Image: Vladimir Putin, Dmitry Medvedev
Ria Novosti  /  Reuters
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, Russia's head of state and seen right, was described in one 2008 cable as playing "Robin to (Russian President Vladimir) Putin's Batman."
NBC, msnbc.com and news services
updated 11/29/2010 11:06:54 AM ET 2010-11-29T16:06:54

Among the hundreds of thousands of leaked State Department documents were candid and often unflattering assessments of foreign leaders.

The classified diplomatic cables were released Sunday by online whistle-blower WikiLeaks.

The massive release of material intended for diplomatic eyes only is sure to ruffle feathers in foreign capitals, a certainty that prompted U.S. diplomats to scramble in recent days to shore up relations with key allies in advance of the disclosures.

The cables contain many tart comments. French President Nicolas Sarkozy was described as an "emperor with no clothes" and Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai was said to be "weak" and "easily swayed."

Video: WikiLeaks exposes U.S.’s overseas secrets (on this page)

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, Russia's head of state, was described in one 2008 cable as playing "Robin to (Russian Prime Minister Vladimir) Putin's Batman."

Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, meanwhile, was described as erratic and in the near constant company of a Ukrainian nurse who was described in one cable as "a voluptuous blonde," according to The New York Times.

The newspaper said a batch of documents raised questions about Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and his relationship with Putin. One cable said Berlusconi "appears increasingly to be the mouthpiece of Putin" in Europe, the Times reported.

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German news weekly Der Speigel said U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton asked her ambassadors in Moscow and Rome to inform her whether there was any truth in rumors that Berlusconi and Putin have private business ties. Both men have denied such claims.

'Partying hard'
Another cable from Rome to Washington described Berlusconi as "physically and politically weak" and asserted that his "frequent late nights and penchant for partying hard mean he does not get sufficient rest." Berlusconi was also seen as "vain and ineffective as a modern European leader."

According to Der Spiegel, one cable sent from the American Embassy in Moscow said that Medvedev's wife Svetlana "remains the subject of avid gossip." It suggested that the Russian first lady had compiled a list of officials who should be made to "suffer" due to their alleged disloyalty to her husband.

Video: King: WikiLeaks is ‘terrorist organization’ (on this page)

Another cable told how Gadhafi "appears to have an intense dislike or fear of staying on upper floors, reportedly prefers not to fly over water, and seems to enjoy horse racing and flamenco dancing."

Gadhafi, who has ruled Libya for over 40 years, is also said to rely heavily on his staff of four Ukrainian nurses, including a woman named Galyna Kolotnytska, who is described as a "voluptuous blonde."

"Some embassy contacts have claimed that Gadhafi and the 38-year-old Kolotnytska have a romantic relationship. While he did not comment on such rumors, a Ukrainian political officer recently confirmed that the Ukrainian nurses 'travel everywhere with the Leader,' " the cable read.

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Other cables posted by the New York Times describe U.S. officials' meetings with Karzai's half-brother, who heads a provincial council in southern Afghanistan. Ahmad Wali Karzai is depicted as an operator who doubts the value of elections and "is widely understood to be corrupt and a narcotics trafficker."

A U.S. diplomat described German Chancellor Angela Merkel as someone who "avoids risk and is seldom creative."

Open Channel: Watching the WikiLeaks release

The U.K.'s Guardian newspaper said other documents describe how Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh was "dismissive, bored and impatient" during a meeting with White House counter-terrorism chief John Brennan and that a South African government official described Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe as "the crazy old man."

According to Der Speigel, another cable discussing the wife of Azerbaijan leader Ilham Aliyev said she had extensive plastic surgery and that as a result it is possible to confuse her for one of her daughters.

Britain's Sun newspaper told how one British former government minister was described as a "hound dog where women are concerned." Prince Andrew is also accused of "rude behavior," The Sun added.

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The Obama administration has been bracing for the release for the past week. Top officials have notified allies that the contents of the diplomatic cables could prove embarrassing because they contain candid assessments of foreign leaders and their governments, as well as details of American policy.

But in the wake of the disclosures, Francois Baroin, spokesman for the French government, said Monday that "France is very much in solidarity with the American administration."

He described WikiLeaks a "threat against the authority of a democratic society."

NBC News' Nancy Ing and Andy Eckardt, The Associated Press, Reuters and msnbc.com staff contributed to this report.

Video: King: WikiLeaks is ‘terrorist organization’

  1. Closed captioning of: King: WikiLeaks is ‘terrorist organization’

    >>> republican congressman peter king in new york serves on the committee on homeland security and intelligence. is this a threat to our national security these leaks, or is this a threat to our national dignity?

    >> it's both. the main one is our national security . what's really going to be going, foreign intelligence agencies are going to be going through these cables line by line , to find out which people and which countries are cooperating with us.

    >> the story about yemen where the leaders of yemen behind the backs of everyone else were saying keep the air strikes and al qaeda going, we will continue saying the bombs are ours not yours. how might a cover-up like that affect the leaders of yemen ?

    >> al qaeda in the arabian peninsula -- this puts that government at risk.

    >> and the situation with saudi arabia , apparently asking the united states to take out iran's nuclear infrastructure and other leaders in the middle east apparently echoing those sentiments, how might that affect the delicate balance in those regions?

    >> this gives them more fire power to work with that can destabilize those governments.

    >> were you surprised to hear that secretary of state children and her predecessor secretary of state rice asked their diplomats to in effect spy on diplomats of the united nations asking for things like computer pass words, dna, fingerprints.

    >> they have to do what they have to do. i'm not going to comment.

    >> why doesn't it cross the line?

    >> the fact that you and i are discussing it right now --

    >> it makes you queasy, doesn't it?

    >> believe me, we're doing nothing that every other government doesn't also do to us.

    >> wikileaks has been -- that would put them in the same category as al qaeda , basically. what is the likelihood of that happening?

    >> i was disappointed with what jim miklaszewski said that it doesn't appear that the government is going to be taking action. we have to be serious, we should go after them for violating the espionage act and i would say foreign terrorist organizations because their activity is enabling terrorists to kill americans.

    >> don't you want to take that action against whoever it was that downloaded these documents and gave them to wick i can leaks?

    >> he was apparently a low ranking pfc that's going to get a sentence. wikileaks accessory to this, they are as guilty as he is.

    >> they say documents like this helps to keep governments honest and this creates a better society and demon si. .

    >>> the government cannot assign a suicide pact . a government has to protect itself. it has to maintain secrets, we owe it to ourselves and to the men and women who are out on the front lines fighting for us.

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