‘The World as We Know It Is Crumbling Before Our Eyes’

‘The World as We Know It Is Crumbling Before Our Eyes’

Even before the final votes were counted Tuesday night, the America’s closest allies struggled to come to terms with a U.S. election that delivered the presidency to Donald Trump, a political outlier who challenged the liberal world order that has defined the era after World War II.

The world as we know it “is crumbling before our eyes,” Gerard Araud, France’s ambassador to the United States, wrote Tuesday night on Twitter, citing the double whammy of Britain’s exit from the European Union and America’s sharp turn toward isolationist populism.

“It is an end of an era, that of neoliberalism. It remains to be seen what will succeed it,” Araud tweeted in the first flush of the shock results. He later deleted the tweets.

In the immediate aftermath, leaders of friendly countries from Canada to South Korea issued formal congratulations to the winner and highlighted their hopes of continuing their traditional alliances, many of which Trump called into question during the campaign.

“Hand in hand with Trump, we will try to work together,” Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said after the election.

British Prime Minister Theresa May, who is leading her country’s exit from the EU, welcomed Trump’s victory. “We are, and will remain, strong and close partners on trade, security and defense,” she said in a statement issued late Tuesday.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel challenged Trump to park some of his more divisive rhetoric. “Germany and America are linked by values, such as democracy, freedom, respect for the rule of law, and the dignity of men, regardless of origin, skin color, religion, gender, or sexual orientation,” she said, conditioning the terms of Germany’s outreach to a new America. “On the basis of these values, I offer U.S. President-elect Donald Trump our close cooperation.”

Trump’s dismissive view of NATO rattled other top German officials. Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen described Trump’s victory as a “huge shock” and said America’s alliance partners are unsure about the president-elect’s commitment to uphold its security commitments in Europe.

Beneath the surface, many observers were uncharacteristically scathing in their assessment of the new American political order. “All that is ugly and frightening about America, now swaggers its way to Washington in majesty,” said Paddy Ashdown, a former British diplomat. “How do we make this madness stop?”

Roland Paris, a former foreign-policy advisor to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, wrote on Twitter late Tuesday: “Whatever the outcome tonight, the success of Trump’s and Sander’s [sic] anti-trade messages, including in key border states, is a real concern.”

“Trump’s subdued & conciliatory victory speech was unconvincing because it’s not who he is,” Paris added. “Off to bed now. To awake in a darker world.”

Some European observers fear the American election may be a bellwether, portending a sharper turn toward right-wing populism in upcoming elections in Austria, the Netherlands, France, and Germany. In April, France will hold its presidential election, while Germany holds parliamentary elections next September.

“This calamity for democracy will of course hearten fascists all over the world — from eastern Europe to [Marine Le] Pen,” the British historian Simon Schama wrote on Twitter. “Now we need a Churchill who refuses to normalise, resists, understands the abyss into which democracy has fallen.”

Europe’s right wing greeted Tuesday’s vote with cheers. Le Pen, the leader of France’s far-right National Front, sent a congratulatory note to Trump and “to the free American people.” Her father, Jean-Marie, the party’s founder, boasted: “Today the United States, tomorrow France.”

“The Americans are taking back their country,” Geert Wilders, a right-wing Dutch leader of the anti-immigrant Euroskeptic Freedom Party, wrote on Twitter.

For Russia — which American intelligence officials said tried to sway the U.S. election though a series of email hacks — the outcome offered the hope of improved relations and a much more pliant partner in the White House.

In his congratulatory message to Trump, Russian President Vladimir Putin said he hopes to “work together to lift Russian-US relations out of the current crisis.” He voiced confidence that “Moscow and Washington can establish a constructive dialogue based on the principles of equality, mutual respect, and genuine consideration for each other’s positions. This would be in the interests of both peoples and of the entire international community.”

It remained unclear how Trump would manage America’s relations with China, which has been the target of Trump’s scathing criticism throughout the campaign.

Chinese President Xi Jinping issued a collegial congratulatory statement, saying, “I am looking forward to working together with you to expand China-U.S. cooperation in every field, at the bilateral, regional and global levels.” Xi stressed the need for both countries to respect “the principles of non-conflict, non-confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation.”

Still, commentary from China’s state-run news agency Xinhua offered a sharper take on the American election race, noting that the “nasty campaigns have … tarnished America’s image abroad.”

“The probably most divisive and scandalous election in American history has eroded voters’ faith in the two-party system, as many voters called it a game of money, power, and influence,” it said.

For now, foreign diplomats were trying to figure out just who to reach out to in Trump’s team to suss out his plans for dealing with a broad range of issues, from climate change to a web of trade agreements and security arrangements he has pledged to untangle. European diplomats said they had established long-standing contacts and relations with Clinton’s foreign-policy advisors. But with many in the Republican foreign-policy establishment vowing not to work for Trump, they are at a loss as to who to call.

“The question is who is coming from the Republican ranks” to manage Trump’s foreign policy, said one European diplomat. “Most Republican experts have decided to stand aside.”

Photo credit: ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images