Friday, February 7, 2014

"F... the EU"

I usually try to steer away from politics in this blog, but there was an interesting international incident this week that made me think about that other profession I might have gone into besides writing.  There was a time when I was seriously considering a career in diplomacy.  I took the foreign service written exam and passed that, then moved on to take an oral exam.

During the oral exam, one of the exercises involved being placed into a room with two examiners who were pretending to be foreign diplomats whose country had a beef with the U.S.A.  It was my job to present the U.S. position as diplomatically as possible and try to resolve the issue.

In the end, I did not pass the exam.  Apparently I was not quite diplomatic enough, in their minds.  I considered trying again.  I could have kept taking it once a year or so until I passed, but by that time I was starting to think that maybe I was too independent-minded for this kind of job anyway, and so I threw in my lot with writing instead.  That doesn't mean I haven't had second-thoughts over the years.

Then this week came the minor scandal involving the Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, Victoria Nuland.  All of this is particularly interesting to me since I spent part of a summer in Ukraine one year and saw first-hand the divide that exists there between the Ukrainian-speaking, Western-leaning population and the Russian-speaking, Eastern-leaning population.  This truly is a country divided in half, primarily along the Dnieper River.

Anyone who has followed the conflict over the past few months will know how violent the protests have become, all stemming originally from a decision by the current Ukrainian government not to sign a trade agreement with the EU, in exchange for financial assistance from Russia.

So in any case, this week the Russians released a recording of a phone call between Nuland and the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt.  In it, Nuland is heard strategizing over who she thinks should be included in a new Ukrainian government, which seemed somewhat presumptive to me, and absolutely so to the Russians (hence their reason for releasing the tape).

Aside from the fact that Nuland also used cute yet annoying little nicknames for the personalities involved (ie., "Klitsch" for Vitali Klitschko), arguably the most jarring moment on the recording came when she dismissed to the European Union response to the situation by saying, "Fuck the EU."

Now, I do feel somewhat bad that Nuland's private phone conversation was released like this.  On the other hand, how can she not have been more careful than to have this kind of conversation on the phone, in Ukraine?

What personally stands out to me even more, though, is that I've finally realized after all these years what I did wrong during that oral examination.  I should have just said, "Fuck you guys!"  I would have gotten the job for sure! Ah well, apparently diplomacy just isn't what it used to be.  As it is, I guess I'll just have to stick with the writing...

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