Senior US diplomat at centre of pro-Kremlin conspiracy theories to step down

‘Lawyer up’, advises Steve Bannon after Victoria Nuland announces departure

John Bowden
Washington DC
Thursday 07 March 2024 01:07 GMT
Donald Trump complains US is 'just so pathetic'

A senior official at the US State Department who was heavily involved in US-Ukraine policy and earned Moscow’s wrath as a result is stepping down in the coming weeks, said Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

Victoria Nuland was the agency’s Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs and previously served as assistant Secretary of State for Europe; in both positions, she was a fervent advocate for US support of Ukraine while drawing from her deep professional history of working in Russia.

Ms Nuland departed from the State Department when Donald Trump took office in 2017 but returned under his successor Joe Biden.

In a statement, the secretary of State wrote that Ms Nuland’s “leadership on Ukraine” will be a decision which “diplomats and students of foreign policy will study for years to come”.

“Her efforts have been indispensable to confronting Putin’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, marshalling a global coalition to ensure his strategic failure, and helping Ukraine work toward the day when it will be able to stand strongly on its own feet – democratically, economically, and militarily,” said Mr Blinken.

In both Moscow and pro-Trump circles in the United States, Ms Nuland has long been accused of being the orchestrator of the 2014 protests in Ukraine which resulted in the ousting of the country’s pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych.

In reality, Mr Yanukovych’s ouster was the result of months of protests which began after he rejected a major agreement with the European Union in a bid for closer ties with Russia. His removal from office was followed by Russia invading and annexing Ukrainian territory, and Mr Yanukovych fleeing to Russian territory.

Her departure was celebrated by one of the architects of the cloud of conspiracies that constantly emanate from Trumpworld, former White House chief strategist and Breitbart editor Steve Bannon.

On his War Room podcast, Mr Bannon advised Ms Nuland to “lawyer up” and warned that a second Trump administration would investigate her for being the “Fountainhead of everything about this Ukraine situation”.

Mr Trump has not explicitly said that he would end arms supplies to Ukraine as it continues to resist a full-scale Russian invasion, though many of his closest political allies are vocally opposed to further aid. The former president himself has largely stuck in public comments to baseless boasting regarding how he supposedly could have stopped Vladimir Putin from launching the Russian invasion.

Trumpworld as a whole also still seems to treat any criticism of Russia in general with suspicion, likely a result of continued bitterness stemming from the months-long investigation into whether Mr Trump’s 2016 campaign colluded with Russian agents as well as the embarrassment of his first impeachment in 2020 — a result of Mr Trump pressuring Ukraine’s president into opening a politically-damaging criminal investigation into his rival for the presidency, Joe Biden.

Ms Nuland was further drawn into those far-right conspiracies about Ukraine in 2022 after she testified in Congress that the US had funded labs in Ukraine working on preventing the spread of harmful pathogens — a project that conspiracy-mongers on the right spun into fanciful tales about secret bioweapon labs.

Her role is set to be filled at the State Department by Under Secretary for Management John Bass until a permanent replacement is selected.

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