2015 was a tough year for the world, with many of the problems from the previous year either deepening or spinning off into maddening new tangents. World leaders found themselves traveling around the world in a bid to stave off current crises or prevent future ones, tackling big subjects as diverse as Iran's nuclear ambitions to the threat posed by climate change.
Throughout it all, our leaders tried their hardest to remain dignified. Sometimes they succeeded, but often they failed.
To provide some levity after such a difficult year, WorldViews has collected some of the most awkward photographs of world leaders in the past twelve months.
Here they are below, in no particular order:
1. Vladimir Putin, working out
Vladimir Putin was, yet again, a man at the center of much of the year's events, finding time to not only antagonize Western leaders and remain a factor in Ukraine's quagmire, but also push Russia into a central military role in the Syrian war and almost go to war with Turkey. However, despite his busy year, the Russian president still found time to stage a very public workout session with his prime minister, Dmitry Medvedev, in the former Olympic host city of Sochi back in August.
(P.S. – As if to prove sanctions weren't hitting Russia so hard, he's wearing a $3,220 tracksuit in the photograph above)
2. The fall that Robert Mugabe hoped you'd never see
There's nothing funny about a 90-year-old man tripping. However, when that 90-year-old man is Zimbabwean strongman Robert Mugabe, and his government not only denies the trip happened but also tries to delete photographs of it from local photographers ... well, you can see why it becomes a meme. The trip was perhaps the most important thing Mugabe, now 91, did on the world stage in 2015, aside from blaming his own people for letting an American dentist shoot dead Zimbabwe's beloved Cecil the Lion.
3. The Australian prime minister casually bites into a raw onion
In 2014, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott was threatening to body slam Putin. Less than a year later, he was out of a job, having lost a leadership challenge from within his own party. As he left office, Australia paid tribute by referencing the most iconic moment of Abbott's brief time in office: the moment he chomped into a raw onion, skin and all, during a trip to a farm in Tasmania in March.
"Better than any other onions I've eaten in a long time," Abbott reportedly said as he ate the onion.
Bonus: The video.
4. David Cameron eating a hot dog with a knife and fork
It was an eventful year for British Prime Minister David Cameron, who not only survived an election that many thought would end his career but also found himself at the center of the European debate about refugees and the war against the Islamic State.
However, for many Brits the single most important thing he was photographed doing this year was when he was captured eating a hot dog with a knife and fork — perhaps less a sign of his admittedly privileged upbringing than an indication of just how image conscious British politics has become (see also: Ed Miliband).
5. Angela Merkel eating a pickled herring, whole
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Time Magazine's Person of the Year in 2015 for her leadership on the refugee crisis, confirmed again that even the most popular politicians probably shouldn't eat in public.
6. A tense toast between Obama and Putin
Despite relatively frequent chats on the phone about important issues like Syria, the Iran deal and Ukraine, it's pretty rare for Obama and Putin to actually see each other face-to-face. Perhaps that's why when they met in New York this September during a luncheon hosted by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, things were a little awkward as they raised their glasses for what appears to be a sparkling rose toast.
7. A casual pint at the pub between Cameron and Xi Jinping
A marginally less awkward drink was shared later in the year by Britain's Cameron and Chinese President Xi Jinping, who tried to ignore the enormous weight of international politics (and the following press pack) as they enjoyed a clearly casual pint of beer and fish and chips at the prime minister's local pub. The slightly awkward series of photos of the two men having a drink may have served to gloss over the controversy that Britain seemed to be bending over backwards to prove it was an ally of China.
8. A historic handshake gets unwittingly photobombed
In a rare sign of warmth in what can often seem like an intractable political conflict, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas shook hands for the first time in five years in November, when they greeted each other at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris.
While both sides would go on to downplay the meeting, it was captured in a photograph. Although, rather awkwardly, they were photobombed by Ikililou Dhoinine, president of the African islands of Comoros, which prompted an online response:
9. Obama gets left hanging
Obama's attempt to shake hands with Abdul Latif bin Rashid al-Zayani, secretary general of the Gulf Cooperation Council, was a clear failure at a White House ceremony in May. In some ways, the photograph seemed to sum up how the United States and its Gulf allies often appeared to be moving in different directions during 2015.
10. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and the European Commission President Jean-Claude Junckerman hold hands
It's hard to imagine a stranger handshake than the one performed by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and the European Commission’s President Jean-Claude Juncker in January.
A picture doesn't quite do it justice, so watch the video below:
Remarkably, this wasn't the only odd public meeting between the pair over the last year. In May, Juncker jokingly greeted Orban with a salute and the phrase "hello dictator" during a summit in Riga for the European Union's eastern partners, a reference to those who criticize the Hungarian for shifting his country to the right in recent years.
11. François Hollande receives a touchingly awkward hug from Kerry
Perhaps no world leader had a tougher 2015 than French President François Hollande. In January, Secretary of State John F. Kerry made a gesture of support for the French so awkward it was almost touching. by clutching the diminutive French leader so tight some thought they might embrace. Here's how The Fix's Jaimie Fuller described it at the time:
The American diplomat's greeting was suspended in time at the beginning, providing a glimpse of what it would look like if countries had to square dance at important international meetings. Then, a hug. Tap, tap. You think they would stop there, but oh no, you are wrong. Kerry wonders if he should give his host a kiss on the cheek. He decides no, but then, oh no — Hollande offered a cheek. Uh,uh, alright, peck. End back at square dance position, deeply regretting that you had to live through the past moment and wondering whether you should have just become a doctor (or James Taylor) like your mother wanted you to.
In case you are wondering, the reference to James Taylor is because he was also present, singing "You've Got a Friend" to Paris.
12. India's Modi won't stop hugging people
13. Iran's Zarif won't stop laughing
14. Kerry continues his never-ending tour of the world's Dunkin' Donuts
15. The prime minister of Ukraine is presented with a bouquet of flowers — and then grabbed by the crotch
Ukraine's parliament is rarely a peaceful place, but things took an even worse recently when Oleh Barna, a member of parliament from President Petro Poroshenko's political bloc, presented Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk with a bouquet of roses, grabbed him by the crotch and attempted to carry him from the rostrum. The ensuing melee gained widespread attention online, but it was also a reminder that while Ukraine's crisis may have faded from headlines, it's far from over.
If we missed any awkward photos, please email us