Hundreds of thousands of leaked US
state department documents reveal a hidden world of backstage
international diplomacy, divulging candid comments of world
leaders and detailing embarrassingly frank US assessments of a
host of international leaders from Angela Merkel, the German
chancellor, to Robert Mugabe, the Zimbabwean president.
The classified diplomatic cables released on Sunday provide often
unflattering assessments of foreign leaders, including US allies
such as Germany and Italy.
Diplomatic cables released by
WikiLeaks to German news magazine Der Spiegel include
embarrassingly frank US assessments of German Chancellor Angela
Merkel, who is described as a weak leader.
In a message attributed to a US
diplomat in Berlin dated March 24, 2009, the magazine reports that
the state department describes Merkel as "risk averse and rarely
"The Americans argue that the chancellor views international
diplomacy above all from the perspective of how she can profit
from it domestically," the German magazine der Spiegel reported.
Merkel's vice-chancellor and foreign minister, Guido Westerwelle,
comes in for harsher criticism in the secret documents and is
described as incompetent, vain and critical of America, Der
An embassy cable from Berlin from September 22, 2009, days before
the general election that put him in office, describes Westerwelle
as having an "exuberant personality" but little foreign policy
In a cable sent from Tripoli dated September 29, 2009, Gene A
Cretz, the American ambassador to Libya, describes Gaddafi as a
very colourful character who appears to have "an intense dislike
or fear of staying on upper floors, reportedly prefers not to fly
over water, and seems to enjoy horse racing and flamenco dancing"
"He reportedly cannot travel without his senior Ukrainian nurse,
Galyna Kolotnytska," Cretz writes.
Cretz adds that the Libyan leader has been described as both
mercurial and eccentric, and "our first hand experiences with him
and his office ... demonstrated the truth of both
Gaddafi is further described as "obsessively dependent on a small
core of trusted personnel" and his chief of staff Basir Saleh
plays a crucial role.
Christopher W Dell, the US ambassador to Zimbabwe, describes
Mugabe as 'ruthless', 'clever' and "to give the devil his due, he
is a brilliant tactician".
In a cable, classified as "confidential" sent on July 13, 2007,
Dell writes that Mugabe has only been able to maintain power since
2000 through a "series of populist, but destructive and ultimately
The US ambasador concludes that Mugabe "will not go down without a
fight ... he will cling to power at all costs". Dell outlines a
series of possible scenarios for Zimbabwe, of which free and fair
elections top the list. But Dell postulates that a South
African-brokered transitional arrangement or government of
national unity in Zimbabwe "is less attractive" as this would
"only prolong than resolve the crisis".
Dell is equally candid of opposition leader Morgan Tsvangarai,
describing him at once "brave". committed, "with star quality" as
well as "indecisive", "not readily open to advice" and with
"questionable judgement selecting those around him".
"Zimbabwe needs him, but should not rely on his executive
abilities to lead the country's recovery".
Britain's newspaper The Guardian reported that Elizabeth Dibble,
US charge d'affaires in Rome, described Silvio Berlusconi, the
Italian prime minister, to be "feckless, vain, and ineffective as
a modern European leader."
Another document from Rome reported that Berlusconi was a
"physically and politically weak" leader whose "frequent late
nights and penchant for partying hard mean he does not get
sufficient rest," the paper reported.
And The New York Times said US diplomats in Rome expressed concern
at Berlusconi's unusually close ties with Vladimir Putin, the
One cable said Berlusconi appears "increasingly to be the
mouthpiece of Putin" in Europe, the Times reported.
The reports mentioned lavish gifts, lucrative energy contracts and
a "shadowy" Russian-speaking Italian intermediary, the paper