For years, the Washington foreign policy community has wondered about President Barack Obama's world leader best-buddies -- the international figures he's become close to personally as he sets out to rule the free world.
Well, in an interview with Time's Fareed Zakaria, Obama named his international BFFs and the surprising list includes: German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, and British Prime Minister David Cameron.
"Have you been able to forge similar relationships with foreign leaders?" Zakaria asked Obama. "Because one of the criticisms people make about your style of diplomacy is it's very cool, it's aloof, that you don't pal around with these guys."
Obama replied that he couldn't compare his relationships to those of past presidents, but "the friendships and the bonds of trust that I've been able to forge with a whole range of leaders is precisely -- or is a big part of what has allowed us to execute effective diplomacy."
Obama then went on name the five world leaders he feels especially close to and explained that he isn't exactly shooting hoops with them, but they at least have good working relationships.
"I mean, I think that if you ask them -- Angela Merkel, or Prime Minister Singh, or President Lee, or Prime Minister Erdogan, or David Cameron would say, we have a lot of trust and confidence in the President. We believe what he says. We believe that he'll follow through on his commitments. We think he's paying attention to our concerns and our interests," Obama said. And that's part of the reason why we've been able to forge these close working relationships and gotten a whole bunch of stuff done."
Singh was the first world leader to be honored with a state dinner at the White House during the Obama administration (that even the Salahis attended). Lee just got finished with a highly successful trip to Washington that included the signing of the U.S.-Korea free trade agreement. Some reporting says that Obama and Erdogan talk on the phone regularly. Cameron has joined Obama on all sorts of adventures, including the war in Libya.
As for Merkel, even we can't figure that one out.
But somewhere, soon to be ex-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev is shedding a single tear. After all, Obama did take him out for hamburgers in 2010 in Washington, but I guess it just didn't work out.
By the way, who was George W. Bush's world leader best buddy? Well, towards the end of his administration it was Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, but he also called British Prime Minister Tony Blair "My closest partner and best friend on the world stage" and nicknamed him "Landslide."
But Bush had cute nicknames for several world leaders. He called Jean Chrétien, the prime minister of Canada, "Dino" (short for Dinosaur), Vladimir Putin was "Pootie-Poot" and John Howard, the prime minister of Australia, the "Man of Steel."
John Hudson reports on national security and foreign policy from the Pentagon to Foggy Bottom, the White House to Embassy Row, for The Cable.