World leaders’ awkward encounters, from ‘naughty schoolboy’ Pierre Trudeau to Trump’s handshakes – National


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The highly-anticipated encounter between U.S. President Donald Trump and Russia’s Vladimir Putin passed without incident Friday, as the pair exchanged a brief greeting and a few words on camera before retreating to a private meeting on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany.

Trump’s signature “jerk and pull” handshake was nowhere to be seen, with photographers who might have been hoping to capture a viral faux-pas left wanting.

READ MORE: Trump admitted to meeting Putin years ago, but now says G20 was the first time

It was left to German Chancellor Angela Merkel to provide the body language highlight of the day in Hamburg, with a hardly subtle eye-roll while engaged in conversation with Putin.

Past iterations of the G20 gathering, as well as other international summits, have proven fertile ground for tense, awkward and cringe-inducing interactions between world leaders. Here’s a look at some of the most memorable:

‘Naughty schoolboy’ Pierre Trudeau

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau may not see eye to eye with Trump on issues ranging from trade to NATO funding, but he has a long way to go before he can match his father’s vocal disapproval for a sitting Republican president.

During the G8 summit in Montebello, Que. in 1981, Pierre Trudeau repeatedly assailed President Ronald Reagan‘s economic policies, earning himself a stunning rebuke from British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, author Richard Aldous wrote in his book Reagan and Thatcher: The Difficult Relationship.

“Pierre, you’re being obnoxious. Stop acting like a naughty schoolboy!” Thatcher scolded.

Margaret Thatcher and Pierre Trudeau meet in Australia, Oct. 4, 1981, less than three months after her “schoolboy” comment.

CP PHOTO/ Peter Bregg

“It was classic Thatcher and perfectly delivered to prick the pomposity of the haughty Canadian,” Aldous wrote.

‘Yo, Blair’

President George W. Bush and Britain’s Tony Blair had a candid conversation about world affairs during a break in the G8 conference in Russia in 2006 – unaware that a nearby microphone had been left on and was capturing their exchange.

“Yo, Blair! How are you doing?” Bush drawled in between bites of a bread roll, British journalist Andrew Rawnsley wrote in his book The End of the Party.

After thanking Blair for gifting him a Burberry sweater, Bush turned his attention to the more pressing matter of the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah, remarking that Russia needed “to get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this s***.”

U.S. President George W. Bush talks with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, right, during a private luncheon towards the end of the G8 summit in St Petersburg, Russia, July 17, 2006, in this image made from television.

AP Photo/AP Television News

“The ‘Yo, Blair!’ was mercilessly mocked by the British press, among whom it was taken as confirmatory evidence that [Blair] was Bush’s poodle,” Rawnsley wrote.

Merkel, Putin and Putin’s dog

Putin is accused of intentionally preying on German Chancellor Merkel’s fear of dogs by summoning his black labrador retriever into the room during a 2007 meeting at his presidential residence in Sochi, journalist George Packer wrote in his 2014 profile of Merkel in the New Yorker.

“As the dog approached and sniffed her, Merkel froze, visibly frightened. She’d been bitten once, in 1995, and her fear of dogs couldn’t have escaped Putin, who sat back and enjoyed the moment, legs spread wide,” Packer wrote.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel are watched by Putin’s dog Koni as they address journalists after their meeting in Sochi, Russia, Jan. 21, 2007.


“I’m sure it will behave itself,” Putin is reported to have said, with Merkel replying in Russian, “It doesn’t eat journalists, after all.”

Putin later told German newspaper Bild that he didn’t know Merkel was afraid of dogs. “When I learned she did not like dogs, I apologized, of course,” he said.

Harper helps thwart G20 group photo

World leaders at the 2009 edition of the G20 summit in London gathered for a group photo, only for eagle-eyed Merkel to notice that there was an empty space next to her – which should have been occupied by Canada’s Stephen Harper.

G20 leaders pose for a photo as German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirschner appear to be pointing out Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s absence, London, U.K., April 2, 2009.


The Conservative Prime Minister was accused of taking an ill-timed bathroom break, but according to the BBC, these reports “were denied by officials,” who said he was pulled aside to be briefed on an updated draft communique.

Harper eventually made his way back to the group, only for exasperated photographers to realize that Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and Indonesian President Susilo Yudhoyono were now absconding.

A full group photo was never taken.

Obama and Putin’s frosty exchanges

The Asia-Pacific summit held in China in 2014 was the scene of a series of curt interactions between Barack Obama and Putin. According to Reuters, the encounters between the men “spoke volumes about the chilly state of relations between the United States and Russia.”

At one point, Putin tried to make small talk, praising the ornate decorations in the conference room in Beijing, only to elicit a cold “Yes” from Obama, Reuters reported. Later, Putin reached out and tapped Obama on the shoulder, but the Democrat president literally gave him the cold shoulder, barely responding.

The pair were later photographed having a conversation that looked anything but cordial, with Obama later admitting that the exchange was “candid, blunt [and] businesslike.”

WATCH: Obama and Putin hold tense meeting at G20 summit

But Putin’s meeting with Obama’s successor Trump on Friday was a decidedly pleasant affair according to U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who claimed that First Lady Melania Trump had to be sent to try and get the pair to wrap up the meeting, which went well over schedule.

The ‘death grip’ handshake

Fast forward to May 2017 and the now-infamous handshake between Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron, who locked hands for what seemed like an eternity, their jaws clenching and knuckles turning white.

WATCH: ‘Death grip’ handshake shared by Trump and France’s Macron comes under scrutiny

Macron later told French media that the handshake “wasn’t innocent.”

He added, “One must show that you won’t make small concessions, even symbolic ones, but also not over-publicize things, either.”

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