At the end of a recent interview, a prominent politician from Europe’s far right chuckled at my question asking what he thought about the possibility of a President Trump.
“We’re off the record now, yes?” he inquired, nodding at the smartphone I had used to record our conversation. I turned it off.
The far-right leader – a man many European liberals label a fascist – said he was genuinely disturbed by many of the things the U.S. presidential candidate had said on the campaign trail, particularly his remarks about women and his stabs at laying out a cogent foreign policy. “I really think he’s crazy,” the politician said, almost whispering.
It’s a worry I’ve heard expressed many times over the 17 improbable months of Donald Trump’s now-successful campaign for the White House. “This can’t really happen, can it?” is the question I was asked most often by those I met in my travels around Europe, Russia and the Middle East.
Mr. Trump’s bombastic style and abrasive message have already earned him the open animosity of much of the Western establishment, something no U.S. President has had to face immediately upon coming to office. “What have they done?” read the zeitgeist-catching headline in the Daily Mirror, a left-leaning British tabloid. The Statue of Liberty was portrayed on the front page with her head in her hands, as smoke rose over New York City behind her.
The cover of Germany’s Der Spiegel magazine portrayed Mr. Trump as a flaming orange asteroid hurtling open-mouthed toward Earth. “The end of the world (as we know it),” the influential weekly declared.
World leaders such as Germany’s Angela Merkel and Scotland’s Nicola Sturgeon have made strong remarks warning they intend to hold Mr. Trump to account for his behaviour. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was more cautious, saying Canada looked forward to “working very closely” with the president-elect and offering to renegotiate the North American Free-Trade Agreement, which Mr. Trump regularly slagged on the campaign trail.
Even those cheering the brash billionaire to victory did so with a palpable amount of concern.
Russian President Vladimir Putin is seen as one of the big winners from the U.S. election, but some of those who put policy papers on desks in the Kremlin say they have warned that Mr. Trump’s admiration of Russia could just be another position he adopts today and abandons tomorrow.
Many in the Arab world were similarly happy to ponder a win by Mr. Trump, if only because it would shake up an American establishment they view as having long harmed the Middle East, intentionally or otherwise. But the war-torn region is also now nervously worrying about what comes next.
Even before Tuesday’s stunning result, the world was hurtling through a period of instability, a time some historians have compared to the tumultuous eras that preceded the two world wars of the previous century.
And on Jan. 20, 2017, Donald J. Trump – a man with no previous experience in governance or diplomacy, who has offended many traditional U.S. allies with his words and actions and wondered why the American military has been so reluctant to use its nuclear arsenal – will become the most powerful person on the planet.
One thing appears certain: Things won’t be the same afterwards.
“I think we can definitely say that the Pax Americana is over as of 2016,” said Ian Bremmer, the president of the Eurasia Group, a New York-based firm that analyzes global risks. “The abdication of American values, the inability of the U.S. to provide moral leadership in the world, is going to create a great fragmentation in what has been a U.S.-led global order.”
Mr. Bremmer said the best-case scenario might be that Mr. Trump focuses on domestic issues and treats the rest of the world with “benign neglect.” Far worse could lie ahead if Mr. Trump delivers on some of the foreign policy ideas he put forward on the campaign trail.
Here, then, is a look at a world that anxiously awaits to see what President Trump will do to it.
“Wouldn’t it be nice if we actually got along with Russia?” Mr. Trump repeatedly asked during his campaign rallies.
The world is about to find out. On Thursday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed the worst fears of many in the U.S. foreign policy establishment when he said Mr. Putin and Mr. Trump shared essentially the same worldview.
“It is phenomenal how close they are to one another when it comes to their conceptual approach to foreign policy,” Mr. Peskov told Russian state television.
Since the end of the Cold War, American foreign policy under both Democratic and Republican presidents has focused on the promotion and defence of democracy around the world. It’s an ideal that repeatedly brought Washington into conflict with Moscow, and Mr. Putin’s concept of a planet divided into superpower spheres of influence.
Mr. Peskov’s comments, alongside Mr. Trump’s remarks about foreign policy during the campaign, suggest that disagreement may no longer exist. Mr. Trump has mused aloud about working together with Russia to fight Islamic State in Syria (which implicitly means supporting Bashar al-Assad’s regime) and Mr. Trump the candidate replied vaguely when asked whether he thought the United States should come to the aid of the NATO members Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania – three former republics of the Soviet Union – if they were attacked by Russia.
Mr. Trump has also hinted he might recognize Moscow’s 2014 seizure and annexation of the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine, an act that started an exchange of tit-for-tat economic sanctions featuring the United States, Canada and the European Union on one side and Russia on the other.
Russia was accused of unprecedented intervention in the U.S. election, a charge the Kremlin hotly denies. But while Mr. Putin had a clear preference for Mr. Trump over Hillary Clinton (who Mr. Putin personally blamed for instigating 2011 protests against his rule), few in Moscow seemed to believe the Kremlin’s favoured candidate would actually prevail.
There was an expectation, right up until election day, that Russia would be dealing with a President Clinton for the upcoming four years. Now that Mr. Trump is the one headed toward the White House, Kremlin advisers are scrambling to try and understand what that might mean.
“If Trump will be the next President of the United States, our institute will be in a furor to investigate how he will behave,” Valery Garbuzov, director of the state-funded Institute for U.S. and Canadian Studies, said in an interview last week. “We know Trump as a candidate, but Trump as a president? That’s a question for Rhodes Scholars.”
And starting over may not be easy. Russian diplomats privately say that they believe the Washington establishment will prevail even under a President Trump. “Remember, geopolitical interests and American interests before anything else. We’ll see how it plays out,” one diplomat said.
Syria’s civil war – arguably the root cause of many of the world’s current ills – will pass the six-year mark just as Mr. Trump is sworn into office in January.
The numbers are grim: More than 400,000 people have been killed and millions more have been driven from their homes. The desperation of the situation has driven hundreds of thousands of refugees to pay smugglers to take them to Europe, overwhelming institutions there and provoking an anti-immigrant backlash that is propelling the rise of the continent’s far right.
On the ground, the situation is only getting bloodier and more complicated. A dangerous, multi-sided proxy war already sees Russian jets hitting U.S.-backed Arab fighters in and around the besieged city of Aleppo. Turkey – a NATO ally – invaded Syria last month to push back a Kurdish militia that has also been receiving U.S. support. Highlighting the danger of a wider conflict, U.S. and Russian jets had a near miss in Syrian skies last month.
Mr. Trump’s comments about Syria on the campaign trail will be deeply worrying to Mr. al-Assad’s opponents. “We don’t know who the rebels are. We’re giving them lots of money, lots of everything. We don’t know who the rebels are,” Mr. Trump said during a televised debate against Ms. Clinton.
Mr. Trump also expressed worries that anyone who took over from Mr. al-Assad might be “as bad as Assad is,” accepting a key argument made by both the Russian and Syrian leadership. Bouthaina Shaaban, an adviser to Mr. Assad, has welcomed the U.S. election result and said the regime was “ready” to co-operate with the president-elect. “I think the American people have sent a great, a very important message to the world,” she added.
A sliver of good news comes in the fight against Islamic State, which appears on the verge of losing its last major stronghold in Iraq. Separately, U.S.-backed Kurdish fighters have said they plan to begin their push toward the Syrian city of Raqqa, the de facto capital of the self-declared caliphate. But ending Islamic State’s rule over parts of Syria and Iraq won’t bring an end to the threat the organization’s followers pose to the West. Nor would it address the underlying grievances of Sunni Arabs in Syria and Iraq, who fear life under either the rule of either Mr. Assad or the Shia-dominated government in Baghdad.
IS appeared to be among those celebrating Mr. Trump’s victory. “Rejoice with support from Allah, and find glad tidings in the imminent demise of America at the hands of Trump,” read one website run by IS supporters. It gleefully predicted that Mr. Trump’s rise would lead to “civil war” in the United States.
“Old” Europe was already in crisis before Nov. 8 happened, pressured by – among a host of other worries – the rise of a home-grown far right and the conflict with Russia.
Mr. Trump’s win will fuel the first issue and call into question the rules of the second.
Among the first to congratulate Mr. Trump on his win were those hoping to mimic his insurgent charge against the establishment. “Their world is collapsing, ours is being built,” was how Florian Philippot celebrated the result. Mr. Philippot is chief strategist to Marine Le Pen, the leader of France’s far-right Front National.
Many in France now believe that a victory for Ms. Le Pen in next year’s presidential elections will be the next shock to the global system, the natural successor to Mr. Trump’s win, and last June’s referendum that saw Britain’s vote in favour of a “Brexit” from the European Union.
Right-wing populists are also expected to fare well in Austria, where far-right candidate Norbert Hofer is given even odds of winning a Dec. 4 presidential election run-off, and the Netherlands, where the Party for Freedom could emerge as the largest party following parliamentary elections in March.
Even German Chancellor Angela Merkel, in office since 2005, could find her rule threatened by the populist tide in elections next year; her Christian Democratic Union has been losing ground in the polls to the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany.
Ms. Merkel’s statement congratulating Mr. Trump on his win was remarkable in linking her willingness to work with the U.S. president-elect to his embrace of “values of democracy, freedom, and respect for the law and the dignity of man, independent of origin, skin colour, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or political views” – a clear shot across the bow over Mr. Trump’s often racist and misogynistic behaviour on the campaign trail.
Mr. Trump’s praise of Mr. Putin – and his description of the NATO alliance as “obsolete” – has also unnerved many on the eastern edge of the continent, where Russian actions in Ukraine have raised worries about how far Russia’s resurgent imperialism might go.
The U.S. election result has restarted long dormant talk in some European circles about the need to create an EU army to decrease the continent’s reliance on American military might.
Ukraine, meanwhile, must be the most nervous country of all.
Today, Kiev is openly worried that its interests could be sacrificed in a mano-a-mano deal between Mr. Putin and Mr. Trump. “If Trump really decides to cozy up to Putin, Ukraine could find itself as the ‘wedding present’ in this ‘marriage,’” wrote Kateryna Kruk, a social activist who rose to prominence during the country’s pro-Western revolution two years ago, a revolt intended to end Russian interference in the country.
An election day advertisement by Royal Jordanian airlines captured the mood across the Muslim world: “Just in case he wins,” it read. “Travel to the U.S. while you’re still allowed to.” There was no need to specify who “he” was.
President Barack Obama is viewed as a failure across much of the Middle East. He lifted hopes with his soaring rhetoric after coming to office in 2008, but he did less than any recent predecessor to advance the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians. (Though Mr. Bremmer said he believes Mr. Obama could officially recognize Palestine before he leaves office, which would be a significant legacy.)
Mr. Obama is also accused of standing aside as Mr. al-Assad used chemical weapons against his own people, in defiance of the lone “red line” Mr. Obama set for the war in Syria. The vacuum created by Mr. Obama’s inaction was happily filled by Mr. Putin.
There was little enthusiasm in the Middle East for a Hillary Clinton presidency – she’s viewed as pro-Israeli and tightly associated with Mr. Obama’s failures – but Mr. Trump’s election was met with revulsion. The Royal Jordanian ad captured how Mr. Trump’s talk of banning all Muslim immigration to the United States until the country can “figure out what is going on” reverberated around the region.
“We don’t like America today, but we don’t want to see it go down any further,” Adnan Abu Odeh, an adviser to Jordan’s late King Hussein, said in an interview shortly before the election.
“That man is crazy,” he continued, referring to Mr. Trump. “He will give a deadly blow to American stature in the world.”
Mr. Trump’s win was greeted with anxiety in Iran, where the pro-reform camp worries that Mr. Trump – who has heavily criticized the Obama Administration’s deal that saw Tehran curb its nuclear program in exchange for a loosening of Western sanctions – will take a more confrontational pose than his predecessor. But the message from the very top has been nuanced: Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei praised Mr. Trump after his televised debate with Ms. Clinton for speaking “candidly and openly” about the troubles of America.
There are also mixed feelings in Israel. Mr. Trump’s campaign promise to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem and to recognize the city as the capital of the Jewish state – overturning seven decades of U.S. policy (the eastern half of the city is considered by the United Nations to be occupied Palestinian land) – generated excitement in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government. There was talk this week of taking advantage of Mr. Trump’s presidency to build more Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank.
But there were also reports in Israeli media of American Jews considering a sudden move to Israel, fleeing the anti-Semitism they associate with Mr. Trump and his campaign.
Mr. Trump’s win prompted a flurry of activity in East Asia.
South Korea’s military and political leadership has held a series of emergency meetings since the U.S. election, spooked by Mr. Trump’s campaign trail declarations that he would pull out the 28,000 U.S. troops stationed in South Korea unless Seoul paid for them to stay.
Similar concern was evident in Japan, which Mr. Trump has also said will have pay for its U.S. military protection. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe – who was already pushing for changes to his country’s pacifist post-Second World War constitution – was one of the first leaders on the phone to the new president-elect, and the official Kyodo newswire reported that Mr. Abe would travel to New York later this month to meet Mr. Trump in person.
“We consider that what a candidate said during a political campaign can be different from what the candidate will actually do after taking office,” said an anonymous Japanese official quoted in the Japan Times newspaper. (Tokyo also ratified the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Thursday, a trade deal Mr. Trump has vowed to immediately withdraw from upon taking office.)
Meanwhile, North Korea floated out an exceedingly rare statement of praise for an American leader, calling Mr. Trump “far-sighted” and “wise,” in apparent response to Mr. Trump’s suggestion he might invite Kim Jong-un to the United States to discuss North Korea’s nuclear program over a hamburger. Mr. Trump has called Mr. Kim a “maniac” but seemed to mean it in a respectful way. “I mean, this guy doesn’t play games. And we can’t play games with him. Because he really does have missiles. And he really does have nukes,” Mr. Trump said.
The region’s biggest player, China, also seems uncertain what to make of America’s choice. During the campaign, Mr. Trump regularly blamed China for the United States’s economic ills. Like their Japanese rivals, Chinese officialdom appears to be hoping the president-elect will moderate his behaviour once he’s in the White House.
“The US billionaire is optimistically expected to become more rational when he assumes the office of the US president,” read a report in the Global Times, a newspaper affiliated with the more nationalist wing of China’s ruling Communist Party. The author went on to raise the possibility of a trade war if Mr. Trump went ahead with his pledges to pressure U.S. companies to move their production back home and to slap tariffs on Chinese-made goods.
“If Trump follows his campaign stance and imposes pressure on China over a host of economic issues, U.S. firms doing business in China may get caught in the fallout.”
If Mr. Putin is the main winner in the global stage from Mr. Trump’s shocking win, any list of the losers has to start with Mexico. In addition to Mr. Trump’s infamous promise to build a wall along his country’s 3,000-kilometre-long border with America’s southern neighbour, the president-elect has vowed to deport millions of illegal immigrants and to re-open the North American Free-Trade Agreement. (David MacNaughton, Canada’s ambassador to Washington, said the Trudeau government is willing to “have a discussion about improving NAFTA.”)
Mexico is vulnerable to the kind of pressure Mr. Trump has promised to bring. Roughly 90 per cent of the country’s foreign trade is with the United States, and President Enrique Pena Nieto may have to accede to some of Mr. Trump’s “buy American” demands if his country wants to avoid more draconian measures.
The peso has lost more than 13 per cent of its value against the U.S. dollar since Mr. Trump was declared president-elect.
Another nervous nation is Cuba, which was only beginning to enjoy a thaw that was one of the signature achievements of the Obama Administration. During the Republican primaries, Mr. Trump suggested he would reverse Mr. Obama’s easing of travel and trade restrictions and perhaps even close the newly reopened U.S. Embassy in Havana.
The Cuban government responded to the news of Mr. Trump’s election win by calling snap five-day-long military exercises to “prepare for enemy actions.”
The biggest loser of all, if Mr. Trump did mean everything he said on the campaign trail, may be the international effort to combat global warming.
As Americans were lining up to vote on Tuesday, climate change experts from around the world were gathered in the Moroccan city of Marrakesh. The mood was celebratory. Last year’s Paris Agreement – which saw 193 countries commit to cut greenhouse-gas emissions, with rich nations pledging billions to help wean the developing world off coal and other “dirty” technologies – had just come into legal force. After more than 20 years of negotiations, it seemed governments and industry were finally taking the warming of the planet seriously.
Then came the bombshell news that a man who described climate change as a “hoax,” and vowed to withdraw the United States from the Paris deal in his first 100 days in office, had won the presidential election. Mr. Trump has also promised to promote scrap environmental regulations and to promote the American coal industry.
“It was pretty grim on Wednesday morning,” said one participant in the Marrakesh talks who asked not to be named. “Many American delegates were in tears.”
However, like many of Mr. Trump’s campaign promises, there will likely be a large gap between what he said and what he can actually do as President.
The Paris Agreement came into force on Nov. 4, when enough countries ratified the deal to make it part of international law. That triggered something of a “Trump clause” in the pact – it will take four full years for any country to legally withdraw.Report Typo/Error