15 Cheap, Strange or Thoughtless Gifts Between World Leaders
What do you get for the person who has everything?
It’s a hard question at the best of times, but made even harder when the “everything” in question includes nuclear codes. World leaders sometimes become genuinely good friends, but a lot of the time they’re more like managers of different departments who keep getting brought to the same meetings. They spend hundreds of hours in one another’s company and know a lot about one another’s roles, but it’s not like they’re sharing a joint and watching Hot Rod together, or leaning up against a fence with a few beers, or any of the other things proper friends do.
However, they find themselves having to give each other gifts a lot. Official gifts, too, chronicled as matters of public record and scrutinized to a crazy degree — they can’t cross the line from “show of mutual respect” to “outright bribe,” you see, so in the U.S. anything worth more than $390 (unless the president wants to pay the difference themselves) is passed onto the Protocol Gift Unit and usually ends up in a museum somewhere. (Well, not always — several presidents have accidentally forgotten to pass their gifts on, or pay the excess, and just kinda taken a whole load of shit.)
With the sheer amount of gift-giving, and the pressure added to everything by the world’s eyes, it’s no wonder world leaders sometimes present themselves with crappy, underwhelming, poorly-thought-through or simply bizarre gifts.
One Hump or Two?
French President Francois Hollande received a camel in 2013 as thanks for his efforts in Mali. Unable to take it home unvaccinated, he left it with a Malinese family, who — and there’s no gentle way to phrase this — ate it. (Source)
Nothing Says ‘Cheap Gag Gift’ Like ‘the Constant Threat of Nuclear Apocalypse’
When Hillary Clinton was secretary of state, she gave her Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov a silly-looking big red button — real Carrot Top, prop-comedy shit. It said “reset” in English, and due to unfortunate mistranslation, “Overload” in Russian, muddying its message somewhat. (Source)
Toodle Pip, Here’s a Big Bag of Bloomin’ Bollocks
Former U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson gave gifts like a divorced dad hitting up a rest stop on Christmas morning. In 2021 he gave Joe Biden two dog bowls, a couple of blankets and a photo someone else took of a cool mural. (Source)
That’s Not an Insurance Policy, This Is an Insurance Policy
On a state visit to Australia, the Obamas were presented with a crocodile insurance policy that would have given Michelle a cool 50 grand if Barack was eaten by a croc. That wouldn’t have been a very g’day. (Source)
The Bulgarian Rim Job
There’s kissing ass and there’s kissing ass. In 2002, Bulgarian President Georgi Parvanov presented George W. Bush with, along with a dog named Balkan, the Bulgarian-language book The Leadership Genius of George W. Bush. (Source)
What’s the Hardest Thing About Being a Rollerblader?
In 2008, Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende gave George W. Bush everything a leader of the free world would need if they wished, at 62, to get really into rollerblading: blades, helmet, pads, everything. COOL. (Source)
The Pencil Is Pricier Than the Sword
Barack Obama was once given the unimpressive-sounding gift of a pencil by European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso. However, it was a Graf von Faber-Castell Perfect Pencil — possibly the only pencil in the world to break the $390 limit. (Source)
Wanna Watch ‘Raging Bull’? Tough!
Barack Obama once really shit the gifting bed. U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown gave him a pen holder made from the wood of a slaving ship, a reminder of Britain’s problematic history. Obama gave him 25 DVDs, unwatchable on U.K. players. (Source)
JFK was given a dog, Pushinka, by Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev in 1961. It was a bit of a fuck-you, though — Pushinka’s mother had been to space, so it was an adorable reminder that Russia was winning the space race. (Source)
The Most Dangerous Lizard on Earth? You Shouldn’t Have!
The first President Bush was given nine-foot Komodo dragon by Indonesian President Suharto in 1990. Komodo dragons are amazing but incredibly dangerous — it would be hard if given one not to see it as a fairly bold murder attempt. (Source)
Ah, An Ethically Questionable Noah’s Ark Scenario, Just What I Always Wanted
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe once arranged to give North Korean supreme leader Kim Jong-Il a mating pair of each of Zimbabwe’s rarest animals. However, international outcry at how this would absolutely kill most of them called off the plans. (Source)
Would Your Majesty Care for a Brewski from the Hideous Minifridge?
In 1972, President Pompidou of France gave Queen Elizabeth II a wine cooler shaped like a grasshopper. It’s a real room-filler, absolutely fucking hideous and as un-regal as it gets — the kind of thing a 10-year-old brings back from vacation. (Source)
The Pleasure Is All Yours
The late Queen herself wasn’t the greatest of gift-givers, presenting Joe Biden with a framed picture of herself. That’s simply not acceptable as a gift, goddamn it. What a show-off. (Source)
The War on Rugs
In 1997, Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliyev decided to commemorate a meeting with the Clintons by having a rug made featuring big-ass portraits of the pair of them. Luckily, it didn’t come out weird and creepy at all! (Source)
Cheap with the Fishes
Not all official gifts break the bank. On one occasion, the king of Morocco presented George H.W. Bush with a jar of fish bait worth a princely $3. (Source)