Reactions, from world leaders, to the outcome of the US Presidential election have been varied.
While China and a number of other countries, including Russia, China, Brazil and Mexico have still not congratulated Joe Biden (many analysts believe that authoritarian leaders of these countries will try to project the current impasse as a failure of American democracy). Leaders of Middle Eastern countries, including Israel, Turkey and Saudi Arabia have congratulated Biden. Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu who shared a strong rapport with Donald Trump, congratulated both Biden and Kamala Harris, via twitter, and referred to the relationship of 40 years, between Biden and Netanyahu, while dubbing the US President elect as a friend of Israel.
Many analysts believe that authoritarian leaders will try to project the current impasse as a failure of American democracy.
Saudi Arabian crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who both got along very well with Donald Trump took time to congratulate Biden (the President elect has also used harsh words for both Saudi Arabia, dubbing it as a rogue state and he had dubbed Erdogan as an ‘autocrat’).
While Iran’s President, Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister, Javad Zarif were guarded in their reaction, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said that: “The situation in the US & what they themselves say about their elections is a spectacle!” He further went on to state the current situation in the US clearly reiterates the ‘ugly face’ of liberal democracy in the US. He also stated that irrespective of the results, the political, civil, & moral decline of the US regime is clearly evident.
Reasons For Beijing’s Delay In Congratulating Biden
According to many observers, Beijing’s reason for the delayed acknowledgement of Biden’s mandate is two fold. Firstly, in spite of Trump being tougher on China, they preferred him given his simplistic approach and the fact that ties with many US allies were strained during his tenure (Biden on the other hand is likely to follow a more nuanced approach). Secondly, Chinese are happy with the confusion in the aftermath of the election, as this gives them a chance to criticize the functioning of the American democracy.
Reaction Of Western Liberal Democracies
If one were to look at traditional US allies, like UK, Canada Germany, and France; the leaders of these countries were quick to congratulate Biden. Boris Johnson, PM of UK in a tweet stated, that US was the important ally of the UK. While Johnson had a good relationship with Trump, there had been differences over dealing with Iran (UK was part of a Special Purpose Vehicle along with Germany and France to circumvent sanctions). While post the pandemic, Johnson too had adopted a tough posture vis-à-vis China, there were voices within his government which were not comfortable with US dictating what policy to follow. Johnson along with his other colleagues reiterated the importance of the US-UK relationship and also stated that he looked forward to cooperating with the new administration in areas like climate change and trade. There are worries with regard to the US-UK trade agreement, because Biden has clearly stated, that he would not allow Brexit to impact the Northern Ireland peace agreement.
Justin Trudeau, PM of neighboring Canada who did not share a particularly comfortable relationship with Trump congratulated Biden and Harris, through a tweet, and dubbed the Canada-US relationship as unique. Trudeau also called Biden and discussed important challenges such as the economic challenges posed by the pandemic, Climate Change, G7 and NATO.
Another leader who did not share a particularly cordial relationship with Trump was German Chancellor, Angela Merkel. They had differences over a number of issues such as NATO, Trump’s handling of Iran and trade. In a televised address, Merkel while commenting on the US election results stated: ‘Joe Biden brings with him decades of experience in domestic and foreign policy. He knows Germany and Europe well,’ French President, Emmanuel Macron is also amongst world leaders who has spoken to Biden, and like Trudeau, he is supposed to have discussed the possibility of greater cooperation between Washington and Paris, on issues such as climate change, health and other global challenges.
Leaders of both South Korea (South Korean President Moon Jae-in) and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga congratulated Biden. The Japanese PM spoke to Biden. During their conversation, Biden in his conversation with Suga stated, that article 5 of the 1960 Japan-U.S. security treaty, includes Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea. This received strong responses from China. According to article 5, Washington would respond to armed attacks on territories under Japan’s administration. An estimated 55,000 American troops are stationed in Japan in order to respond to emergency situations. It is also likely, that Biden will involve Japan and South Korea in the efforts towards ‘de-nuclearization’ in North Korea, much to the comfort of both Tokyo and Seoul.
Watch: Important for Japan PM Suga to forge a good relationship with Biden
Indian PM, Narendra Modi who got along very well with Donald Trump, and had participated in two joint events with Trump (Howdy Modi, Houston, September 2019 and Namaste Trump, Ahmedabad, 2020) congratulated both Biden and Harris. While he has interacted with Biden, during the latter’s stint as Vice-President, he congratulated Kamala Harris referring to her Indian origin, and said that the Vice President-elect’s feat was a matter of pride for all Indian Americans. There was criticism from certain quarters in India with regard to Biden’s stand on the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and other Human Rights Issues, but what is overlooked is his stand on issues such as immigration and trade which will benefit India. His campaign document clearly stated that strengthening ties with India would be one of his key objectives.
While Trump focused on ‘America First’, Biden in a media interaction indicated, that he is telling world leaders calling him that America would move away from the isolationist and insular approach of recent years. Said Biden, ‘When I’m speaking to foreign leaders, I’m telling them: America is going to be back. We’re going to be back in the game’.
Too Early To Understand Biden’s Exact Course
In conclusion, there is a clear difference in tone and tenor of different world leaders in their reaction to the US Presidential Election result. One thing which emerges is that leaders of many countries seem to be more familiar with Biden, given his earlier stint as Vice President, as well as chairman of the Senate Committee on foreign affairs apart from being a Washington DC insider.
Watch: Joe Biden’s Expected Foreign Policy, Explained
Apart from this, leaders of many countries are comfortable with Biden’s approach towards environmental and trade issues. Some of the authoritarian states do not seem to be particularly comfortable with outcome given the fact, that Biden has repeatedly focused on bolstering relations with liberal democracies, and also made it clear that under him US would not turn a blind eye to Human Rights violations in any part of the world. It is tough to gauge the likely approach of US ties with the rest of the world under Biden, merely on the basis of reaction of world leaders, given that other factors, especially US interests, will determine the overall nature of Washington’s future relations with the rest of the world. Yet the tone and tenor of world leaders does provide some insight into how other countries perceive a US led by Biden.
Other factors, especially US interests, will determine the overall nature of Washington’s future relations with the rest of the world.