Mr. Lonely: Within a month of his inauguration, it became clear that fostering "special relationships" would not be a priority for Barack Obama. It started when the new U.S. president said he didn't want a Winston Churchill bust on loan from the British government that had sat in the Oval Office since the 9/11 attacks. Later, on a state visit to London, Obama presented Prime Minister Gordon Brown with a series of DVDs -- not taking into account Brown's failing eyesight or the fact that the DVDs were not compatible with British DVD players. Brown, however, displayed a little more attention in his gift-giving, presenting Obama with a pen holder carved from the timbers of the HMS Resolute, the same wood that was used to build the president's famous "Resolute desk."Bruno Vincent/Getty Images
Three's company: The close working relationship between Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill is one of the best documented between a U.S. president and a foreign leader. It was a friendship molded by the pressures of war: They spent 113 days together and exchanged more than 2,000 messages over the course of World War II, meeting nine times between 1941 and FDR's death in 1945. Despite the stakes, they struck up a distinctly informal friendship: After their first meeting in August 1941, Roosevelt told Churchill, "It is fun to be in the same decade with you." Churchill would later write, "I felt I was in contact with a very great man who was also a warm-hearted friend and the foremost champion of the high causes which we served."
Less well known is FDR's persistence in establishing a warm relationship with Stalin, or "Uncle Joe," as FDR and Churchill called him. In fact, FDR was far more suspicious of Britain's colonial habits and saw Stalin as a more suitable partner for global peace: "I think if I give [Stalin] everything I possibly can, and ask nothing from him in return, noblesse oblige, he won't try to annex anything and will work with me for a world of peace and democracy."Keystone/Getty Images
Peas in a pod: During the 1980s, U.S. President Ronald Reagan and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher were not only natural allies, but fast friends. It's said that during their first meeting -- which went 45 minutes overtime -- the two regularly finished one another's sentences. Reagan's press secretary is reported to have commented that it would have "taken a crowbar to get them apart."
The two had a lot in common: Both were elected as conservative rebukes to the liberal domestic and foreign policies of their predecessors, Jimmy Carter and "Sunny" Jim Callaghan. While Reagan and Thatcher are perhaps most famously remembered for their promotion of neoliberal economic policies, the two also shared a common approach to Cold War foreign policy that combined traditional deterrence strategy with a coolheaded sense of pragmatism. Although Reagan and Thatcher did have their disagreements, according to The Economist their mutual affection was steadfast: "[S]he loved him and he loved her back. ... They encouraged each other, validated each other and, in consequence, needed each other."ARCHIVES UPI/AFP/Getty Image
The power couple: Reagan's friendship with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev was one of the most important political relationships during the second half of the 20th century. Not only did Reagan and Gorbachev help end the Cold War, but they also made sweeping progress on an arms control and nuclear disarmament agenda that endures to this day. Although structural factors played an important role in helping Reagan and Gorbachev realize these achievements -- Reagan's defense buildup allowed the United States to negotiate with the Soviets "from a position of strength," while the foundering Soviet economy and overstretched Red Army left Gorbachev with little choice but to adopt a more conciliatory foreign policy -- so did their close personal relationship. Overcoming decades of mutual hostility and suspicion between American and Soviet leaders, Reagan spoke highly of the "moral dimension in Gorbachev" while Gorbachev praised Reagan as a "great American" and "great leader."BILL FITZ-PATRICK/AFP/Getty Images
The royal flush: The close ties between the Bush family and the Saudi royal family have been the subject of much study and more than a little controversy. George Herbert Walker Bush was already well acquainted with the Saudis before his presidency, having met both King Fahd and then Crown Prince Abdullah in 1982, while serving as Reagan's vice president. After Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in August 1990, it was feared that his next target would be oil-rich Saudi Arabia. The Saudis asked the United States for military assistance, which the Bush administration readily agreed to provide. King Fahd, presciently worried about the Saudi reaction to hosting U.S. troops, requested the decision not be announced until U.S. troops were already in theater. Following the war, U.S. troops established numerous bases throughout the desert kingdom -- one of the major grievances that inspired a Saudi-born Afghan mujahideen leader named Osama bin Laden.Dirck Halstead//Time Life Pictures/Getty Images
Bliss for Bubba and Boris: Even before he entered office in 1993, Bill Clinton had already begun to cultivate a friendship with Boris Yeltsin. The two met for the first time in 1992 and Clinton, so taken with the newly elected Russian president, joked that Yeltsin "could run for sheriff in Arkansas." Although Yeltsin possessed many unsavory qualities -- like chronic alcoholism and a healthy tolerance for corruption -- nothing could shake Clinton's belief that "ol' Boris" was a true reformer dedicated to economic and political liberalization. Clinton even traveled to Moscow to effectively stump for Yeltsin during his 1996 presidential campaign.MARKKU ULANDER/AFP/Getty Images
Partners in peace: Clinton and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin forged a close bond during the mid-1990s as they worked together on trying to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Rabin initially thought Clinton naive and inexperienced, but Clinton's top National Security Council deputy, Sandy Berger, remembers that over time Rabin developed "a great respect for the president." The two men's camaraderie and confidence in one another proved critical as they worked with Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat to draft and sign the historic 1993 Oslo Accords, which provided for the creation of a Palestinian National Authority and the removal of Israel Defense Forces troops from Gaza and the West Bank. Their partnership was unexpectedly cut short when Rabin was assassinated in 1995 by Yigal Amir, an extreme-right Israeli settler. Clinton famously signed off his eulogy at Rabin's funeral with, "Shalom, haver" -- Goodbye, friend.J. DAVID AKE/AFP/Getty Images
Bosom buddies: Of the many storied relationships between British prime ministers and U.S. presidents, one of the most geopolitically influential -- and perhaps unexpected -- partnerships was that of George W. Bush and Tony Blair, who had already established a good relationship with fellow "new liberal" Bill Clinton. Bush and Blair weren't nearly as ideologically simpatico, and instead their tight friendship was forged over a shared Christian faith and the fateful decision to invade Iraq in 2003. Most Britons despised Blair's willingness to follow Bush's lead, which earned him the nickname, "Bush's poodle."STEPHEN JAFFE/AFP/Getty Images
On the rocks: In the Obama era, the White House's relationship with Israel has hit rock bottom. Vice President Joe Biden's recent visit to Israel in March was nothing short of a disaster: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu unintentionally shattered the glass of a framed certificate meant as a gift for Biden's mother. Later that evening, Biden was blindsided by the Israeli Interior Ministry's announcement of the approval of 1,600 new homes in East Jerusalem. Obama did not take the development well, and David Axelrod, the U.S. president's top political advisor, went as far as to call it an "insult."JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images
Comrades: Washington insiders were surprised to learn in March that Obama's advisors counted Russian President Dmitry Medvedev among the U.S. president's closest foreign confidants. "[C]ould it really be that an American president has found his closest foreign partner in the Kremlin?" wondered the Washington Post's Jackson Diehl. Maybe not, but the two men do seem to be friends with benefits: Last week, Obama triumphantly announced a breakthrough in nuclear talks with Russia following a direct phone call with Medvedev to finalize matters.SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images
Mon ami?: In Paris, June 2009, Obama turned down an invitation from French President Nicolas Sarkozy to dine at the Elysée Palace, instead taking First Lady Michelle Obama to a Paris restaurant. When asked about the snub later, Obama replied, "Good friends don't worry about the symbol and the conventions and the protocols." But Sarkozy's luck might just be changing. On March 30, the French leader and his supermodel wife, Carla Bruni, are scheduled for a private dinner with the Obamas.STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN/AFP/Getty Images