The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

U.S. allies react in horror to Capitol assault, hold Trump responsible

Rep. Andy Kim (D-N.J.) helps federal agents clean up debris and personal belongings strewn across the floor of the Capitol Rotunda in the early morning hours Thursday. (Andrew Harnik/AP)

In the aftermath of the violent tumult that unfolded in Washington on Wednesday, when rioters loyal to President Trump swept through the halls of the Capitol, creating scenes of chaos and insurrection that reverberated around the globe, the world continued to respond with incredulity and alarm.

While some U.S. rivals, including China, appeared to take satisfaction in seeing the United States in turmoil, traditional friends and allies offered resounding reactions of horror. Some blamed Trump in clear terms for stoking the mob, and issued calls to uphold democracy that echoed admonitions that the United States has often directed toward countries in crisis.

In the view of the world, the riot, which spread confusion and violence at the epicenter of U.S. democracy, seemed to serve as a final straw, unleashing a torrent of concern about the state of American institutions under Trump and about his perceived role in degrading them.

Leaders around the world condemned the pro-Trump mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 and reaffirmed their faith in American democracy. (Video: The Washington Post)

“This is an assault on democracy. President Trump and several members of Congress bear substantial responsibility for developments,” tweeted Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven, calling for respect for the outcome of the election, which Joe Biden won. The rioters interrupted the formal certification of the results, which Congress completed Thursday morning.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she was “furious” and “sad” about the scenes at the Capitol. British Home Secretary Priti Patel told the BBC that Trump’s comments “directly led to the violence.” Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, was more explicit, telling “Good Morning Britain” that Trump was guilty of “inciting insurrection” and calling his presidency a “dark period in America’s history.”

Germany will examine introducing additional security measures at its parliament, known as the Bundestag, following the events in Washington, according to the body’s president, Wolfgang Schäuble. Berlin was shaken in August when anti-lockdown demonstrators, including far-right figures, rushed the parliament building, reaching its front steps.

World stunned by subversion of U.S. democracy after pro-Trump throng breaches Capitol

Before the assault on the Capitol, Trump spoke to supporters at a rally, encouraging them to take matters into their own hands as Congress moved to certify the results of the election.

Although he did not mention Trump by name, French President Emmanuel Macron delivered an impassioned video message about the historical ties between the United States and France rooted in their early adoption of democracy.

“What happened today in Washington, D.C., is not America, definitely,” he said in the English portion of the message. “We believe in the strength of our democracies.”

Trump’s allies offered only thin support, if any. Polish President Andrzej Duda, a right-wing populist, dismissed Wednesday’s attack as an “internal” matter that he would not comment on.

In statements to supporters Wednesday, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro broke with almost all world leaders and echoed Trump’s baseless suspicions of fraud in the U.S. presidential elections.

French far-right leader Marine Le Pen said in an interview on French TV that she was “extremely shocked” by scenes from the Capitol and said Trump “must condemn [the events] in the clearest terms.”

While Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, also a close Trump ally, called the breach of the Capitol “outrageous” and affirmed his belief in U.S. democracy, his rival, Defense Minister Benny Gantz, went further, saying that the images of a mob ransacking the Capitol should be a warning to other countries.

“This is proof that, before political rivalry, we must agree on the rules of the game: the maintenance of the rule of law, respect for democratic procedures and respectful discourse,” he said on Twitter.

Nationalistic Chinese state-run tabloid the Global Times used the moment to bash U.S. politicians for having supported Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters who had stormed the city’s legislature in 2019.

Pro-Trump mob’s attack on U.S. Capitol is a gift for Beijing

Konstantin Kosachev, chairman of the foreign affairs committee in the Federation Council, the upper house of Russia’s parliament, said U.S. democracy is “obviously limping on both feet.”

“America no longer charts the course and therefore has lost all right to set it. And even more to impose on others,” he said.

The breakdown in order at the heart of U.S. political institutions allowed countries with poor track records on human rights and democracy a chance to call for calm in the United States, reversing the conventional narrative.

Venezuela, which has been in the midst of a severe political crisis for years and is antagonistic to the United States, condemned the “political polarization and spiral of violence” in the country.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said in remarks Thursday that “what happened in the United States showed how weak Western democracy is.”

Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa, in a tweet Thursday, used the chaos in Washington as an opportunity to rail against sanctions that the United States imposed on his country last year. The events “showed that the U.S. has no moral right to punish another nation under the guise of upholding democracy,” Mnangagwa wrote.

Turkey, which has seen its partnership with the United States come under strain in recent years, urged “restraint and common sense.”

There is a sense of “glee” that “pompous” American policymakers “who pontificate to other democracies need to look within,” wrote Smita Prakash, a high-
profile journalist close to the Indian government.

Pro-Trump mob storms Capitol building

In Southeast Asia, where many countries have weak democratic systems or autocratic regimes and where the United States frequently lectures governments about free and fair elections, parliamentarians concerned about liberal values condemned the assault on Capitol Hill.

Charles Santiago, a member of the Malaysian parliament who chairs the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ Parliamentarians for Human Rights group, said Trump was “joining in infamy the likes of Hun Sen and Rodrigo Duterte, in trying to destroy democratic institutions and undermine the will of the people here in this region.” Hun Sen has held power in Cambodia since 1985, while Duterte’s administration in the Philippines has locked up many of its critics.

Although the more populist turn under Trump for the past four years has meant a move away from multilateral approaches to U.S. foreign policy, the United States in many parts of the world is still considered a bulwark for democracy amid the rise of authoritarian regimes and movements.

“We need all democrats to join forces — worldwide. The fight against narrow-minded delusion, against intolerance, against the division of our societies — it is our common fight,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas wrote in Der Spiegel on Thursday.

Schemm reported from Dubai, Cunningham from Istanbul, and Taylor and O’Grady from Washington. Joanna Slater and Niha Masih in New Delhi, Simon Denyer in Tokyo, Eva Dou in Seoul, Shibani Mahtani in Hong Kong, Steve Hendrix in Jerusalem, Robyn Dixon and Isabelle Khurshudyan in Moscow, Loveday Morris in Berlin, Rick Noack in Paris, Karla Adam and Jennifer Hassan in London, and Miriam Berger in Washington contributed to this report.

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