WikiLeaks Cables Treat Public to What Happens Behind Closed Doors of Foreign Relations

Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi, Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi and German Chancellor Angela Merkel CBS/AP

From left to right, Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi, Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi and German Chancellor Angela Merkel
CBS/AP

In many ways, the latest release of U.S. classified material by the whistleblower organization WikiLeaks can be compared to a family member or coworker imbibing too much alcohol at a holiday gathering and revealing what they really think about certain people.

Whether alcohol was involved with what led to the leak of hundreds of thousands of classified State Department documents Sunday remains to be seen. But the release has left the United States dealing with the hangover of American diplomats' observations on the leaders of fellow NATO countries -- and other world leaders -- being broadcast to the world.

For example, Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi is again defending his after-hours activities after one U.S. diplomat worriedly wrote in a cable that "frequent late nights and penchant for partying hard mean he does not get sufficient rest," The Associated Press reported.

Previously, Berlusconi was accused of throwing parties at his villas where escorts and teenage girls were in attendance. Other leaked documents reportedly describe him as "feckless" and "vain."

On Monday, Berlusconi shot down reports of the "wild parties" cable while making sure to express his feelings about the diplomat.

"I don't look at what third-rate or fourth-rate officials say," he said. "Once a month, I throw dinner parties at my houses, where everything takes place in a proper, dignified and elegant way."

One cable about Libya's Moammar Gadhafi was more direct. The New York Times reported a Ukrainian nurse described as "a voluptuous blonde" tends to accompany Gadhafi on his travels.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, German Chancellor Angela Merkel was reportedly described as "risk averse and rarely creative."

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Another cable casts Berlusconi in an unflatteringly light by saying he "appears increasingly to be the mouthpiece of (Russian Prime Minister Vladimir) Putin" in Europe, the Times reported.

From the cables, Putin comes across as more powerful than his successor, President Dmitri Medvedev, who was described as "playing Robin" to Putin's "Batman" in Russia. A Medvedev spokeswoman told the Times that "fictional Hollywood characters hardly need to be commented on" in response to a request for comment on the cables.

To be sure, the cables have proven to be not just what diplomats observe but what international figures say behind closed doors. The British newspaper the Guardian reported Monday that Prince Andrew spoke "cockily" at a business brunch in Kyrgyzstan, according to a secret cable the U.S. ambassador to Kyrgyzstan wrote in 2008.

Ambassador Tatiana Gfoeller, who attended the lunch, used sarcasm to express in her account of the two-hour lunch, the Guardian reported.

"Again turning thoughtful, the prince mused that outsiders could do little to change the culture of corruption here. They themselves have to have a change of heart. Just like you have to cure yourself of anorexia. No one else can do it for you," the cable reads, according to the Guardian.

The Guardian reported that Gfoeller wrote Andrew reacted with "neuralgic patriotism" whenever any comparison between the United States and the United Kingdom arose, quoting the prince as saying "'The Americans don't understand geography. Never have. In the UK, we have the best geography teachers in the world!'"

  • Alex Sundby

    Alex Sundby is an associate news editor for CBSNews.com

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