2011

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Deadly crackdown of protesters in #Libya … paging EU’s Catherine Ashton, where are you?

Baroness Ashton of Upholland, Commissioner, Tr...Image via WikipediaLibya’s regime learned exceptionally well from Egypt’s revolution. First, it has scruplously controlled its borders especially with visitors coming in as members of the press. So no Richard Engle or Anderson Cooper. And it blocked Al Jazeera’s  TV signal.

Today, NYT’s Kristof in Bahrain tweets:

Reports from Libya are horrific. It shld be getting more attention, but we journalists can’t get visas. I’ll keep trying.|
about 10 hours ago  via web  

Then, Libya pulled down the internet switch on February 18.  Although connectivity was reportedly restored today, reports indicate that the internet is still cut off the eastern side of Libya, where the protests have spread to six cities.

Most of all, I think Libya learned that not using a heavy hand (like the willingness to kill your own people), is quite dangerous for a sitting ruler who could get swept away in such a tsunami.

It rectified that very seriously and now wields its iron fist even more brutally.

Al Jazeera quoted a Benghazi resident saying that at least 150 people, injured and dead were at a nearby hospital.

Human Rights Watch says that Libyan security forces have killed 84 people over the past three days.

Protests in the country began on February 14. Reax from the following:

UK’s foreign secretary William Hague, a day after his department revoked all British arms licences to Libya and Bahrain, condemned the “unacceptable and horrifying” use of violence by Gaddafi’s security forces against his own people, “including reports of the use of heavy weapons fire and a unit of snipers against demonstrators”.

“The United States urges the governments of Bahrain, Libya and Yemen to show restraint in responding to peaceful protests and to respect the rights of their people,” President Obama said in a statement read to reporters by White House press secretary Jay Carney.

German foreign minister Guido Westerwelle has also denounced the violence across the region, saying that citizens are “only realizing their rights” and that a “spark of freedom” has been lit after the Tunisian government fell. Germany is one of the three major import partners of Libya.

The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay says security forces responded in an “illegal and excessively heavy-handed” manner against peaceful demonstrators and condemned the use of live ammunition against protesters in Libya, the use of electric tasers and batons in Yemen, and the use of military-grade shotguns in Bahrain.

The EU Observer reports that EU calls for dialogue as Bahrain, Yemen, Libya kill protesters.  In Libya …. Ms Ashton’s spokeswoman had said earlier on Wednesday that her boss was: “following the situation very closely. As in other cases, we call on the authorities to listen to all those who are taking part in the protests … and to allow freedom of expression.”

That last one is so lame. But why single out Catherine Ashton?

Catherine Ashton is a British Labour politician who has been the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy of the European Union (EU) since 1 December 2009.  That post is equivalent to the Foreign Minister or Secretary of State.  

The European Union is the first trading partner for Libya, covering almost 70% of its total trade that amount approximately to €26.4 billion in 2009. The EU is also Libya’s major source of imports and is its largest market for exports in 2009.

Certainly with that kind of trade, the EU can do more than “follow the situation very closely.” Whether it’ll do more to pressure Libya is the  €26.4 billion question.

And by the way, Libya has also been trying to join the WTO. So there is that. If Gaddafi survived this protest movement, a bunch of somebodies may be in great danger of sitting next to him in future World Trade Organization powwows. You may even have to shake his bloody hands. 

In a related news, on February 16, four days after the first protest broke out in Libya, Russia’s natural-gas exporter, Gazprom, signed an agreement to take a stake in Italian oil and natural gas company, Eni’s Elephant oil project in Libya. The oil project is located in Libya’s south-western desert some 800 km from Tripoli. The deal is reportedly worth $170 million.  The agreement was signed in the presence of President of Russian Federation, Dmitry Medvedev and Italy’s Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi.

According to Gazprom’s press statement, the Elephant field contains 110 million tonnes of estimated recoverable oil reserves. The maximum annual oil output is expected to reach some 6 million tonnes.

We should hear statements of concerns on this brutal crackdown from President Medvedev and Prime Minister just about now.







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Quote: More Catherine Ashton, Please

“I should occupy this job because 27 heads of government invited me to. I may not be your choice, but I am theirs.”

Catherine Ashton

(to British conservative parliamentarian Charles Tannock)
EU High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy
EU’s new top diplomat denies inexperience at first hearing

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