Obama's 'hot and cold' leader list

By Peter Mitchell

President Barack Obama shakes hands with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull after speaking to the media in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington in January. Photo / AP
President Barack Obama shakes hands with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull after speaking to the media in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington in January. Photo / AP

Barack Obama and Malcolm Turnbull have a bit of a bromance going on.

It might even rival the US president-Australian prime minister relationship between George W. Bush and his "deputy sheriff" John Howard back in the 2000s.

That's the impression from a new list published in the US ranking the relationships Obama has with 19 world leaders.

Turnbull ranks a surprisingly high third place on Obama's favourites list considering he only took over Australia's top job in September.

Just number one ranked Pope Francis and number two German leader Angela Merkel trump Turnbull.

The list is the latest from the Atlantic magazine's national correspondent Jeffrey Goldberg, who has been given great access to Obama during his presidency, as well as White House officials and other world leaders.

"Obama has apparently formed a good impression of the new Australian Prime Minister, but Turnbull has a structural advantage: American presidents tend to like Australian prime ministers," Goldberg wrote.

"One administration official told me, 'Our allies all give us headaches, except for Australia. You can always count on Australia'."

Earlier this month Goldberg published a 20,000-word feature from his numerous interviews with the President, which detailed a private conversation Obama had with Turnbull at November's Apec summit in Manila.

The list ranks Obama's relationships with world leaders from "actually warm" to "ice-cold".

In fourth spot, and considered warm, was British Prime Minister David Cameron. Despite some tensions over military spending Obama "likes the Prime Minister and sees him a bit like a younger brother".

Fifth is Singapore's Lee Hsien Loong, then Canada's Justin Trudeau and Japan's Shinzo Abe.

Sitting down in chilly third last is Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who is described as "the world leader who consistently frustrates Obama the most, in large part because they are supposed to be close friends".

The bottom two in Obama's relationship freezer are 18th-ranked Iran's Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the coldest of all, Russia's Vladimir Putin.

"'Not completely stupid' is how Obama describes the Russian leader," Goldberg wrote.


Pope Francis greets faithful after celebrating Palm Sunday Mass, at the Vatican. The Pope is said to be US President Barack Obama's favourite leader. Photo / AP
Pope Francis greets faithful after celebrating Palm Sunday Mass, at the Vatican. The Pope is said to be US President Barack Obama's favourite leader. Photo / AP

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