(W)Archives: What Do Presidents and Prime Ministers Say to Each Other?

April 4, 2014

The Ukraine crisis has caused a flurry of consultation among Western leaders on how to handle Putin.  Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has been particularly aggressive in his response to the situation, leading the charge to throw Russia out of the G8.  President Obama spoke with Harper on March 1 about the situation.  What did they talk about?

Well, War on the Rocks has the inside scoop…but not that inside.  However, the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum does have the transcript of an 18 minute August 4, 1990 call from President Bush (41) to then Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney to discuss Saddam Hussein’s recent invasion of Kuwait.   Nominally, Bush called Mulroney to fill him in on the situation, but the two soon start discussing cooperative action, complaining about the support shown by King Hussein of Jordan for Saddam, and worrying about Saudi reluctance to allow western troops into the Kingdom.  One can imagine that Obama and Harper spoke about comparable details.

There is one key difference, of course.  Bush and Mulroney had good personal relations and were ideologically aligned.  Obama and Harper are politically quite different, and there are signs that the relationship between the two may not be particularly good.  (OK, that last link was a parody, but perhaps it speaks to a deeper truth.)

Maybe in twenty or thirty years we’ll know what the President and the Prime Minister said to each other.  Sadly, transcripts don’t convey tone of voice.


Mark Stout is a Senior Editor at War on the Rocks. He is the Director of the MA Program in Global Security Studies at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Arts and Sciences in Washington, D.C.