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From Khrushchev's Shoe to Powell's Tube: Global Politics' Most Iconic Symbols

© Sputnik / Eduard Pesov / Go to the photo bankU.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gives Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov the block with a red button marked "reset" in English and "overload" in Russian during a meeting in Geneva on March 6, 2009
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gives Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov the block with a red button marked reset in English and overload in Russian during a meeting in Geneva on March 6, 2009 - Sputnik International
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Sometimes it’s not the politicians’ decisions that make headlines… Here’s a special selection of the most resonant incidents, which will inevitably dig deep into the annals of history.

Khrushchev’s Shoe-Banging at the UN 

The infamous incident allegedly happened at the United Nations in October 1960: according to the most popular version, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev pulled off his shoe and began banging it on the desk, reacting to a speech by a Philippine delegate who criticized the USSR’s policy. While some media published photographic “evidence,” that appeared to have been photoshopped. This is when many started wondering whether the shoe-banging incident had happened at all.

© AP PhotoSoviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev as he pounded his desk at the United Nations with his fist in New York on Oct. 12, 1960, during angry debate.
Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev as he pounded his desk at the United Nations with his fist in New York on Oct. 12, 1960, during angry debate. - Sputnik International
Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev as he pounded his desk at the United Nations with his fist in New York on Oct. 12, 1960, during angry debate.

According to Khrushchev’s son Sergei, he failed to find any photo or video evidence of the incident despite the fact that the room was full of reporters. Sergei recalled that a UN staffer explained that someone tapped on his father’s heel, which left him without a shoe; when she retrieved it, wrapped it in a napkin and gave it back to Khrushchev, he was unable to put it back on and had to hold it under his desk for a while.

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Another version outlined by a New York correspondent, Benjamin Welles, suggested that Khrushchev threw the shoe at the Philippine delegate, reacting to his remarks, and then banged the shoe on his desk, while a Times reporter, James Feron, who was present at the UN, argued that he did not see the Soviet leader bang his shoe, but he had waved it and put it back on his table.

Colin Powell’s Aluminum Fake Poison Tube

What is so special about an aluminum tube? One would say nothing. However, fifteen years ago a small vial became the reason for the beginning of a bloody war in Iraq. During a United Nations Security Council session, then-US Secretary of State Colin Powell demonstrated a plastic tube of white powder poison, anthrax, as proof that Saddam Hussein had concealed his weapons of mass destruction program.

© AP Photo / Elise AmendolaU.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell holds up a vial that he said could contain anthrax as he presents evidence of Iraq's alleged weapons programs to the United Nations Security Council. (File)
U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell holds up a vial that he said could contain anthrax as he presents evidence of Iraq's alleged weapons programs to the United Nations Security Council. (File) - Sputnik International
U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell holds up a vial that he said could contain anthrax as he presents evidence of Iraq's alleged weapons programs to the United Nations Security Council. (File)

The weapons were never found and the program appeared to be nonexistent; the fabricated evidence will go down in history as the US’ rationale for the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Lost in Translation: “Overcharged” Button

In March 2009, then-US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton presented a big red reset button fixed to a yellow box to her Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in a bid to break the ice between the two countries. Hillary described the gift as a symbol of the Obama Administration’s willingness to “reset” bilateral relations. It, however, appeared that Washington got lost in the great and rich Russian language: when Clinton asked Lavrov if the caption to the button, written in Russian, was right, the minister pointed out the mistake and smiled. The word the US chose, “peregruzka,” meant “overcharged” or “overloaded” as opposed to “reset,” the correct version of which should have been "perezagruzka."

© AFP 2021 / ALEXANDER NEMENOVThe symbolic reset button presented to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Mistaken translation or ingenious prediction?
The symbolic reset button presented to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Mistaken translation or ingenious prediction? - Sputnik International
The symbolic reset button presented to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Mistaken translation or ingenious prediction?

While the pair laughed and joked about the gaffe, insisting that the countries had reached an agreement on how to reset ties, relations between Russia and the United States have only deteriorated since then.

Tie-Chewing Saakashvili

The five-day war between Georgia and South Ossetia in August 2008 made world headlines, and probably then-Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili was pretty concerned over the aggravating situation in the conflict area. While holding clearly a stressful phone conversation, Saakashvili was spotted putting his red tie in his mouth and “eating” it on a BBC live broadcast. The footage showing the gesture, apparently meaning that the president was on the brink of nervous breakdown, went viral, solidifying Saakashvili’s “legacy” in memes.

Pretzel That Choked & Bruised George Bush

In January 2002, the former President of the United States was watching a football game on TV between the Dolphins and the Ravens when he suddenly lost consciousness after he had fallen off the couch while choking on the salty snack.

“I hit the deck and woke up and there were Barney and Spot [Bush’s dogs] showing a lot of concern,” he told reporters shortly after the incident, proudly sporting a reddish bruise on his cheek.

© AP Photo / Ron EdmondsPresident Bush, with a scrape on his face, talks with reporters, Monday, Jan.14, 2002, at the White House about fainting briefly in the White House residence Sunday night
President Bush, with a scrape on his face, talks with reporters, Monday, Jan.14, 2002, at the White House about fainting briefly in the White House residence Sunday night - Sputnik International
President Bush, with a scrape on his face, talks with reporters, Monday, Jan.14, 2002, at the White House about fainting briefly in the White House residence Sunday night

He quickly came to senses after having passed out, the doctors explained that Bush’s pulse was lower than normal, which made him more vulnerable to fainting when the pretzel stimulated a nerve and it got caught in his throat.

“My mother always said when you’re eating pretzels, chew before you swallow,” he joked back then.

Netanyahu’s Felt Pen to Draw a ‘Red Line’ on Iran

Benjamin Netanyahu’s red felt pen became a symbol illustrating the Iranian nuclear threat: during the session of the UN General Assembly in September 2012, the Israeli Prime Minister drew a line to mark the threshold that Israel could tolerate.

“The red line should be drawn right here… Before Iran completes the second stage of nuclear enrichment necessary to make a bomb,” Netanyahu said, equipped with the red pen to illustrate his words.

© AFP 2021 / Don EmmertBenjamin Netanyahu at the United Nations in New York (September 27, 2012).
Benjamin Netanyahu at the United Nations in New York (September 27, 2012). - Sputnik International
Benjamin Netanyahu at the United Nations in New York (September 27, 2012).
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