President-elect Joe Biden’s projected victory on Saturday drew cheers ― and sighs of relief ― from an international community exhausted by four years of President Donald Trump’s bullying, incoherent, transactional and largely ineffective approach to foreign policy.
As fireworks went off and people cheered in the streets in London, the city’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, called the win “well-deserved” on Twitter. “It’s time to get back to building bridges, not walls,” Khan wrote.
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon praised future Vice President Kamala Harris’ historic ascendance: “The first woman in the White House ― and the first woman of colour too. This is a big and special moment.”
Elisa Ferreira, the top European Union official from Portugal, declared that she was listening to Nina Simone’s classic “Feeling Good.”
And more diplomatically, high-ranking foreign leaders welcomed the prospect of a very different kind of U.S. partner.
“Congratulations, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris,” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted. “Our two countries are close friends, partners, and allies. We share a relationship that’s unique on the world stage. I’m really looking forward to working together and building on that with you both.”
U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he looked forward to collaborating with Biden and Harris ― a signal that even he, a Trump ally, is ready to move on.
And Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a deeply controversial figure who has echoed Trump’s nativist and exclusionary rhetoric, congratulated Harris, noting her Indian heritage.
America’s image abroad plummeted under Trump. A Pew Research Center survey released in September showed that the percentage of people in several countries who viewed the U.S. favorably had reached its lowest point in Pew’s nearly 20 years of asking foreigners their opinion of the U.S. In Britain, France, Germany, Japan, Canada and Australia ― all longtime allies ― only a minority of people saw the U.S. positively. Trump’s catastrophic approach to the coronavirus pandemic, which continued to kill hundreds of Americans daily as most other nations slashed their infection and fatality rates, further hurt the perception of the U.S.
For many international observers, the top concern was ultimately not whether Biden would defeat Trump, but whether democracy in America remained alive and well after a long election season during which Trump attacked the integrity of the voting process and repeatedly suggested he did not want all ballots to be counted. Trump’s dishonest, premature claim of victory on Wednesday morning won almost no support abroad, as international officials instead expressed faith in U.S. institutions and their respect for the voters’ choice.
Of course, Biden’s projected victory doesn’t mean Trump will stand down. His campaign has filed suit in multiple swing states and is arguing that various vote counts are illegitimate.
Still, the numbers in Biden’s favor allowed most onlookers in other nations to largely relax.
While decision-makers in international capitals know they won’t agree with Biden on everything, many are simply relieved to know that soon they need no longer live in fear of a sudden flip-flop by Trump on a crucial issue like U.S. troop deployments or of Trump’s personal animus toward his counterparts guiding U.S. strategy, as it did in his handling of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Trudeau.
The president-elect’s expertise on foreign policy, drawn from his time as vice president and as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is also appealing to such officials, who believe he will be better equipped to understand complicated issues that Trump often minimized or misrepresented and less likely than the incumbent to fall for conspiracy theories or lies from adversaries. And they welcome Biden’s promises to strengthen U.S. relationships with historic allies and ensure American policies better reflect the country’s stated commitment to human rights and democratic principles.
Some political figures and citizens in nations that benefited under Trump signaled their disappointment before Biden’s victory.
Ayoob Kara, a former minister in the hard-right government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, criticized American Jews, the clear majority of whom voted for Biden as they have for Democrats for years, despite Republican attempts to smear the other party as anti-Semitic.
“I was expectings [sic] they will support President Trump who is the best American president for the State of Israel has had,” Kara tweeted on Thursday. “The ‘betrayal’ of longtime American Jews.”
In the United Arab Emirates, an autocratic state that has grown close to the White House and recently secured a long-sought major arms deal, prominent Twitter user Hassan Sajwani retweeted a commentator alleging that the U.S. election had been rigged and another Twitter user attacking the platform for its warnings about Trump’s dishonest tweets.
And in Hungary, the far-right Volner Party announced that it would organize a protest in front of the U.S. Embassy in Budapest to challenge “possible electoral fraud in the U.S. presidential election” and demonstrate “solidarity with Donald Trump.”
Those reactions were the exception to the general rule, however.
In Biden’s ancestral hometown of Ballina, Ireland, people gathered with posters and champagne.
And in Paris, Mayor Anne Hidalgo tweeted “Welcome back America!” on Saturday, noting that the win comes around the five-year anniversary of the sweeping international climate agreement signed in her city that Trump officially pulled the U.S. out of just days ago. Biden has promised to rejoin the deal immediately ― and to do even more to confront the climate crisis.
Liza Hearon contributed reporting from London.