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US Insults EU, Drama Follows

February 7, 2014

As many major news sources across the globe have reported, an audio recording of a US official making disparaging remarks about the European Union’s actions in Ukraine was put on Youtube on Tuesday, sparking international indignation and adding another facet to the ongoing tug-of-war currently taking place in Ukraine. The comment is supposed to have been made by Victoria Nuland, a US assistant secretary of state for European affairs, in a phone conversation with the US ambassador to Ukraine. Nuland has said she would not comment on the incident, neither confirming nor denying that hers was the voice captured on the recording. She has commented, however, saying the recording was “pretty impressive tradecraft,” implying that it was acquired by Russia spying on US communications. Russia has denied this accusation and instead accused the US of “meddling” in Ukraine. EU officials have reacted to the audio tape by reprimanding the US for making the comment in the first place. On Friday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel remarked (through spokeswoman Christiane Wirtz) that the criticism of the EU was “absolutely unacceptable,” a comment the New York Times has said is an unusually sharp statement from the Chancellor.


Clearly this is all representative of serious maneuvering by key players on the international stage. But it all seems a bit like a middle school argument. With the “he said she said,” the commenting while saying you won’t comment, the mirrored accusations, and sense of scandal, it all seems fit for juvenile lunchtime fodder. Even more impressive is the timing of this kerfuffle; on the eve of Russia’s big party, where the world will be looking to this member of the international in-crowd that still isn’t well-liked by the big players in the West, world headlines tie the Olympic host to eavesdropping. The party (the Winter Olympics) is already a bit of a bust because of all the negative press it has received because of its oppressive regulations on homosexuality. See if the cool kids ever let Russia host an important soirée again.


When diplomats stop acting like diplomats, the professionalism of the entire international community is compromised, a slip that players this influential can neither afford nor allow. With Ukraine hanging in the balance, violence erupting in the squares, this child’s play cannot continue. If these issues aren’t quickly smoothed-over, we can bet everyone else will have to pay for the cool kids’ drama.

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