Creative Insults in World Politics

A collection of decidedly undiplomatic disses

Balloons made by the 'ONE' campaigning organisation depicting leaders of the countries members of the G7 are seen in front of the Frauenkirche cathedral in 2015.
Hate to burst your bubble (Fabrizio Bensch / Reuters)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan ruffled a few feathers this week by calling everyone who offended him a Nazi, starting with the Germans and winding his way over to the Netherlands. But as Godwin’s Law decrees, invoking the Nazis is the easy way out for an insulter. Here are a few world leaders who took the time to make a slightly more creative insult.

Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydlo. Last week, Poland’s current government tried to block a former Polish prime minister from renewing his term in a senior EU position. The government’s objections were overruled by the rest of the EU’s leaders, including French President Francois Hollande, who warned the EU could withhold funds from Poland if they didn’t stop pursuing reforms perceived as anti-liberal. The Polish PM responded by lashing out at Hollande’s approval ratings: “Am I supposed to take seriously the blackmail of a president who has a 4 percent approval rating and who soon won't be president?”

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez. Venezuela’s government is projecting. In this case, it was targeting Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, who described Venezuela as a “big problem” in Latin America in a speech earlier this month. “He goes round, poor thing, with my respect because he is an elderly man, [like] a good dog who wags its tail at the empire and asks for an intervention in Venezuela. He’s alone, going round like a crazy man, with no one paying attention.”

China’s State Council. Every year, the U.S. State Department issues a report documenting human rights violations worldwide. China does not appreciate the attention. In its own annual tradition, it throws the report back in America’s face. This year, it got particularly creative, with words so poetic they belong in a Trump inaugural. “With the gunshots lingering in people’s ears behind the Statue of Liberty, worsening racial discrimination and the election farce dominated by money politics, the self-proclaimed human rights defender has exposed its human rights ‘myth’ with its own deeds.” North Korea also piled on, remarking in its own response to the U.S. report, “‘health insurance’ has become a legal tool for emptying the people’s purses.”

German Deputy Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel. While others go around comparing Germans to Nazis, the Germans have been getting down to business. When informed that Donald Trump had complained that Germans weren’t buying American cars, Gabriel hit back with what qualifies for a sick burn in German politics. How can the U.S. get into the German market? “The U.S. needs to build better cars.”

Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu. After the U.K. warned Russia against “sticking its paws” in Libya, where the presence of Russian forces has recently been reported, Russia’s defense minister opted to extend the animal metaphors. “What do they [the U.K.] have on their coat of arms? A lion, I guess. There is an old saying: all lions are felines, but not all felines are lions.” It sounds like someone isn’t a fan of Larry the Cat.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. Duterte is like a reverse Michelle Obama. When his opponents go high, he goes low. After the European Parliament criticized the Duterte’s government for the human toll of its drug war, Duterte literally raised his middle finger and offered a choice four-letter word to the EU: “Fuck you.” But lest Europeans feel singled out, Duterte has also told Singapore and the United Nations to do the same.

This article has been adapted from Matt Peterson’s weekly newsletter for Eurasia Group, Signal.