In Europe, Trump’s opponents could not hide a certain sense of schadenfreude, even though analysts wondered if the move may increase the reelection chances of a president many on the continent view with skepticism or outright contempt.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) initiated an impeachment inquiry against Trump on Tuesday, after the president acknowledged that he urged Ukraine’s leader to investigate former vice president Joe Biden, a contender for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.
With Washington in an entrenched state of partisan division, and the Trump administration’s relations with allies and adversaries mired in mistrust, experts said the specter of further U.S. political paralysis would have minimal immediate impact globally.
Still, the developments weighed on financial markets, already hit by concerns about global economic weakness and the impact of the U.S.-China trade dispute. Stocks were lower across Asia and Europe, but the dollar recovered earlier losses.
Here is how people around the world assessed the latest U.S. political shootout, which Trump derided as a “witch hunt” and “harassment” by House Democrats.
Impeachment proceedings are likely to take a long time, so they will have little impact, if any, on the trade talks with China, said Yao Xinchao, a professor of trade at the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing.
“The odds of Trump getting impeached by the end of 2019 are very slim,” Yao said. “Of course, Trump getting reelected would further dim the prospects for China-U.S. relations. It would reinforce his conviction that taking a hard line against China pays off, and allow him to cast off his already few misgivings in making irresponsible decisions.”
Still, Beijing wants a swift end to the trade war and would not like a prolonged period of uncertainty, he said.
But China would welcome any effort to oust Trump, said Wu Qiang, a political scientist who was forced to resign from Tsinghua University because of his critical writings.
“Xi wants Trump out and has been trying to achieve that through a lot of propaganda, string-pulling and even secret political intervention,” Wu said, referring to Chinese President Xi Jinping and to frustration over the trade dispute.
“That said, I don’t think a Democratic president or other alternatives would bring radical changes to Washington’s China policy. The wind has turned against Beijing and will stay that way for much longer,” Wu added.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang declined to respond to the impeachment news, telling reporters that it was “an internal matter for the United States.”
Germany and France
After more than two years, many continental Europeans have grown weary of talk of impeaching Trump, even if they may support it.
Despite the risks for the Democrats and the challenges any impeachment move would face in the Senate, the conservative newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung argued that the decision to announce an inquiry was necessary. “What would it mean for democracy if a majority in the House of Representatives refrained from even trying to take action?” the paper’s former U.S. correspondent, Andreas Ross, wrote.
There was widespread skepticism over the likelihood of success of an impeachment inquiry. “It’s certainly too early for farewells,” the German magazine Der Spiegel commented on its website.
In France, the tone of coverage mostly played up the uncertainty of the proceedings at this early stage, too. “The United States is engaged in the unknown,” the prominent French daily Le Monde wrote in the lead of its story on the impeachment inquiry.
In continental Europe, few would miss Trump as president. “All parties apart from the [far-right] AfD party would be jolly glad if the Trump presidency was over,” Stephan Bierling, an international politics professor at the University of Regensburg in Germany, said in an email. “The faster, the better.”
But Bierling also acknowledged that some of the reasons for continental Europe’s welcoming stance toward possible impeachment proceedings were debatable. Some of Trump’s criticism of Europe — including his attacks on Germany over its low defense spending — has been backed by analysts. German leaders may hope that post-Trump, it might become easier for them to “duck again,” Bierling said.
In Britain, the announcement of an impeachment inquiry was largely overshadowed by the historic ruling of the United Kingdom’s Supreme Court on Tuesday that Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s suspension of Parliament was unlawful.
“[Many] people see so many parallels between Trump and Johnson as populist, would-be strongmen who flout the rules and seem to get away with it — at least until now,” Tim Bale, a professor of politics at Queen Mary University of London, said in an email.
“Often these days, there’s a huge Brexit news story in the morning, and then a huge story on Trump in the afternoon,” said Jacob Parakilas, an associate at LSE Ideas, a foreign policy think tank.
With the impeachment inquiry announcement, there is a possibility of both stories colliding.
Trump has been one of the most vocal foreign advocates of Brexit, and his assurances that Britain would be able to speedily negotiate a trade deal with the United States were especially welcomed by hard-line Brexiteers. As Britain continues to face the possibility of a no-deal Brexit with severely negative economic repercussions, such a trade deal would be crucial.
But analysts doubted how much sway Trump ever had over future negotiations — and whether impeachment would matter in this context.
“Given the scale of the challenges facing British policymakers at this point, I’m not convinced that the impeachment articles that will be considered by the Judiciary Committee are actually going to make an enormous difference on this side,” said Ursula Hackett, a politics researcher at Royal Holloway, University of London.
Parakilas added that impeachment proceedings would make it even less likely for Congress to approve a trade deal with Britain, but lawmakers’ support was unlikely even before Tuesday’s announcement.
In this U.S.-allied East Asian country, experts said domestic pressure on Trump might spur him to seek a quick resolution on North Korea, whose leader, Kim Jong Un, the U.S. president has repeatedly praised. Trump said recently he might meet Kim again soon, while South Korea has said talks between the two sides might resume in two to three weeks.
“His engagement with North Korea has produced achievements that are highly visible. He could turn to a diplomatic event with North Korea to divert attention away from domestic political challenges,” said Kim Yong-hyun, professor of North Korean studies at Dongguk University in Seoul.
Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul, noted, though, that impeachment proceedings could have the opposite effect and push Trump to become more bellicose toward Kim Jong Un. He noted that the failed February summit with the North Korean leader in Hanoi, where Trump walked away, occurred around the same time his former lawyer Michael Cohen testified to a House committee.
“If the impeachment risk becomes a real threat for Trump, he could again walk out of a summit meeting with Kim Jong Un, to send a message to people at home,” Yang said.
For India, the announcement of the impeachment proceedings came at a slightly awkward moment. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is on a week-long visit to the United States and appeared with Trump at a rousing rally Sunday in Houston, where the two men clasped hands and traded effusive compliments.
On Tuesday, just before the news broke that the House would begin impeachment proceedings, Trump was sitting down for a bilateral meeting with Modi in New York. But experts said the impeachment process was unlikely to raise eyebrows or concerns in New Delhi.
“There is very little appreciation in India of the internal dynamics of U.S. politics, just as people in the U.S. don’t appreciate India’s internal politics,” said Varghese George, the author of a new book on U.S.-India relations under Modi and Trump.
Given that a sizable proportion of Indian members of Parliament havefaced criminal charges, the political class is hard to shock.
“Much greater skulduggery takes place here,” said Manoj Joshi, an expert on international relations at the Observer Research Foundation, a think tank in New Delhi. The Indian government won’t “be bothered about it at all.”
Noack reported from Berlin and Crawshaw from Hong Kong. Joanna Slater in New Delhi, Lyric Li in Beijing, James McAuley in Paris and Min Joo Kim in Seoul contributed to this report.
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