"F*** the EU": Top State Dep't official's phone call to U.S. ambassador in Ukraine leaked online

I’d call it a bombshell, not because of what’s being said but because we’re able to listen to it at all. The identities of the speakers haven’t been officially confirmed but Jay Carney didn’t deny when asked that this is Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and U.S. ambassador Geoffrey Pratt spitballing about whom they’d like to see lead the opposition in Ukraine. The F-bomb is deployed because Nuland’s frustrated that the EU isn’t doing more to pressure Viktor Yanukovych, the Putin-backed Ukrainian president whose recent deal with Moscow instigated the last few months of protests. (If you’re not keeping up with the simmering revolution there, read MKH’s useful primer from last week.) It’s … mildly interesting, I guess, if you think a diplomat criticizing an ally with an idle profanity in private conversation is some grievous breach of protocol.

Here’s the interesting part:

[T]he disclosure represents a potentially big breach in security, which had been tightened at U.S. embassies following the WikiLeaks disclosures of several years ago…

The leak appears to be a smear campaign aimed to split the EU and U.S., who have been critical of the Ukrainian government’s handling of the more than two months of anti-government protests. The tape is also likely to fuel Russia’s claims the U.S. and EU are manipulating and even funding the protest movement in Ukraine…

[The unknown YouTube user who uploaded the clip] posted a second audio clip that appeared on YouTube of a conversation in German presumably between Helga Schmid, deputy secretary general of the EU’s External Action Service (EAS), and EU Ambassador to Ukraine Jan Tombinski. The two voices discuss how the EU is seen by the U.S. as being “soft” on Ukraine.

The security breach is the bombshell. Chats between the State Department brain trust and its top diplomats in the field are, I hope, protected with cutting-edge cybersecurity, especially given the fragility of Ukraine right now. Either this call wasn’t or our cyberdefenses aren’t as cutting-edge as we thought. Carney pointed the finger squarely at Russia, which is the logical conclusion. It would, I hope, require government resources to unscramble a call like this, and Putin’s the one who benefits most if the U.S. and EU are at each other’s throats. (Note in the excerpt that a second call, highlighting the EU’s perspective on strains with the U.S., was also mysteriously uploaded.) “Coincidentally,” news of the call broke big on a day when Nuland herself is visiting Ukraine, just to maximize the embarrassment. Whether this is a veiled threat, to signal that Russia has other, more damning recordings that might be mysteriously leaked, or something else is unclear, but it’s perfectly clear that the NSA has (or had) the capacity to respond in kind at even higher levels of government. I hope an embarrassing phone call from Sergei Lavrov or Putin himself to one of their puppets in Ukraine mysteriously hits YouTube next week. Their Sochi global photo op starts today. Why not complicate it for them?