The World Calls Biden, While Trump and Company Double Down

Major world leaders are reaching out to the U.S. president-elect as Pompeo claims there will be a “smooth transition to a second Trump administration.”

U.S. President-elect Joe Biden
U.S. President-elect Joe Biden delivers remarks at The Queen in Wilmington, Delaware, on Nov. 10. Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images

In the days since Joe Biden won the U.S. presidential election, President Donald Trump’s Twitter feed has become a stream of baseless claims about “MASSIVE BALLOT COUNTING ABUSE” and “illegal” election procedures. But as the Trump administration refuses to concede the election, despite no evidence of voter fraud, many of the world’s leaders—some with relief, others with reluctance—are coming to grips with the reality of an incoming Biden administration. 

All of America’s major allies have congratulated Biden on his election win, and even holdouts, like Saudi Arabia and Turkey, finally crunched the numbers and offered their best wishes to the president-elect. Only a handful of countries including Mexico and Russia still resist.

But just because the world has recognized Biden’s resounding win doesn’t mean Trump officials will. From the State Department podium on Tuesday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo refused to bow to reality, saying “there will be a smooth transition to a second Trump administration.” The comment, possibly made in jest, drew immediate and widespread condemnation for the damage it did and will do to America’s efforts to promote free elections at home and overseas.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, French President Emmanuel Macron, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel each called the future U.S. president to congratulate him, and each spoke about shared challenges, including battling the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change, both of which the Trump administration largely ignored.

In their calls, all three European leaders also stressed the need to ensure a sustainable global economic recovery. Notable in the conversations was the emphasis on traditional U.S. security goals. Macron spoke with Biden about Africa and Middle East policy and the fight against terrorism, while Merkel and Biden discussed strengthening ties through NATO and the European Union.

Meanwhile, Johnson spoke with Biden about “the close and longstanding relationship between our countries and committed to building on this partnership in the years ahead, in areas such as trade and security,” said a Downing Street spokesperson. And Johnson said in a tweet that he looks forward to “strengthening the partnership between our countries” and working with Biden on, among other things, “promoting democracy.”

In any other year, such conversations would be pro forma, but Johnson’s call in particular marks an ebbing tide among Trump’s counterparts abroad. Trump’s relationship with Macron deteriorated over the past several years, and that with Merkel had always been strained. But Johnson is considered an ally of Trump; Biden has even called him a Trump “clone.” The phone call today is further evidence of the chasm between the reality of the U.S. election results—and the world’s recognition of them—and the Trump administration’s false claims not just of voter fraud, but of victory.

Indeed, Pompeo’s assertion of a “smooth transition” came right after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell defended Trump’s legal challenges to the election—which experts say are more bluster than anything else—and as Attorney General Bill Barr gave federal prosecutors the authority to investigate voter fraud claims on Monday. 

Biden, meanwhile, chuckled and said there was “no evidence” when asked about Pompeo’s assertions. The question now is how long the administration will continue along this path, while the world not only acknowledges but also begins to work with an incoming Biden administration. 

But Trump isn’t entirely isolated on the world stage. Some world leaders have yet to weigh in. In addition to Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro—like Trump, a willing victim of the coronavirus—Russian President Vladimir Putin has also left the phone off the hook. 

Chloe Hadavas is an editorial fellow at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @Hadavas

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