Interview With Latvian Television (LTV-7)

Victoria Nuland
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs
Riga, Latvia
November 20, 2014

Question: I have questions about Latvia. Madame Ambassador, you [inaudible] but you speak Russian. May I ask you to greet our viewers in this language?

Assistant Secretary Nuland: (speaks Russian)

Question: Thank you very much. Now, seriously --

Assistant Secretary Nuland: I’ve often been accused of having a little bit of a Latvian accent when I speak Russian. You’ll have to tell me. Maybe it’s more American.

Question: You can be [inaudible].

Assistant Secretary Nuland: That works.

Question: Seriously, almost a year past since you shared cookies with Maidan protesters, and today you will fly to Kyiv and you will land in country on the brink of open war. What problems on future developments on what sort of advice regarding possible Russian’s reactions and actions were you provided by American intelligence and analyst communities back then? Have anybody warned how Russia might react and will react to [inaudible]?

Assistant Secretary Nuland: I didn’t quite understand your question, Alexei, but I would say that not just Americans, but people across the Transatlantic space including across the European Union, are very distressed and unhappy with Russia’s actions that violate the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine by its decisions even after the Minsk peace agreement, which we think is a very good agreement and a strong agreement, to continue to provide weapons and fighters into Ukraine.

If Russia chooses and if it persuades its separatist proxies to implement Minsk, then we are prepared to roll back sanctions. When that border closes and is restored to Ukrainian sovereignty. When the OSCE is allowed to monitor. When that ceasefire is honored. The separatists are now fighting inside Ukraine, inside the ceasefire lines. Why? If that ceasefire is honored, then sanctions can be rolled back, but that’s Russia’s choice to make. It’s Russia that is fueling this fire today.

Question: But in light of recent Ukrainian experience what will change in advice United States offers to [inaudible] minorities including Russian minorities? Moving something like universal based upon which the minority [inaudible] exist and if yes, what is it?

Assistant Secretary Nuland: First I would say that with the special status law that the Ukrainian Rada approved, the old Rada mind you even before elections, that offered a highest degree of autonomy for the separatist area. If the separatists had accepted this, they would have had far more freedom in terms of economic rights, in terms of political rights, in terms of cultural rights in Eastern Ukraine than most minorities have inside Russia itself. So I think the question is whether the Russian speakers in Ukraine, frankly, the Russian speakers in any other country, want to work with the government on positive programs to support cultural diversity, language diversity, local autonomy or whether they want to fight. And we support democratic development. We support pluralism and diversity in all European countries. And frankly, we don’t understand why this offer that was made to a unique part of Ukraine wasn’t taken up.

Question: And the last question. With all due respect I would like you to answer in most undiplomatic way.

Assistant Secretary Nuland: Undiplomatic way?

Question: Yes.

Assistant Secretary Nuland: You know I’m not a very diplomatic diplomat. You may have heard that about me.

Question: Yes, I did. So as [inaudible] one of [inaudible] security of my country. Now you have boots here in Latvia. Is U.S. government absolutely [inaudible] to risk American’s lives in order to defend Latvia? Is it ready to get involved in a shooting war and possibly risk of nuclear war, confrontation of Latvia?

Assistant Secretary Nuland: When NATO, and the United States as a NATO member, accepts new members into the alliance, that’s what it means. It means we are ready to put our lives on the line for that country’s security. That is why we have young Americans here, is to make absolutely clear that if Latvia comes under attack we will be here to help defend Latvia. We don’t want it to come to that, so partly this presence is a deterrent that nobody should mess with Latvia, nobody should mess with NATO territory.

Question: Thank you.

Assistant Secretary Nuland: Thank you.