President Joe Biden’s nomination of Victoria Nuland for Under Secretary for Political Affairs, the third-highest position at the State Department, is a dangerous sign. Nuland exemplifies the neoconservatives who have led American foreign policy from one disaster to another for the past 30 years, all while evading any shred of accountability.
As a top-level appointee, Nuland must still be confirmed by the Senate. And while pro-peace groups have waged a campaign to stop her confirmation, reflecting on her career in public service makes clear why she is incompetent, highly dangerous, and should not be confirmed.
Afghanistan and Iraq
From 2000 to 2003, when the Bush administration attacked and then invaded Afghanistan, Nuland was serving as Bush’s permanent representative to NATO. The Afghan government offered to work with the Americans to remove al-Qaeda, but the offer was rejected. After al-Qaeda was defeated, the U.S. could have left Afghanistan but instead stayed, established semi-permanent bases, splintered the country, and is still fighting there two decades later.
From 2003 to 2005, Nuland was principal foreign policy advisor to Vice President Dick Cheney who “helped plan and manage the war that toppled [Iraqi leader] Saddam Hussein, including making [the] Bush administration’s case for preemptive military action based on Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction.” The foreign policy establishment, including Nuland, insisted that removing Saddam Hussein and installing a U.S. “ally” would be simple.
The invasion and continuing occupation have resulted in over a million dead Iraqis, many thousands of dead Americans, hundreds of thousands with PTSD, and a bill for American taxpayers of 2 to 6 trillion dollars.
From 2005 to 2008, Nuland served as U.S. Ambassador to NATO where her role was to “strengthen Allied support” for the occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq.
When Nuland was asked about the lessons learned on the tenth anniversary of the invasion, she responded:
Compared to where we were in the Saddam era, we now have a bilateral security agreement … We have deep economic interests and ties. We have a security relationship. We have a political relationship.”
Nuland’s response makes clear that she is oblivious to the costs, and that her loyalties are to the elite who are still benefiting from the tragedy. Indeed, “one of the top profiteers from the Iraq War was oil field services corporation, Halliburton.” Halliburton gained $39.5 billion in ‘federal contracts related to the Iraq war.’ Nuland’s boss, Vice President Dick Cheney, was its former CEO.
In January 2020, seventeen years after the U.S. invasion, the Iraqi parliament passed a resolution demanding U.S. troops and contractors withdraw from their country. Now, over one year later, they still have not left.
In the spring of 2011, Nuland became State Department spokesperson under then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as she ramped up the “regime change” assault on longtime U.S.-ally, Moammar Ghaddafi of Libya. UN Security Council resolution 1973 authorized a “No Fly Zone” for the protection of civilians but not an air assault on Libyan government forces. Yet that summer, as the U.S. and her NATO allies bombed and attacked Libyan forces, Nuland dismissed the option of a peaceful transition in Libya and suggested falsely that the UN Security Council required the removal of Ghaddafi.
The bombing campaign led to the toppling of the Libyan government and the brutal public murder of Ghaddafi at the hands of anti-government rebels. Commenting on the murder (and bayonet sodomizing of Ghaddafi) Nuland’s boss Hillary Clinton now famously chortled:
We came, we saw, he died.”
Before Ghaddafi’s overthrow, Libya had the highest standard of living in all of Africa. Since the U.S.-led assault though it has become a failed state with competing warlords, huge inflation, huge unemployment, and exploding extremism and violence that has spread to neighboring countries. Most of the migrants who have crossed the Mediterranean trying to reach Europe, or drowned trying to, are coming from Libya. By any measure, the goal of “protecting” Libyan civilians has failed spectacularly.
One reason that Clinton and hawks like Nuland wanted to overthrow Ghaddafi was ostensibly to gain access to Libya’s military arsenal. Doing so would allow them to funnel arms to insurgents seeking to overthrow the Syrian government and any other enemy of the United States or her allies in the region.
This was confirmed in secret DOD documents which stated:
During the immediate aftermath of, and following the uncertainty caused by, the downfall of the ((Qaddafi)) regime in October 2011 and up until early September of 2012, weapons from the former Libya military stockpiles located in Benghazi, Libya were shipped from the port of Benghazi, Libya to the ports of Banias and the Port of Borj Islam, Syria.
In January of 2012, Nuland claimed that the United States was “on the side of those wanting peaceful change in Syria.” At the same time, the U.S. was supplying sniper rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, and 125 mm and 155 mm howitzer missiles to the purportedly “peaceful” anti-government protestors in the country,
The U.S. “regime change” strategy for Syria followed the pattern of Libya. First, claim that the protestors are peaceful. Then claim the government’s response is disproportionate. Put pressure on the target government to paralyze it, while increasing proxy support for protesters and subversive anti-government groups. As documented, there were violent protesters in Syria from the start. During the first days of protest in Deraa in mid-March of 2011, seven police officers were killed. As a spokesperson for the State Department, Nuland was a major figure promoting that narrative in order to justify the “regime change” campaign.
In September of 2013, Nuland was appointed to the post of Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs. The uprising in Ukraine’s Maidan central plaza began soon after her arrival. To underscore American support for the protests, Nuland and Senator John McCain passed out bread and cookies to a crowd of anti-government protesters.
The protests continued into January of 2014. The issue at hand was a loan from the International Monetary Fund which would require a 40% increase in natural gas bills, or to accept a loan from Russia with the inclusion of cheap oil and gas. The opposition, wary of Russia and in favor of Ukraine’s alignment with “western” powers, wanted the Yanukovych government to accept the IMF loan. That opposition was comprised of different factions, including the neo-Nazi Svoboda Party and Right Sector.
In early February of 2014, an audio recording of Nuland talking to U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt, was leaked to the public. The four-minute-long conversation was a media sensation as it included Nuland saying, “F**k the EU,” in reference to the European Union’s interests in Ukraine.
But Nuland’s cursing was a distraction from what was truly significant of the recording. It showed the extent to which Nuland was meddling in domestic Ukrainian affairs, had direct contacts with key opposition leaders and was managing the protests to the extent she was deciding who would – and would not – have a seat at the table in the post-coup government. In the recording, Nuland says:
I don’t think Klitsch [Vitaly Klitschko] should go into government…… I think Yats [Arseniy Yatseniuk] is the guy… “
The reason she wanted to “F**k the EU” was that she did not approve of the EU’s preferred method of negotiation and compromise. Nuland and Pyatt wanted to “midwife” and “glue” the toppling of the Yanukovych government despite it being in power after an election that was observed and substantially approved by the OSCE (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe).
Over the next few weeks, the protests escalated. The president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Kyiv, Bernard Casey, described what happened next.
On February 18-20, snipers massacred about 100 people [both protestors and police] on the Maidan …. Although the US Ambassador and the opposition blamed the Yanukovych Administration, the evidence points to the shots coming from a hotel controlled by the ultranationalists, and the ballistics revealed that the protestors and the police were all shot with the same weapons.”
The Estonian foreign minister would later echo those claims: “behind the snipers, it was not Yanukovych, but it was somebody from the new (opposition) coalition.”
On February 20, 2014 an EU delegation moderated negotiations between President Yanukovych and the protestors, agreeing to early elections – in May 2014 instead of February 2015…. Despite the signing of an agreement … the ultranationalist protestors, and their American sponsors, rejected it, and stepped up their campaign of violence.”
The coup was finalized in the following days. Yanukovych fled for his life and, as planned, Yatsenyuk became president.
One of the first acts of the coup leadership was to remove Russian, the first language of millions of Ukrainians, as an official state language. Over the coming period, the “birth” of the coup government, violence by ultranationalists and neo-Nazis were prevalent.
In Odessa, those peacefully protesting the coup were violently attacked. One video published online shows an especially vicious attack on peaceful protesters followed by the fire-bombing of the building where protestors had retreated. Fire trucks were prevented from reaching the building to put out the fire and rescue the citizens inside. Forty-two people died and 100 were injured. In another incident, a convoy of buses heading to Crimea was attacked and the anti-coup passengers beaten and some killed, and in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, protests against the coup were met with deadly force.
Nuland claims to be a “victim” because her conversation was leaked publicly. The real victims are the many thousands of Ukrainians who died and the hundreds of thousands who were made refugees because of Nuland’s crusade to bring Ukraine into the NATO fold.
The audio recording confirms that Nuland was managing the protests at a top-level and that the result (Yats is the guy) was as planned. If Nuland was willing to go to such lengths, it’s possible that she also approved the decision to both deploy snipers in order to escalate the crisis and to overturn the mediated agreement by the EU which would have forced elections in three months time and effectively undermined the protest movement.
Why were snipers deployed on February 18? No one can say for sure, but time was running out, the Russian leadership was distracted by the Sochi Olympics and perhaps the coup managers were in a hurry to “glue” it in advance.
During the 1990s, Nuland worked for the State Department on Russia related issues, including a stint as deputy director for former Soviet Union affairs. During that time, the U.S. interfered in Russian internal affairs in myriad ways. Time magazine proudly proclaimed, “Yanks to the rescue: the secret story of how American advisors helped Yeltsin win.”
Yet Yeltsin’s leadership and the policies pushed by the United States had disastrous consequences. Between 1991 and 1999, Russia’s gross domestic product decreased by nearly 50% as social safety nets were removed. The Russian economy collapsed, oligarchs, and lawlessness arose. Nuland was part of the U.S. team leading the efforts in Russia, deploying economic “shock therapy” and causing widespread social despair.
Meanwhile, the United States reneged on promises to Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev that NATO would not expand “one inch” eastward. Instead, NATO became an offensive pact, bombing Yugoslavia in violation of international law and then absorbing Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, the Baltic states, the Czech Republic, Albania, Croatia, and more.
Coming into power in 2000, Putin clamped down on the oligarchs, restored order, and began rebuilding the economy. Oligarchs were forced to pay taxes and start investing in productive enterprises. The economy and confidence were restored. Over seven years, GDP went from 1.3 billion (U.S. dollars) to 2.3 billion. That is why Putin’s public approval rating has been consistently high, ranging between 85% and a “low” approval rating of 60%.
Most Americans are unaware of these facts. Instead, Putin and Russia are persistently demonized. This has been convenient for the Democratic Party establishment as it served as a distraction for their efforts against Bernie Sanders, efforts which ultimately led to their loss to Donald Trump. The demonization of Russia is also especially useful and profitable for the military-industrial complex.
Nuland boosted the “Steele Dossier” which alleged collaboration between Russia and Trump among other salacious claims. The allegations filled the media and poisoned American attitudes towards Russia. Belatedly, the truth about the “Steele Dossier” is coming out. Last summer the Wall Street Journal reported “the bureau (FBI) knew the Russia info was phony in 2017” and that “there was no factual basis to the dossier’s claims.”
While promoting disinformation, Nuland is pushing for a more aggressive U.S. foreign policy. In an article titled “Pinning Down Putin.” she insists that “Russia’s threat to the liberal world has grown,” that Washington should “deter and roll back dangerous behavior by the Kremlin,” and “rebuff Russian encroachments in hot spots around the world.”
The major “hot spots” are some of the same conflicts that Nuland herself promoted, especially Syria and Ukraine. In Syria, the U.S. and its allies have spent billions promoting the overthrow of the Assad government. So far, they have failed, but have not given up. The facts are clear: American troops and military bases in Syria do not have the authorization of the Syrian government. They are actively stealing the precious oil resources of the Syrian state. It is the United States, not Russia, that is “encroaching.”
The queen of chicken hawks
Victoria Nuland has promoted a foreign policy of intervention, coups, proxy wars, aggression, and occupation and that policy has been implemented with bloody and disastrous results in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Ukraine.
With consummate hypocrisy, she accuses Russia of spreading disinformation in the United States, while she openly seeks to put “stress on Putin where he is vulnerable, including among his own citizens.” She wants to “establish permanent bases along NATO’s eastern border and increase the pace and visibility of joint training exercises.”
Nuland is the queen of chicken hawks, the Lady Macbeth of perpetual war. There are hundreds of thousands of victims from the policies she has promoted. Yet she has not received a scratch. On the contrary, she has profited from a stock portfolio likely filled with military contractors.
Now Nuland wants to provoke, threaten, and “rollback” Russia. Yet a quick look at any map of U.S. military bases shows who is threatening whom.
Victoria Nuland is highly dangerous and should not be confirmed.
Feature photo | Victoria Nuland listens to questions during a press conference after talks with Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic in Belgrade, July 13, 2014. Darko Vojinovic | AP
Rick Sterling is a journalist and member of the Syria Solidarity Movement based in the San Fransico Bay area. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org