When the now infamous “F--- the EU” conversation between American diplomats first surfaced this month, attention was focused on the presumed Russian leakers’ Cold War-era “tradecraft” and the impolitic use of the F-word.
But taking a closer look at the substance of the conversation between U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt now that the turmoil in Ukraine is center-stage reminds that the discussion focuses on the disparate opposition leaders and how the U.S. might play them to suit American interests.
Much of the leaked conversation centers around Vitali Klitschko, the former heavyweight boxing champ and a major leader of the opposition movement, who Nuland believes is essentially not ready for the big leagues.
The diplomats discuss "personality management" of Klitschko and other opposition leaders Arseniy Yatseniuk and Oleh Tiahnybok.
The leak clearly starts mid-conversation with Nuland asking, “Whaddya think?”
Pyatt replies, “I think we're in play. The Klitschko piece is obviously the complicated electron here...” He explains how he wants Nuland to have a have a phone call with the former heavyweight.
Nuland replies: “I don't think Klitsch [Klitschko] should go into the government. I don't think it's a good idea.”
Pyatt replies: “Yeah. I guess... in terms of him not going into the government - let him stay out and do his political homework and stuff. I’m just thinking in terms of sort of the process moving ahead, we want to keep the moderate democrats together. The problem is going to be Tiahnybok [Oleh, leader of the far-right Svoboda Party] his guys and I'm sure that's part of what [President Viktor] Yanukovych is calculating on all of this."
Nuland breaks in: “I think Yats [Yatseniuk] is the guy who's got the economic experience, the governing experience. He's the guy. You know, what he needs is Klitsch and Tiahnybok on the outside. He needs to be talking to them four times a week, you know. I just think Klitch going in, he’s going to be at that level, working for Yats and Yuk, it's just not going to work.”
Pyatt replies: “Yeah, no. I think that's right…”
Later Pyatt adds: “I think just knowing the dynamic that's been with them where Klitschko has been the top dog, he's going to take a while to show up for whatever meetings they've got and he's probably talking to his guys at this point. So I think you reaching out directly to him helps with the personality management among the three…”
The conversation goes on to discuss a new U.N. envoy and the infamous “F--- the EU” comment, conveying frustration with the European Union's efforts to find a diplomatic solution to the burgeoning crisis.