by Jack Matlock
February 8, 2014
Jack Matlock is a career diplomat who served on the front lines of American diplomacy during the Cold War and was U.S. ambassador to the Soviet Union when the Cold War ended. Since retiring from the Foreign Service, he has focused on understanding how the Cold War ended and how the lessons from that experience might be applied to public policy today.
As a friend and admirer of both Russian and Ukrainian peoples and culture, I have been following the dramatic events in Kyiv since November with both sympathy for the Ukrainian protesters and concern that none of the offers from the outside will actually help them solve their most fundamental long-term problems. However, I took some limited comfort from reports that Washington would defer to and support the European Union in its efforts to guide Ukraine to a better future.
Assistant Secretary Nuland's comments to Ambassador Pyatt reveal that this may not be the case. It would seem that the United States may be competing with representatives of the European Union for influence on the composition of a new Ukrainian government. If that is in fact the policy of President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry, I believe it needs to be re-assessed without delay.
What should not be delayed, however, is a public rebuke to an Assistant Secretary of State who, whatever U.S. policy may be, has demonstrated a lack of professional competence and judgment. Discussing sensitive matters on a cell phone vulnerable to interception is a security violation in itself. Much more important is the contempt her words implied for her principal "clients" as Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs.