Wheels reveal foreign policy choices

Joseph Stalin preferred the American Packard Twelve

The cars chosen by presidents, kings, prime ministers and other leaders of the world in the past and today, also reveal their tastes in foreign affairs.

The car fleet of the last Emperor of Russia Nicholas II in 1913 consisted of 29 vehicles and in 1917 there were 46. The Emperor’s main car was a French Delaunay-Belleville. It all ended badly for the ruler as well as the manufacturer, sadly.

When Vladimir Lenin became the leader of the Soviet Russia, strangely, he displayed a love of Western wheels, but apparently not ideology. In the 1920’s Lenin used a Rolls Royce 40/50 Silver Ghost and the only Rolls Royce-based sledge-car in the world.

Those discussions with Rolls about vast snowy landscapes with no roads for travel must have been long and interesting. Lenin famously erected the Gulags, similar to the concentration camps that the British invented in South Africa at the start of the 20th century.

Even more puzzling is that the next leader of the Soviet Union, Joseph Stalin, preferred the American Packard Twelve. A man of slight stature, he stood very tall as one of history’s most prolific killers. But he may not have had the only responsibility.

Stalin’s grasp on the Soviet Union featured many atrocities, including purges, expulsions, forced displacements, imprisonment in labor camps, manufactured famines, torture and good old-fashioned acts of mass murder and massacres.

Actually, most of the deaths are today attributed to Lavrenti Beria, head of Stalin’s Checka, and amounted to some 20 million lives, on top of the estimated 20 million Soviet troops and civilians who perished in the Second World War, for a total tally of 40 million. It was not called the Red Terror for nothing.

Both amoral psychopaths, acting like true gangsters, Stalin and Beria eliminated anyone and everyone who was a threat to their absolute power. Beria eventually killed his instrument of power (Stalin) too, new studies have shown, by poisoning him.

Chinese leader Mao Zedong had a Russian ZIS-110 which he got as a present from Stalin in 1949, although he managed to do a fair amount of killing himself.

Other Soviet leaders stuck with domestically produced cars. Nikita Khrushchev was driven in a ZIL-111 or a ZIL-111B convertible when he visited Berlin in 1960.

Leonid Brezhnev and the last Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev were both driven around in a ZIL. The latter had up to 20 of those on each of his foreign visits. This required seven Il-76 transport planes.

Russia’s first president Boris Yeltsin changed to an armoured ZIL-4105 when he became president in 1991. Later he changed it to a Mercedes S500 Pullman Guard (W140).

From then on German wheels seem to have prevailed. Russia’s current President Vladimir Putin is driven in a Mercedes S600 Pullman Guard (W-221).

John F. Kennedy, US president 1961-1963, used a Lincoln Continental. At the time of the assasination in Dallas, Texas, he was in a convertible Lincoln Continental SS-100-Х.

A man of the people, Uruguay’s acting President Jose Alberto Mujica spends almost all of his income on charity and his most expensive belonging is a powder blue VW Beetle, circa 1987.

No rattling along country roads for POTUS to meet fellow Americans, though. US President Barack Obama is transported in the armoured Cadillac One, also known as The Beast. The Bama took no cues from the Batman, clearly. His motorcade counts up to 40 vehicles transported on three Boeing С-17 Globemaster military transport planes.

British Queen Elizabeth sticks to the Bentley State Limousine, created in two copies specially for her in 2002 and British Prime Minister David Cameron still uses a Jaguar XJ X351 which he damaged in a road accident.

French President Francois Hollande changed from an armoured Renault Vel Satis to a Citroen and German Chancellor Angela Merkel drives an armoured Audi A8 L Security. She also has a BMW 760 Li E67 and a Mercedes-Benz S600 Guard V221 at her disposal.

Spain’s new King Felipe has English tastes. He prefers a Rolls Royce.