The Skeptics

America's Ukraine Hypocrisy

Washington’s conduct not only constituted meddling, it bordered on micromanagement. At one point, Pyatt mentioned the complex dynamic among the three principal opposition leaders, Yatsenyuk, Oleh Tyahnybok, and Vitali Klitschko. Both Pyatt and Nuland wanted to keep Tyahnybok and Klitschko out of an interim government. In the former case, they worried about his extremist ties; in the latter, they seemed to want him to wait and make a bid for office on a longer-term basis. Nuland stated that “I don’t think Klitsch should go into the government. I don’t think it’s necessary.” She added that what Yatseniuk needed “is Klitsch and Tyanhybok on the outside.”

The two diplomats also were prepared to escalate the already extensive U.S. involvement in Ukraine’s political turbulence. Pyatt stated bluntly that “we want to try to get somebody with an international personality to come out here and help to midwife this thing [the political transition].” Nuland clearly had Vice President Joe Biden in mind for that role. Noting that the vice president’s national security adviser was in direct contact with her, Nuland related that she told him “probably tomorrow for an atta-boy and to get the details to stick. So Biden’s willing.”

Both the Obama administration and most of the American news media portrayed the Euromaidan Revolution as a spontaneous, popular uprising against a corrupt and brutal government.

A February 24, 2014, Washington Post editorial celebrated the Maidan demonstrators and their successful campaign to overthrow Yanukovych. The “moves were democratic,” the Washington Post concluded, and “Kiev is now controlled by pro-Western parties.”

It was a grotesque distortion to portray the events in Ukraine as a purely indigenous, popular uprising. The Nuland-Pyatt telephone conversation and other actions confirm that the United States was considerably more than a passive observer to the turbulence. Instead, U.S. officials were blatantly meddling in Ukraine. Such conduct was utterly improper. The United States had no right to try to orchestrate political outcomes in another country—especially one on the border of another great power. It is no wonder that Russia reacted badly to the unconstitutional ouster of an elected, pro-Russian government—an ouster that occurred not only with Washington’s blessing, but apparently with its assistance.

That episode, as well as earlier ones involving Italy, France and other democratic countries, should be kept in mind the next time U.S. political leaders or the media publicly fume about Russia’s apparent interference in America’s 2016 elections. One can legitimately condemn some aspects of Moscow’s behavior, but the force of America’s moral outrage is vitiated by the stench of U.S. hypocrisy.

Ted Galen Carpenter, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute and a contributing editor at the National Interest, is the author of ten books, the contributing editor of ten books, and the author of more than 650 articles on international affairs.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

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