Uncertainty drives mixed reactions to Trump’s win from world leaders

Donald Trump meets with Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto in August 2016. (Credit: Donald J Trump Facebook page)

As part of the U.S. electoral pageantry, world leaders rush to weigh in on the results. But with a president-elect who brings no political experience and vague campaign pledges, world leaders’ responses ranged from emphatic support to outright concern over Donald Trump’s victory.

“I hope we do not face larger rifts in international politics,” said Germany Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier in a statement. “I think we will have to get used to the idea that U.S. foreign policy will be less predictable for us, and we will have to get used to the idea that the U.S. will tend to make more decisions on its own.”

Chinese President Xi Jinping sent a congratulatory telegram to Trump. Statements from the leaders of Canada, Japan, the U.K. and Germany focused on the longstanding relationship with the U.S. These leaders expressed the desire to continue partnering in the future.

“We look forward to working together with the new U.S. administration to push forward consistent, healthy and stable China-U.S. relations which could be beneficial to the people of the two countries and to the world,” Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Lu Kang told the media.

Other leaders said they see potential to deepen relations with the United States. Indian president Narendra Modi said so in a series of tweets congratulating Trump.

President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines took a similarly optimistic stance. The controversial leader took office earlier this year and shared numerous unkind remarks about the United States. He is actively courting China as a closer ally. The recent cancellation of a guns sale from the U.S. to the Philippines has added further strain on the relationship.

“[Duterte] looks forward to working with the incoming administration for enhanced Philippines-U.S. relations anchored on mutual respect, mutual benefit and shared commitment to democratic ideals and the rule of law,” Duterte’s communications secretary told the media.

The potential to mend a broken relationship is also on Russia’s mind. Trump praised President Vladimir Putin’s leadership during the campaign. Trump used it to illustrate what he characterized as a weak response by U.S. President Barack Obama to Russia’s actions in the Balkans and Syria. Trump campaigned on the idea that he is better suited to deal with Putin and improve relations between the two countries. Putin appeared outwardly optimistic about that possibility.

“We heard the campaign statements of the future U.S. presidential candidate about the restoration of relations between Russia and the United States,” Putin said on Wednesday, according to the BBC. “It is not an easy path, but we are ready to do our part and do everything to return Russian and American relations to a stable path of development. This would be good for both the Russian and American people and have a positive impact on the climate of world affairs.”

For other leaders, the election was a disappointment. Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf told the BBC that is she is “extremely saddened” by the result. She cited Trump’s pledges to blow up current trade deals and that the lack of information on his policies for Africa raise a lot of questions. But Sirleaf cautioned that he still deserves the “benefit of the doubt.”

“Our concern is whether President-elect Trump will have an African agenda and build bridges,” she told the BBC. “We can only hope that he will do so in due course. … We do not know what his policy towards Africa will be.”

French President Francois Holland expressed a similar sentiment. He said the victory marks the start of “a period of uncertainty,” during a televised address. He is seeking to speak with Trump immediately to get a better sense of where the president-elect stands on foreign policy.

“The U.S. is a vital partner for France and what’s at stake is peace, the fight against terrorism, the situation in the Middle East, economic relations and the preservation of the planet,” he said.

Mexico offered a tepid welcome to a Trump presidency. The construction of a border wall, paid for by Mexico, was a major campaign platform. Mexico’s President Enrique Peña Nieto repeatedly said that Mexico will not pay. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), a deal with the U.S., Mexico and Canada, is also on the butcher block for Trump. Peña Nieto did call to congratulate Trump but is saying little about the election publicly.

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Tom Murphy

Tom Murphy is a New Hampshire-based reporter for Humanosphere. Before joining Humanosphere, Tom founded and edited the aid blog A View From the Cave. His work has appeared in Foreign Policy, the Huffington Post, the Guardian, GlobalPost and Christian Science Monitor. He tweets at @viewfromthecave. Contact him at tmurphy[at]humanosphere.org.