The American magazine “The Economist” presented glimpses of the “hateful” history of diplomatic insults and taunts between leaders and officials, their causes, and the change of their method over time.
The magazine referred to the recent position issued by the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, who spoke about the “dumb with the deaf” dialogue when he met in Moscow with the British Foreign Minister, Liz Terrace, who went there, a few days ago, in an attempt to alleviate the tension on the Ukraine crisis.
The minister, who is known for his lack of diplomatic tact, made this statement before leaving the meeting that took place between them and leaving her alone in front of the microphone, according to the magazine.
In its report entitled “The Abominable History of Diplomatic Insults … Why have politicians in the world been making fun of each other for a long time”, the magazine notes that centuries ago, diplomatic insults were more blatant than they are now, but the atmosphere remained charged as it is.
And he remembered that the Ottoman Sultan Selim I, when he wanted to declare his victory over the governor of “Dolkadir”, the buffer emirate between the Ottomans and the Mamluks, he sent his ambassador to Cairo, where he opened a bag containing the governor’s severed head and threw it at the feet of the Mamluk Sultan, one of the closest allies of the slain governor.
In 1827, the governor of Algiers hit the French ambassador with a fly bat during a dispute over debts, and this was an incident before colonialism that lasted about 130 years.
The report notes that modern diplomacy has become less inclined to physical confrontation, but it is “equally charged”, sometimes issued by dictatorial leaders who show “disdain” for their democratically elected opponents, and some may enjoy projecting a sense of strength and self-confidence to their fellow citizens, who view them as defiant strangers.
She refers, for example, to the Venezuelan leader, Hugo Chavez, who was known for his stinging speeches against US President George W. Bush, whom he called “the devil.”
And to the late Zimbabwean President, Robert Mugabe, who described former British Prime Minister Tony Blair as a “boy in shorts”, a statement that won internal praise even from his opponents.
Perhaps for similar reasons, the report says, Chinese diplomats have described Canada’s Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, as a “boy”.
And the report points to another, perhaps more blunt, method of deception by officials, such as the diplomatic spat between Turkey and Israel because the Israeli deputy foreign minister made the Turkish ambassador sit on a low sofa during a meeting.
Turkey later tried this trick by sidelining European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, by making her sit on a sofa while Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and European Council President Charles Michel were seated in two large chairs.
In 2007, Russian President Vladimir Putin upset then-German Chancellor Angela Merkel when he presented her with a huge dog, despite knowing Merkel’s known phobia of dogs.
The report says that the vitriol and insults will continue, as modern diplomacy provides more opportunities than ever for new forms of bickering, among them “memes”, as happened when the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ali Khamenei, tweeted in 2018 that Israel was a “malignant tumor” and responded On it the Israeli Embassy in the United States with a screenshot from the movie “Mean Girls”, accompanied by the phrase “Why are you obsessed with me?”
The Russian president had sparked controversy recently when he received his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron, in Moscow, when they sat together at a very far distance, and Putin left the hall, leaving his guest behind.
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