President-elect Joe Biden plans to appoint Victoria Nuland to a high-level post at the State Department, sending the clearest signal yet about the president-elect’s likely political approach to Russia and the United States. ‘Ukraine.
Earlier this month, Politico reported that the Biden-Harris transition team had decided on a new round of foreign policy and national security appointees. Biden is expected to appoint veteran diplomat Victoria Nuland as Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, people familiar with the process say. These sources also told reporters that the president-elect will appoint Wendy Sherman, a veteran of the Obama and Clinton administrations, as assistant secretary of state.
Nuland was the United States Ambassador to NATO under President George W. Bush from 2005 to 2008. She served as State Department spokesperson under Secretary of State Hillary Clinton before succeeding Philip Gordon as Deputy Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs. More than just an “Obama veteran,” Nuland played a pivotal role in the execution of Ukraine’s Obama administration policies during and after the Euromaidan revolution of 2014. She expressed US support for the protests in Kiev against the government of President Viktor Yanukovych, condemning the efforts of the local police to suppress the protests. “It’s still possible to save Ukraine’s European future, and that’s what we want to see the president lead. This will require immediate security measures and renewing a conversation with Europe and the International Monetary Fund and bringing justice and human dignity to the Ukrainian people, ”Nuland said in December 2013. She met with pro-EU protesters in Kyiv on December 11, distribution of food in a symbolic gesture of solidarity with the anti-government demonstrators; The move sparked widespread outrage in the Kremlin, which viewed Nuland’s exit as a shameless act of public interference in Ukraine’s internal affairs.
It was revealed in early 2014 that Nuland, along with then-US Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt, was intimately involved in ongoing US efforts to organize and install a new government in Ukraine. “I think Yats is the one with the economic experience, the government experience,” Nuland said in a telephone conversation with Pyatt, referring to the installation of Ukrainian politician Arseniy Yatsenyuk to a senior government post. Nuland also expressed his strong deference to Opposition Leader Vitali Klitschko: “I don’t think Klitsch [Klitschko] should enter the government. I don’t think it’s necessary, I don’t think it’s a good idea. The phone call is best known for Nuland’s colorful reference to the European Union, which did not fully agree with Washington on key issues regarding the fate of the Yanukovych government: “OK. He now has both [proposed UN mediation team member [Robert] Serry and [UN Secretary General] Ban Ki-moon to agree that Serry could come Monday or Tuesday. So that would be great, I think, to help glue this stuff and for the UN to help glue it and, you know, f *** the EU. After a widespread reprimand from senior EU officials, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki announced that Nuland “had been in contact with his EU counterparts and had gotten on well. sorry for these reported comments.
Nuland continued to play an active role in shaping US policy for a post-Maidan Ukraine, meeting with President Petro Poroshenko on several occasions to discuss the implementation of the Minsk Protocols and the progress of the ‘Ukraine on national reforms. Nuland was also involved in ultimately successful efforts to push for deadly military aid to Ukraine.
More broadly, Nuland supported and facilitated Obama-era policies to confront, contain and deter Moscow on multiple political fronts. Nuland was a prominent voice in favor of expanding the Magnitsky Law in response to the assassination of Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov. The law was successfully enforced in 2016, giving the US government ample leeway to impose sanctions on anyone found guilty of human rights violations. Vice President Biden, who was mentioned in the appeal between Nuland and Pyatt, also played an active role in supporting the Maidan protests. He subsequently developed a personal relationship with Poroshenko, offering the Ukrainian president specific political guidance during a phone leak in 2016.
In short, Nuland is a capable and committed advocate of the Obama-Biden approach to Russia and Ukraine. In a summer 2020 editorial for Foreign Affairs, Nuland offered a series of policy recommendations to the next president on how to deal with Russia: a united world front to control and deter Russian military aggression, a more robust toolbox to crack down on Russian disinformation, new sanctions and public diplomacy efforts aimed directly at the Russian people. Many of these proposals enjoy broad support across the rest of Biden’s assembled foreign policy team, as well as with the president-elect.
Reports on Nuland’s future appointment will certainly be a source of joy for the Kiev government. Likewise, they are perhaps sending the clearest message to Moscow to date that the prospects for a meaningful rapprochement between the United States and Russia under a Biden administration appear extremely slim.
Mark Episkopos is a national security reporter for the National interest.