Tales from the Trail

WikiLeaks spill reveals diplomats’ water cooler gossip

November 29, 2010

Some of the tidbits from the secret U.S. diplomatic cables unleashed by WikiLeaks show that diplomatic analysis can sometimes sound a whole lot like gossip. 

And just as when any private conversation goes public, it can be embarrassing for all involved. USA-CLINTON/

In the Case of the Compromised Cables, the unflattering descriptions of some of the world leaders will require all the diplomatic skill that U.S. officials can muster to soothe some of the world’s healthiest egos.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton decided a bit of self-deprecating humor might be the way to go.

“I can tell you that in my conversations, at least one of my counterparts said to me, ‘well don’t worry about it, you should see what we say about you’,” Clinton said in front of  TV cameras before leaving on a trip to Central Asia and the Middle East.

During her visit, Clinton may come face-to-face with some of the very leaders who were the subject of the cable chatter. (We’re thinking AWKWARD).

Her first stop is Kazakhstan. One of the leaked diplomatic cables talks about the lifestyles of  Kazakhstan’s leadership, including President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s fondness for horses and warmer climates.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin could arguably take it as a compliment that U.S. diplomats describe him as “alpha-dog” and “Batman” — after all, he was the one who boasted to former President George W. Bush  that his dog was bigger.

But if Clinton runs into Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, as they smile at each other, he may be thinking “who you calling Robin?”

What about if Clinton comes across German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is also expected to attend the OSCE summit in Kazakhstan? While shaking hands, will the German leader be thinking “I’ll show you creative”?

Diplomacy is often about smiling and shaking hands with foreign allies regardless of how one feels about them. That’s harder to do if they actually know what you’re thinking…

Photo credit: Reuters/Yuri Gripas (Clinton making statement about WikiLeaks)

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