Nuland had her last day at the State Department on Wednesday; her name was just one among a long list of senior Obama-era diplomats who resigned from their posts this week, many of them 'expressing concerns' about serving in the Trump administration's State Department, according to the New York Times
In Russia and Eastern Europe, Nuland will best be remembered for her role in the political crisis which rocked Ukraine beginning in late 2013, and culminated in the US and EU-backed Euromaidan coup d'état in February 2014.
It was in a leaked telephone conversation with US Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt
from February 4, 2014 where Nuland made perhaps the most memorable remark of her diplomatic career, saying "F*ck the EU,"
referring to Brussels' hesitation to overthrowing the elected government in Kiev outright.
But even though the three little words were what was best remembered from the leaked conversation, the more important context which has since been forgotten was Nuland and Pyatt's very casual discussion about who they wanted to take the reins in the new government in Kiev (note that the conversation took place several weeks before President Viktor Yanukovych's ouster on February 22, 2014).
Nuland and Pyatt chose former boxer Vitaly Klitschko, who would go on to become mayor of Kiev, and Arseniy Yatsenyuk, who was
affectionately disparagingly referred to as 'Yats', who soon became Prime Minister. "Yats is the guy…" Nuland quipped commanded.
The two US officials also talked up the benefits of having Yatsenyuk and Klitschko ally with Oleh Tyahnybok, the ultranationalist Svoboda Party leader openly associated with Ukrainian Neo-Nazi groups. Far right groups played a key role in the success of the Maidan coup, duking it out with riot police and taking over key government buildings following President Yanukovych's ouster.
In late 2014, Nuland admitted that the US had spent a total of $5 billion for 'democracy promotion' efforts in Ukraine since 1991, something Russian officials
speculated knew very well was a code term for regime change efforts. The assistant secretary of state brushed off the allegations, telling CNN that "that money has been spent on supporting the aspirations of the Ukrainian people to have a strong, democratic government." She even denied that the money had been spent supporting the Maidan protests, calling them and the coup that followed a "spontaneous movement."
Nuland is married to Robert Kagan, a leading neoconservative who co-founded the Project for a New American Century, is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and several influential Washington-based think tanks. Kagan angrily left the Republican Party in 2016 and endorsed Hillary Clinton for president. Clinton handpicked Nuland for assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs post during her own tenure as Secretary of State.
Speaking to Radio Sputnik, political scientist Alexander Konkov explained
that "for Russia, the post-Soviet countries and the countries of Eastern Europe, Victoria Nuland's departure was symbolic." In fact, he said, Nuland's exit "signifies the famous promise of the new president of the United States to stop exporting democracy. In other words, the US must have a more pragmatic policy – not focused, as in previous years, on the export of so-called democratic values."
Nuland, Konkov noted, is seen "as
a rather an odious figure, and I think that her image, even long after her departure, will long be associated with interference in the internal affairs of other states."
"Her image passing out cookies on Maidan Square will be remembered for a long time," the expert added.