Secretary of State John Kerry v. His Subordinate Victoria Nuland, Regarding Ukraine

Eric Zuesse

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, on May 12th, responding to Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s assertions that Ukraine will retake Crimea and will conquer Donbass:

“I have not had a chance – I have not read the speech. I haven’t seen any context. I have simply heard about it in the course of today. But if indeed President Poroshenko is advocating an engagement in a forceful effort at this time, we would strongly urge him to think twice not to engage in that kind of activity, that that would put Minsk in serious jeopardy. And we would be very, very concerned about what the consequences of that kind of action at this time may be.”

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European & Eurasian Affairs, Victoria Nuland, as communicated by the U.S. State Department’s Press Office on May 15th, reiterating Poroshenko’s view:

“Assistant Secretary Nuland’s ongoing visit to Kyiv and her discussions with Prime Minister [Arseniy] Yatseniuk and President [Petro] Poroshenko reaffirm the United States’ full and unbreakable support for Ukraine’s government, sovereignty, and territorial integrity. We continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with the people of Ukraine and reiterate our deep commitment to a single Ukrainian nation, including Crimea, and all the other regions of Ukraine.”

Will John Kerry reprimand his subordinate for her contradicting what he, her boss, had said three days earlier? If not, then will President Barack Obama fire his Secretary of State John Kerry? If not, then will Victoria Nuland be fired? If not, then who is to trust anything that comes from the U.S. State Department, when the Secretary of State can be contradicted three days later by his subordinate, and both remain in their respective jobs?

Republicans are already preparing to weaken Kerry over this. The far-right news-site “Frontpage Mag” headlined on May 21st, “John Kerry’s Seven Hours of Weakness in Russia,” and condemned the “attempt by Kerry to re-set the ‘re-set’ button [on U.S. policy toward Russia] first pushed by his predecessor, Hillary Clinton.” The special subject of their ire: “The promise of ‘rolling back’ the mild sanctions regime the West imposed on Russia on account of Putin’s annexation of Crimea and support of separatist rebels was bandied about, if only Russia would behave in the future.” But winning changes in behavior is what international diplomacy is supposed to be all about — otherwise the State Department wouldn’t even be needed, and only the Pentagon would handle America’s foreign relations.

If Victoria Nuland stays in her job, then John Kerry will be neutered even if he’s not fired.

The only person with the power to fire Nuland is actually U.S. President Barack Obama. Perhaps the request for him to do that is already on his desk. If it’s not, then Kerry’s job is in jeopardy, because his diplomatic efforts can be obliterated by a subordinate and that subordinate will suffer no penalty for doing this. Nobody then would respect anything that the U.S. Secretary of State says, because it would necessarily represent the President’s policies. If the Secretary of State isn’t backed up by the President, then the Secretary of State has no real power at all.


Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of  They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of  CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity, and of  Feudalism, Fascism, Libertarianism and Economics.

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  • “….The Ukraine economy crumbles, as the money runs out,
    Better off under Yanukovych, of that there’s no doubt.
    The opposing factions the West, on the Maidan, brought together,
    Are opposing factions once more, never actually birds of a feather.

    Riots on the streets of Kiev, we never see them reported,
    Mainstream media coverage, as usual, factually distorted,
    But giving a balanced view has never been the media’s way,
    The freedom of the press not that often on display.

    We need to feel sorry for the people of the Ukraine,
    They’re the ones who suffer most from “democracy’s” gain.
    Going without, just so the West can have more,
    Realisation growing of what the IMF has in store.

    Underestimating the Russians may prove a fatal mistake,
    Corrective action the West must now undertake.
    They call Putin a thug, but he can out manoeuvre the West,
    Russia will protect their interests, if they’re put to the test.

    Poroshenko is not going to help to avoid the disaster.
    His strings being pulled by his puppet master,
    And Obama and his sidekicks are just flapping around;
    In America’s foreign policy where’s the sense to be found?….”

    (from “Ukraine the Continuing Story Part 3”)

  • Rehmat

    John (Cohen) Kerry and Nuland are working for the same master.

    Alexander Zakharchenko, prime minister of the separatist Donesk People Republic has called the US-EU installed regime in Kiev as controlled by miserable Jews. I know pro-Israel Ukraine’s president Petro Poroshenko and several of his regime members are Jewish. However, no one in his right mind will call them “miserable” as all of them including the opposition woman-leader Yulia Tymoshenko are all millionaires.

  • This article presumes that one or the other is mistaken. More likely is that both comments were as intended, targeting different audiences, for different purposes.

  • david t. krall

    coincidence….and then 5/31/15…was that the day of “neutering” referred in the article above (???), supposedly from a broken femur? or broken truth?…This is what puts it “ALL together” for me…corroborated facts showing schisms within the top and epicenter of current power here and its “eruptions” and consequences…this article was written on 5/21…ten days before 5/31…how foretelling and insightful,,,I followed this “bike-accident” closely…it is pure horse manure and bull fertilizer….