ROBERT PARRY: The Mess That Nuland Made

Victoria Nuland engineered Ukraine’s “regime change” in early 2014 without weighing the likely chaos and consequences, wrote Robert Parry on July 13, 2015.

A version of this article first appeared on July 13, 2015.

By Robert Parry
Special to Consortium News

As the Ukrainian army squares off against ultra-right and neo-Nazi militias in the west and violence against ethnic Russians continues in the east, the obvious folly of the Obama administration’s Ukraine policy has come into focus even for many who tried to ignore the facts, or what you might call “the mess that Victoria Nuland made.”

Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs “Toria” Nuland was the “mastermind” behind the Feb. 22, 2014 “regime change” in Ukraine, plotting the overthrow of the democratically elected government of President Viktor Yanukovych while convincing the ever-gullible U.S. mainstream media that the coup wasn’t really a coup but a victory for “democracy.”

To sell this latest neocon-driven “regime change” to the American people, the ugliness of the coup-makers had to be systematically airbrushed, particularly the key role of neo-Nazis and other ultra-nationalists from the Right Sektor. For the U.S.-organized propaganda campaign to work, the coup-makers had to wear white hats, not brown shirts.

So, for nearly a year and a half, the West’s mainstream media, especially The New York Times and The Washington Post, twisted their reporting into all kinds of contortions to avoid telling their readers that the new regime in Kiev was permeated by and dependent on neo-Nazi fighters and Ukrainian ultra-nationalists who wanted a pure-blood Ukraine, without ethnic Russians.

Azov Battalion members. ( Gianluca Agostini/Wikimedia Commons)

Any mention of that sordid reality was deemed “Russian propaganda” and anyone who spoke this inconvenient truth was a “stooge of Moscow.” It wasn’t until July 7 that the Times admitted the importance of the neo-Nazis and other ultra-nationalists in waging war against ethnic Russian rebels in the east. The Times also reported that these far-right forces had been joined by Islamic militants. Some of those jihadists have been called “brothers” of the hyper-brutal Islamic State.

Though the Times sought to spin this remarkable military alliance neo-Nazi militias and Islamic jihadists as a positive, the reality had to be jarring for readers who had bought into the Western propaganda about noble “pro-democracy” forces resisting evil “Russian aggression.”

Perhaps the Times sensed that it could no longer keep the lid on the troubling truth in Ukraine. For weeks, the Right Sektor militias and the neo-Nazi Azov battalion have been warning the civilian government in Kiev that they might turn on it and create a new order more to their liking.

Clashes in the West

Oct. 8, 2014: U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland at a Ukrainian State Border Guard Service Base in Kiev. (U.S. Embassy Kyiv, Flickr)

Then, on Saturday, violent clashes broke out in the western Ukrainian town of Mukachevo, allegedly over the control of cigarette-smuggling routes. Right Sektor paramilitaries sprayed police officers with bullets from a belt-fed machine gun, and police backed by Ukrainian government troops returned fire. Several deaths and multiple injuries were reported.

Tensions escalated on Monday with President Petro Poroshenko ordering national security forces to disarm “armed cells” of political movements. Meanwhile, the Right Sektor dispatched reinforcements to the area while other militiamen converged on the capital of Kiev.

While President Poroshenko and Right Sektor leader Dmitry Yarosh may succeed in tamping down this latest flare-up of hostilities, they may be only postponing the inevitable: a conflict between the U.S.-backed authorities in Kiev and the neo-Nazis and other right-wing fighters who spearheaded last year’s coup and have been at the front lines of the fighting against ethnic Russian rebels in the east.

The Ukrainian right-wing extremists feel they have carried the heaviest burden in the war against the ethnic Russians and resent the politicians living in the relative safety and comfort of Kiev. In March, Poroshenko also fired thuggish oligarch Igor Kolomoisky as governor of the southeastern province of Dnipropetrovsk Oblast. Kolomoisky had been the primary benefactor of the Right Sektor militias.

So, as has become apparent across Europe and even in Washington, the Ukraine crisis is spinning out of control, making the State Department’s preferred narrative of the conflict that it’s all Russian President Vladimir Putin’s fault harder and harder to sell.

How Ukraine is supposed to pull itself out of what looks like a death spiral a possible two-front war in the east and the west along with a crashing economy is hard to comprehend. The European Union, confronting budgetary crises over Greece and other EU members, has little money or patience for Ukraine, its neo-Nazis and its socio-political chaos.

America’s neocons at The Washington Post and elsewhere still rant about the need for the Obama administration to sink more billions upon billions of dollars into post-coup Ukraine because it “shares our values.” But that argument, too, is collapsing as Americans see the heart of a racist nationalism beating inside Ukraine’s new order.

Another Neocon ‘Regime Change’

Much of what has happened, of course, was predictable and indeed was predicted, but neocon Nuland couldn’t resist the temptation to pull off a “regime change” that she could call her own.

Her husband (and arch-neocon) Robert Kagan had co-founded the Project for the New American Century in 1998 around a demand for “regime change” in Iraq, a project that was accomplished in 2003 with President George W. Bush’s invasion.

As with Nuland in Ukraine, Kagan and his fellow neocons thought they could engineer an easy invasion of Iraq, oust Saddam Hussein and install some hand-picked client in Iraq, Ahmed Chalabi was to be “the guy.” But they failed to take into account the harsh realities of Iraq, such as the fissures between Sunnis and Shiites, exposed by the U.S.-led invasion and occupation.

In Ukraine, Nuland and her neocon and liberal-interventionist friends saw the chance to poke Putin in the eye by encouraging violent protests to overthrow Russia-friendly President Yanukovych and put in place a new regime hostile to Moscow.

Carl Gershman, the neocon president of the U.S.-taxpayer-funded National Endowment for Democracy, explained the plan in a Post op-ed on Sept. 26, 2013. Gershman called Ukraine “the biggest prize” and an important interim step toward toppling Putin, who “may find himself on the losing end not just in the near abroad but within Russia itself.”

Then Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk. (Ybilyk)

For her part, Nuland passed out cookies to anti-Yanukovych demonstrators at the Maidan square, reminded Ukrainian business leaders that the U.S. had invested $5 billion in their “European aspirations,” declared “fuck the EU” for its less aggressive approach, and discussed with U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt who the new leaders of Ukraine should be. “Yats is the guy,” she said, referring to Arseniy Yatsenyuk.

Nuland saw her big chance on Feb. 20, 2014, when a mysterious sniper apparently firing from a building controlled by the Right Sektor shot and killed both police and protesters, escalating the crisis. On Feb. 21, in a desperate bid to avert more violence, Yanukovych agreed to a European-guaranteed plan in which he accepted reduced powers and called for early elections so he could be voted out of office.

But that wasn’t enough for the anti-Yanukovych forces who led by Right Sektor and neo-Nazi militias overran government buildings on Feb. 22, forcing Yanukovych and many of his officials to flee for their lives. With armed thugs patrolling the corridors of power, the final path to “regime change” was clear.

Instead of trying to salvage the Feb. 21 agreement, Nuland and European officials arranged for an unconstitutional procedure to strip Yanukovych of the presidency and declared the new regime “legitimate.” Nuland’s “guy” Yatsenyuk became prime minister.

While Nuland and her neocon cohorts celebrated, their “regime change” prompted an obvious reaction from Putin, who recognized the strategic threat that this hostile new regime posed to the historic Russian naval base at Sevastopol in Crimea. On Feb. 23, he began to take steps to protect those Russian interests.

Ethnic Hatreds

Lviv (west Ukraine) during WWII. Inscription on Soviet poster says: Destroy German Monster. (Unknown/Wikimedia Commons)

What the coup also did was revive long pent-up antagonisms between the ethnic Ukrainians in the west, including elements that had supported Adolf Hitler’s invasion of the Soviet Union during World War Two, and ethnic Russians in the south and east who feared the anti-Russian sentiments emanating from Kiev.

First, in Crimea and then in the so-called Donbas region, these ethnic Russians, who had been Yanukovych’s political base, resisted what they viewed as the illegitimate overthrow of their elected president. Both areas held referenda seeking separation from Ukraine, a move that Russia accepted in Crimea but resisted with the Donbas.

However, when the Kiev regime announced an “anti-terrorism operation” against the Donbas and dispatched neo-Nazi and other extremist militias to be the tip of the spear, Moscow began quietly assisting the embattled ethnic Russian rebels, a move that Nuland, the Obama administration and the mainstream news media called “Russian aggression.”

Amid the Western hysteria over Russia’s supposedly “imperial designs” and the thorough demonizing of Putin, President Barack Obama essentially authorized a new Cold War against Russia, reflected now in new U.S. strategic planning that could cost the U.S. taxpayers trillions of dollars and risk a possible nuclear confrontation.

Yet, despite the extraordinary costs and dangers, Nuland failed to appreciate the practical on-the-ground realities, much as her husband and other neocons did in Iraq. While Nuland got her hand-picked client Yatsenyuk installed and he did oversee a U.S.-demanded “neo-liberal” economic plan slashing pensions, heating assistance and other social programs the chaos that her “regime change” unleashed transformed Ukraine into a financial black hole.

With few prospects for a clear-cut victory over the ethnic Russian resistance in the east and with the neo-Nazi/Islamist militias increasingly restless over the stalemate the chances to restore any meaningful sense of order in the country appear remote. Unemployment is soaring and the government is essentially bankrupt.

The last best hope for some stability may have been the Minsk-2 agreement in February 2015, calling for a federalized system to give the Donbas more autonomy, but Nuland’s Prime Minister Yatsenyuk sabotaged the deal in March by inserting a poison pill that essentially demanded that the ethnic Russian rebels first surrender.

Now, the Ukraine chaos threatens to spiral even further out of control with the neo-Nazis and other right-wing militias supplied with a bounty of weapons to kill ethnic Russians in the east turning on the political leadership in Kiev.

In other words, the neocons have struck again, dreaming up a “regime change” scheme that ignored practical realities, such as ethnic and religious fissures. Then, as the blood flowed and the suffering worsened, the neocons just sought out someone else to blame.

Thus, it seems unlikely that Nuland, regarded by some in Washington as the new “star” in U.S. foreign policy, will be fired for her dangerous incompetence, just as most neocons who authored the Iraq disaster remain “respected” experts employed by major think tanks, given prized space on op-ed pages, and consulted at the highest levels of the U.S. government.

[For more on these topics, see Consortium News’s “Obama’s True Foreign Policy Weakness” and “A Family Business of Perpetual War.”]

The late investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. He began Consortium News in 1995.

21 comments for “ROBERT PARRY: The Mess That Nuland Made

  1. Jeff Harrison
    March 2, 2022 at 17:29

    Truly Robert Parry is missed. I strongly suspect (As Mr. Ritter confirms elsewhere on CN) that Russia will not let NATO (US/EU/UK) win even if it means a nuclear exchange. So even though I suspect that the US is a train wreck headed for real world economy destabilizing bankruptcy, I don’t think it can happen fast enough.

  2. SomeSalt
    March 1, 2022 at 09:03

    “The Mess that Nuland Made..”

    Evaluation is a function of purpose, and purposes differ.

    In the estimation of some Victoria Nuland did not make a mess but facilitated opportunities; the perception of opportunities differing.

    Politeness tends to be valued in some social relations and hence some who perceived differing opportunities did not thank her for her service, whilst some others who perceived other differing opportunities did thank her for her service.

    However some in Independence Square were disappointed not to receive sernik with candela (cinammon) with a warm strong coffee instead of plain bulkas, not even the one’s topped with soft cheese and raisins sold in the kiosk a stone throw away on the opposite side of Kreshatik – it was cold and windy after all – but the metro subway was crowded.

  3. MTMT123
    February 28, 2022 at 20:40

    nuland knew exactly what she wanna do and the mess in ukraine was exactly what she wanted – make a mess to provoke, tie down and hopefully destabilise russia … the real dumbass are the ukrainians who blindly went along with her plan …

  4. county kerry
    February 27, 2022 at 12:10

    Why do we allow psychopaths to determine our foreign policy ?

    So many ill people making decisions that effect all of us in our daily lives.

    • robert e williamson jr
      February 27, 2022 at 21:10

      Well it is pretty simple and over looked because of it’s simplicity.

      These psychopaths work for the the ” CIA, the Deep State et. al.,” just as Guilermo Calvo Mahe’ stated 2-26-22 @11:32 here. Nuland is a text book example, just look to who her husband is, neoconservative Robert Kagan, senior fellow at the Brooking Institution, and Co-founder of the neocon Project For The New American Century.

      His wife works for the very neocon-like Joe Biden at the State Department. And yes I do believe they are all certifiable nut cases. Very wealthy of course, that always helps when one has little or not outward talents other that mouthing the policy of those even more deranged.

      Now the question becomes is Putin equally deranged or is he F***ing with the “CIA, the Deep State et. al. and their tiny little brains. Remember , ” foreign policy is not about good guys or bad guys but power “. (Quote by Beau of the fifth column quite frequently of late.)

  5. joey_n
    February 27, 2022 at 05:51

    For her part, Nuland … declared “fuck the EU” for its less aggressive approach

    And thanks to Nuland, “F*** the EU” has been conveniently thrown around and about for every time the EU does something stupid, usually at the behest of the USA unlike in the original context in which she said it.

    What moral weight does it carry to quote notorious neoconservative warmongers like Nuland?

  6. zhenry
    February 26, 2022 at 16:55

    Superb article on what happened in Ukraine and US political factions.

  7. alley cat
    February 26, 2022 at 14:25

    “Thus, it seems unlikely that Nuland, regarded by some in Washington as the new “star” in U.S. foreign policy, will be fired for her dangerous incompetence, just as most neocons who authored the Iraq disaster remain “respected” experts employed by major think tanks, given prized space on op-ed pages, and consulted at the highest levels of the U.S. government.”

    Prescient reporting by Robert Parry that has been ignored by U.S. warmongers, who just keep doubling down, oblivious to the nuclear abyss straight ahead.

    A multi-polar world is their worst nightmare because they know their global extortion racket will eventually collapse without financial and military hegemony.

    Without reserve currency status for the dollar, they couldn’t afford to maintain 800 military bases around the world, and without all those bases, they couldn’t enforce financial hegemony.

    If Russia and China are able to defy U.S. financial and military encirclement, other nations will follow suit. Which means no more free lunch for U.S. warmongers and racketeers, probably a fate worse than death as far as they’re concerned.

  8. Drew Hunkins
    February 26, 2022 at 13:47

    God I miss this great man. Mr. Robert Parry RIP

    • February 26, 2022 at 21:56

      Always good to know that when I bookmark something on my tablet from years ago that I can look back upon it and take comfort in knowing that I had the map, directions, and the key. The only thing that was missing was the declination.

      • Drew Hunkins
        February 27, 2022 at 14:25


  9. vinnieoh
    February 26, 2022 at 13:31

    Thanks CN for reposting this – I did need a refresher/reminder of some of the facts immediately surrounding the ’14 coup. As I read this I was thinking about the ’03 invasion of Iraq. I have some thoughts that I haven’t seen expressed by others pertaining to that, but perhaps I just don’t read enough.

    As I watched the whole tragedy/crime of the Iraq invasion unfold it occurred to me that what we saw in the GW Bush administration was a coalition of more-or-less likeminded but sometimes competing spheres of influence and power. First there was Carl Rove and the Rovians who for the most part only cared about US domestic politics and their “great game” to establish a permanent conservative majority. Then there was the Bush family and apparatus so historically entwined with US hegemony and military/ideological dominance, and then of course there was Dick Cheney straddling both the world of US military dominance and the world of wealth and power/influence of energy politics. It can be argued wrt to that last that there is no distinction of goals there, but that it has always been an integrated whole. All of those factions derived much support from an apolitical wealthy class – the ownership class – whose only interest was increasing their wealth and power.

    As that disastrous war played out we began to hear of plans by those wealthy carpetbaggers to re-make the economy/society of Iraq. I messaged Naomi Klein that it seemed to me that they were “attempting to create a sort of a privatization theme park,” replacing all of those services previously supplied by the Iraqi government/public sector. She agreed.

    Of all those competing interests the only ones to benefit from that disaster were the arms manufacturers and the war profiteers. As the ’06 midterms approached I found an up-to-the-minute summary of where all the campaign money was coming from and where it was going to: the “ownership class” could read the tea leaves, see the writing on the wall, and that although the US electorate could not vote out Bush/Cheney et al at that moment, it was obvious it was going to be a bloodbath for Republicans generally, and so money was pouring into phony Democratic candidates – the Blue Dogs – and so their political stranglehold would not suffer too great a loss.

    The carpetbaggers’ ambitions for Iraq were nonsensical as two US campaigns against that unfortunate land had created a failed state that was in the midst of a sectarian civil war, and workable infrastructure to build on had ceased to exist. Carl Rove’s great project suffered a setback, but not a complete defeat (only recently has the “rehabilitation” of GWB been attempted.)

    We are still in the midst of this turning point, this conflict/military operation in Ukraine, and how the Russian military apparatus behaves and how successful they are will ultimately determine what history eventually records. I can’t see – and I doubt that anyone can – at this moment all of the eventual consequences. I do strongly suspect though, that just as in ’06, the controlling party – the Democrats – are going to be wiped out in the upcoming midterms, and in ’20 Biden/Harris will be gone from our memory even more quickly than from “Uncle Joe’s” own failing memory.

    • Gordon Hastie
      February 27, 2022 at 01:31

      Klein’s great book The Shock Doctrine made a lot of sense! A pity the bought media refuse to see what really lies behind the “humanitarian concerns” etc.

  10. mgr
    February 26, 2022 at 12:46

    Fast forward almost exactly 7 years. It has always been about Nuland, and those who feed her. Even more though, it demonstrates how thoroughly the “Democratic Party” has been consumed by neocons. A different flavor perhaps from the more lumbering variety found in the GOP but identical in substance; the standard bearers of the “one exceptional nation” doctrine that is overwhelmingly found at the heart of the multitude of conflicts now seen throughout the world.

    I guess these kids were not breast-fed enough when they were young…

  11. February 26, 2022 at 11:32

    I believe this is exactly what Nuland, the CIA, the Deep State et. al. wanted. A quagmire for Russia with economic sanctions constantly increasing in order to turn Russia into another Venezuela, gambling all of our lives on the supposition that Putin will not react in a manner that destroys us all. The fact that every sanction imposed on Russia should have been imposed on all EU and NATO countries when they invaded Libya and Syria and Iraq and Afghanistan, etc., is dealt with through the massive propaganda to which we are constantly exposed, and by shutting off communication from Russia, etc. For example, I can no longer receive RT News on my cell phone in Colombia.

    • robert e williamson jr
      February 27, 2022 at 13:19

      I’m very interested in your first line here. Not much else explains the freaky- scary-clownish events that transpired to bring us to this point.

      My interest lies in the fact that not many seem to be willing to explore connecting the boorish dangerous lies of the Bush 41 administration. The story goes that 41’s Sec of Defense James Baker is said to have promised Ukraine that the NATO would not advance any further east and in fact some day Ukraine might become a NATO member. 41 was later quoted as saying Ukraine would never become a NATO member making the NATO – Ukraine issue clouded at the very least. Fourteen years later a series of quite intriguing events started to take place when a democratic administration suddenly seems to be all about Ukraine oil.

      Then just in time to muddy the relations between US and Russia the Orange Mad Man stirs the US – Russia relations pot vigorously into a frothing witches brew.

      Seems every single time the US is thrown into an international crisis each partie seems to go into lock step with the other ruffling the stability of world peace.

      This all seems to me to only be explained by you reference to “Nuland, the CIA, the Deep State et. al . . .” and I totally agree with you.

      So what gives with the hundreds of comments submitted here that are completely void of any mention of such a connection?

      I never really agreed that the cold war was over and made my point in a comment here.

      Seems if anyone was kick-starting the Cold War out of the Deep Freeze it was Obama and Biden whose actions seemed to fuel activities by the Orange Mad man.

      I figure this happened because Obama rolled over for the Pentagon and the War On Terror acolytes.

      So whats up?

      Thanks CN

    • Masud
      February 27, 2022 at 15:42

      I can’t receive RT either in Ireland.

  12. Geoff Burns
    February 26, 2022 at 11:13

    Robert Parry was truly a beacon of understanding. He thought and wrote so concisely. It is amazing how prescient he was. Unfortunately the MSM has been telling the public a far different story. This was written before Russiagate. We have had years of the demonization of Putin. My friends no nothing of Ukrainian neo-nazis or Victoria Nuland. They know only that Putin is the devil and America is the savior of all that is good. Difficult to understand after Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Bolivia, Honduras, etc.

  13. Andy
    February 26, 2022 at 11:04

    This article should be brought to the attention of world – a world that has completely swallowed Washingtons propaganda hook, line & sinker.
    It’s quite telling that when 2,000 Palestinians (500 children) are bombed and killed that the perpetrators are allowed to continue with BAU.

  14. SomeSalt
    February 26, 2022 at 11:00

    “The Mess that Nuland Made..”

    Evaluation is a function of purpose, and purposes differ.

    In the estimation of some Victoria Nuland did not make a mess but facilitated opportunities; the perception of opportunities differing.

    Politeness tends to be valued in some social relations and hence some who perceived differing opportunities did not thank her for her service, whilst some others who perceived other differing opportunities did thank her for her service.

    However some in Independence Square were disappointed not to receive sernik ( cheesecake) with candela (cinammon) with a warm strong coffee instead of plain bulkas, not even the one’s topped with soft cheese and raisins sold in the kiosk a stone’s throw away on the opposite side of Kreshatik – it was cold and windy after all – but the metro subway was crowded.

  15. Guy St Hilaire
    February 26, 2022 at 10:58

    A reality untold by the Western press and a good reminder .
    Today on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) networks, it is a Russia bashing frenzy and everyone is competing on outdoing the other .The context is always missing and the Western world seems to have won the day . The US and EU has averted dealing with their bankruptcy and the great Reset can move forward .For now .

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