America’s allies emphasizing the need to rebuild ties and multilateral cooperation after President Trump’s signature America First approach upended decades of U.S. foreign policy. For many traditional allies of the United States — who endured sharp criticisms, unpredictable behavior and tariff wars under Trump — the election of Biden represented a return to normality.
In statements and interviews on Sunday, traditional U.S. allies like Germany and Britain emphasized that they wanted to work together with Biden on major policy areas like the pandemic and climate change.
“During the election campaign, Joe Biden made it clear that he believes in Team Play when it comes to the United States on 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.”
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, famous for getting along well with Trump, sent congratulations to Biden and said in an interview he expected to be able to work with President-elect Biden. “We have common values. We have common interests. We have a common global perspective,” Johnson told the Associated Press.
He was echoed by Charles Michel, the president of the European Council, who said the European Union — a repeated focus of Trump’s ire — was “ready to engage for a strong transatlantic partnership.” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said she wanted to “intensify cooperation with the new U.S. administration” on pressing global challenges like coronavirus and climate change.
The prime minister of tiny Montenegro, who was famously pushed aside by Trump at the 2017 NATO summit, also congratulated Biden and called it an election that “restores faith in the power of democracy and the return of stability in international relations.”
One of Trump’s most dramatic repudiations of international institutions came with his withdrawal from the World Health Organization despite the pandemic raging around the world. Biden has promised to rejoin the organization and its head, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus tweeted Sunday that he looked forward to working with him.
“Crises like the #COVID19 pandemic show the importance of global solidarity in protecting lives and livelihoods,” Tedros tweeted.
Many European papers expressed unabashed joy over the result. The Sunday Times in London carried the headline “Sleepy Joe wakes up America,” referencing the nickname that Trump gave to Biden. The headline appeared under a picture of a black woman with a U.S. flag wrapped around her shoulders.
The Irish press carried several articles that referenced Biden’s Irish ancestry. “What are Joe Biden’s Irish roots?” was the headline for one of the most read stories on the Irish Times’ website.
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With President Trump still disputing the election, there were some signs of hesitation among world leaders who had previously aligned with the incumbent. By Sunday in Turkey, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had yet to join the U.S. allies offering congratulations to Biden.
There was also still silence from Saudi Arabia, one of the most important U.S. allies in the region. The de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has developed a personal relationship with the Trump administration, and close friendship with Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner.
Last month, on the anniversary of the brutal murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist who was dismembered in a Saudi consulate in Turkey, Biden called for accountability and for reforming human rights in the conservative gulf kingdom. In a Twitter message after Biden’s victory, Hatice Cengiz, Khashoggi’s fiancee, wrote: “If you don’t find justice on your own, time will bring its own justice.”
“We don’t want to be imprudent,” the president told a news conference late Saturday. “President Trump has been very respectful of us, and we have reached good agreements,” he said.
Even some foreign officials who had congratulated Biden appeared wary of angering Trump, who is expected to remain in office until Biden is inaugurated on Jan. 20. “I’m not going to get drawn into it,” British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said when pressed on Trump’s unfounded accusations of voter fraud on Sunday.
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But even among some foreign allies of Trump, there was acceptance that Biden had won. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who said in September that he hoped Trump would win the election, seemed to admit that had not happened on Sunday.
Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu did not join the cascade of world leaders offering best wishes to Biden Saturday, waiting until the next day to tweet congratulations. “Joe, we’ve had a long & warm personal relationship for nearly 40 years, and I know you as a great friend of Israel.”
He then immediately tweeted thanks to President Trump for his policy gifts to Israel. “Thank you @realDonaldTrump for the friendship you have shown the state of Israel and me personally.”
In the West Bank, Palestinian leaders hailed Biden’s triumph over Trump, whom they have accused of putting U.S. policy at the service of Israel’s right wing. “There was nothing worse than the Trump era,” former Palestinian official Nabil Shaath said in an interview with Turkish media. “Good riddance.”
Rivals remain circumspect
The results of the election were closely watched by U.S. rivals, as well as leaders in countries with a U.S. military presence. In Iran, the election of Biden was greeted with cautious optimism and the hope that the new president-elect would pursue a less confrontational path.
Trump had pulled the United States out of the Iran nuclear deal, which included several European countries and China, and slapped heavy sanctions on Iran, while Biden has said he would rejoin the deal if Iran demonstrates it is in compliance with it. Iranian Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri tweeted a quirky meme of a man labeled “Islamic Republic” secretly celebrating the U.S. election news.
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China, a key U.S. rival under Trump, reacted cautiously to Biden’s win, with no official statement from President Xi Jinping. The country’s tightly controlled state media appeared to cautiously welcome Biden as president-elect, however, with the nationalistic tabloid Global Times suggesting there could be a “an opportunity for breakthroughs in resuming high-level communication and rebuilding mutual strategic trust.”
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Russia has also remained silent on the election result, but chief opposition figure Alexei Navalny congratulated Biden and Harris, adding that “this is a privilege which is not available to all countries.” He also hoped for a new level of cooperation between Russia and the United States.
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.