Congratulations for President-elect Joe Biden rolled in from around the world on Sunday as allies and adversaries of the United States celebrated or reckoned with the prospect of a new U.S. leader after four years of President Trump.
Traditional allies spoke of a need to rebuild ties and multilateral cooperation against such challenges as the coronavirus pandemic and climate change after Trump’s “America First” approach upended decades of U.S. foreign policy. In some capitals, the idea of a return to normalcy after four years of criticism, unpredictable behavior and tariffs from the White House was welcomed.
But not everyone was enthusiastic. Some countries — not only rivals such as China and Russia, but also friends such as Brazil — remained silent or muted in their comments while Trump rails against projections showing a Biden victory. Trump is mounting legal challenges to vote-counting procedures in several states; whether he prevails or not, he remains in office until Biden is inaugurated on Jan. 20.
Still, even some foreign supporters of Trump said it was time to face reality.
After former president George W. Bush congratulated Biden, Magnus Jacobsson, a Swedish lawmaker who nominated the Trump administration for a Nobel Peace Prize, tweeted “we can only hope that Trump also realizes that this is how to handle a loss.”
Time for ‘team play’
Trump tweeted Sunday that the “best pollster in Britain” called it a “stolen election” — a reference that confused British political observers. But even as he did so, key allies expanded on the congratulations they had sent to Biden on Saturday.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who has enjoyed good relations with Trump, said Sunday he expected to be able to work with Biden. “We have common values. We have common interests. We have a common global perspective,” he told the Associated Press.
Johnson and other leaders began to spell out their hopes for a new era of international cooperation, with key issues such as climate change back on the U.S. agenda after years of neglect.
“During the election campaign, Joe Biden made it clear that he believes in Team Play when it comes to the United States on [the] international stage instead of acting by its own,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said in a statement. “We want the West to play as a team again.”
Biden’s election “is good news,” Canadian Foreign Minister François-Philippe Champagne told CTV News on Sunday. “We’ll be able to work very well with the administration.”
The relief was strongly felt within international organizations. World Health Organization Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said he looked forward to working with Biden, who has pledged to reverse Trump’s decision to pull out of the global health body.
“Crises like the #COVID19 pandemic show the importance of global solidarity in protecting lives and livelihoods,” Tedros tweeted.
But even if the Trump era is over, some officials said, it will have left a mark. “We won’t pick up things where we left off in 2016,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told reporters. “The world has changed.”
Some nations hesitate
As Trump continued to contest Biden’s victory, leaders who have aligned with him hesitated. Neither Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan nor Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, strongmen who got along with Trump, had congratulated Biden by Sunday afternoon.
Others said it simply wasn’t proper to congratulate a new leader while the result was contested. “We don’t want to be imprudent,” Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who has spoken of a warm personal relationship with Trump, told reporters late Saturday. “President Trump has been very respectful of us, and we have reached good agreements.”
There was shock among politicians who found common cause with Trump, including many in Europe’s anti-immigrant right wing. Estonian Interior Minister Mart Helme on Sunday echoed Trump’s unsubstantiated claims of electoral fraud, and suggested the president would prevail after a struggle, “maybe even bloodshed.” But Estonia’s prime minister quickly distanced himself from the remarks, calling them “absurd.”
There were signs that some Trump supporters were adjusting to the reality of a Biden presidency. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who said in September he hoped Trump would win the election, congratulated Biden on Sunday. “I wish you good health and continuous successes in fulfilling your duties of extraordinary responsibility,” he wrote to Biden, according to his spokesman.
Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu, a key Trump ally, also sent congratulations on Sunday. “Joe, we’ve had a long & warm personal relationship for nearly 40 years, and I know you as a great friend of Israel,” he tweeted, and then sent a second message thanking Trump for his support of the country.
Saudi Arabia, another key Middle Eastern partner of the Trump administration, also recognized Biden and Harris as America’s new leaders on Sunday.
In the West Bank, Palestinian leaders hailed the defeat of Trump, whom they have accused of putting U.S. policy at the service of the Israeli right wing. “There was nothing worse than the Trump era,” Palestinian official Nabil Shaath said in an interview with Turkish media. “Good riddance.”
Rivals remain circumspect
Iranian officials expressed hope in Biden’s victory, noting that he pledged during the campaign to rejoin the Iran nuclear agreement that Trump abandoned, if Iran shows that it is complying. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said that “the next U.S. administration should use the opportunity to make up for past mistakes.”
But other rivals appeared cautious: Neither China’s Xi Jinping or Russia’s Vladimir Putin had offered congratulations to Biden by Sunday evening.
The editor of China’s state-controlled nationalistic tabloid Global Times said Biden was well liked in China. “Hopefully he will be a more rational U.S. president,” Hu Xijin said in a video message.
Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen tweeted that she “looked fwd to working together to further our friendship.” In 2016, then-President-elect Trump took a congratulatory call from Tsai, infuriating China.
Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny also congratulated Biden and Harris. He said a free and fair election “is a privilege which is not available to all countries” and expressed hope for better relations between Russia and the United States.
Cuba’s president was also optimistic. President Barack Obama led a thaw in relations with the communist island government, but Trump reversed much of that opening. “We recognize that the US people have chosen a new direction in the presidential elections,” President Miguel Díaz-Canel tweeted. “We believe in the possibility of having a constructive bilateral relation while respecting our differences.”
Schemm reported from Dubai. Gerry Shih in Taipei, Taiwan; Regine Cabato in Manila; Joanna Slater in New Delhi; Sarah Dadouch in Beirut; Kareem Fahim in Istanbul; Isabelle Khurshudyan in Moscow; Susannah George in Kabul; and Mary Beth Sheridan in Mexico City also contributed to this report.