PRINCETON – The recent release on YouTube of an intercepted phone conversation between US Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and the American ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt – in which Nuland blasts the European Union for its inadequate response to the protests in Ukraine – is classic Soviet-style kompromat. The intended beneficiary was clearly Ukraine’s faltering president, Viktor Yanukovych. But who is being compromised?

On the face of it, the leak is a simple smear. It lends itself to the conspiratorial view that the international political order is an elaborate façade for brutal American power and corporate interests. The United Nations is just a mechanism to advance American interests, at the expense of countries like Ukraine, with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Robert Serry little more than cardboard figures who are needed to “glue it” for the Americans. Those are Nuland’s terms, and the conversation’s most memorable line, which immediately dominated the German headlines, was Nuland’s injunction to “fuck the EU.”