From Izvestia, Nov. 10, 2020, p. 3. Complete text:
Joe Biden has kind of won, but it’s not official yet. Donald Trump has apparently lost, but he still intends to win. Courts will probably give their rulings on election lawsuits within the next few weeks. The incumbent president is right when he says it is not up to the US media to declare the winner. There is a special procedure for that. The Electoral College will vote on Dec. 14, making the election results in every state official. Once that happens, it will be too late for Donald Trump to overturn the outcome through legal means.
Currently, America and the rest of the world are faced with two facts: Joe Biden leads both the popular vote and the electoral vote, and Donald Trump categorically disagrees with it. Formally, this means that the presidential race is not over. However, many world leaders are lining up to congratulate the Democratic nominee. Some of them hurried to offer their congratulations on the same day CNN declared Joe Biden the winner. In some countries, there was even some sort of competition between the government and the opposition. Everybody wanted to be first in line to congratulate Biden.
Donald Trump must have felt really disappointed by this. After four years, he got used to living in the White House. However, he, too, received his small share of congratulations. The one and only leader who congratulated Trump on the morning of Nov. 4, when the outcome was far from certain, was Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Janša. “It’s pretty clear,” he tweeted, “that American people have elected @realDonaldTrump @Mike_Pence for #4moreyears.” Did the fact that the US president’s wife, Melania, comes from Slovenia have anything to do with the prime minister’s decision? I am afraid we will never find that out – just like we will never know how Mr. Janša felt when he saw a multitude of tweets from his colleagues in other countries congratulating Joe Biden.
By Nov. 9, the former vice president in the Obama administration had received dozens of messages from various politicians, major and minor, from all over the globe. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was one of the first to start the celebrations. It comes as no surprise that the Canadian leader is such a cheerleader for Biden. Just like CNN and The Washington Post, he was openly the counting minutes until Donald Trump got “ousted.”
Unlike the Slovenian prime minister, though, Trudeau immediately had a number of other leaders follow his example. Angela Merkel, Emmanuel Macron, Boris Johnson, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Polish President Andrzej Duda – these are just a few names on the long list.
There are a handful of leaders who stand out in this crowd: Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky, the elected Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro and the self-proclaimed one Juan Guaidó, Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia and Belarus’ former presidential candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya.
For Vladimir Zelensky, a lot was at stake in the US presidential race. Donald Trump was not particularly interested in Ukraine. Washington continued to support Kiev but did so mostly out of inertia and on paper only. Joe Biden, on the other hand, has the reputation of being a “friend of the Ukrainian people.” He was one of the ideologues behind the 2014 revolution. On numerous occasions, he has made it clear that under his administration the US will once again focus on building and strengthening democracy in Ukraine. So, on the one hand, it seems like Vladimir Zelensky should be happy because the US will once again start paying attention to Ukraine and may offer some aid. On the other hand, though, the Ukrainian leader has reasons to be concerned about his political future. Joe Biden was a “friend” primarily to the leaders of the 2014 revolution – the very people Zelensky defeated and removed from power in May 2019. What’s more, when Joe Biden and his son Hunter were accused of corruption, the Ukrainian president basically sided with Donald Trump, even though he was quite diplomatic and did not advertise his role in the scandal.
The Georgian prime minister rushed to congratulate his “good old friend” for basically the same reasons as the Ukrainian president. Georgia has long been drifting away from Russia – largely as a result of US efforts. The Trump administration, however, did not pay much attention to Georgia. So, it was only natural for the Georgian prime minister to be among the first to reach out to the future US president in order to remind him about Georgia.
Nicolás Maduro, too, must have been happy when he learned about Trump’s upcoming departure, so he promptly joined the ranks of those congratulating Biden. The current US administration has been trying to topple the Venezuelan leader for a number of years now and is barely refraining from using military force to achieve its objective. On the other hand, the self-proclaimed president Juan Guaidó, the current administration’s darling, does not want to be left out, so he, too, hurried to congratulate Joe Biden. By doing so, he made it clear that it does not really matter to him which US president will be helping him make Venezuela great again.
Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, for her part, was not too shy to remind Biden that the US should not forget about Belarus either. The opposition leader emphasized that “unlike Belarus, where the votes were simply stolen, in the US every vote is taken into account,” and said that she hoped to meet with Biden soon. Again, it is easy to understand where the former presidential hopeful is coming from. Donald Trump was not particularly interested in the future of the Belarussian people. But her remark about the importance of “every vote” in the US came out rather comical, considering the unprecedented scandal over vote tallying in 2020.
Of course, there were other politicians as well who congratulated Joe Biden on his victory the same day or a couple of days later. But the point is that the world recognized the Democratic candidate as president-elect before all the votes have been counted, and Donald Trump has not given up his intention to challenge the election results in court. This is a vivid illustration of the fact that Trump has always been an outsider to most of his colleagues. They tolerated him because back in 2016 the American people chose to put Trump at the helm of their nation, but they have all been looking forward to the time when they can forget this period like a bad dream. This is particularly true of US partners in Europe.
Donald Trump was unpredictable. His vision of US leadership was different. He thought that instead of providing free aid to its allies and democratic forces around the world, the US should focus on its own economic welfare as he understood it. His slogan “America First” did not mean that the US should play a dominant role in international affairs. Trump was not afraid of breaking the unwritten rules of the Western community. If he thought something would be good for America, he would just do it, and he could not care less about what other countries – say, Germany – thought about it.
Russia, too, had a difficult time with Trump. He did say he wanted to get along with Russia, but if we look at the facts – the arms control system almost entirely destroyed, and numerous sanctions imposed on Russia – we will harbor no illusions. Russia-US relations began to deteriorate under Barack Obama, but they hit rock bottom under Donald Trump. It is unlikely that they will improve under Joe Biden, but Biden is at least a conventional politician, and it is already clear, more or less, what to expect from him – which is almost nothing good.
President Vladimir Putin chose not to hurry. He has yet to congratulate Joe Biden on his victory. Perhaps this is because of Biden’s openly anti-Russian remarks, like calling Russia the biggest threat to America. Ideologically, Biden is not ready yet to reset Russia-US relations, and as far as arms control issues are concerned, Biden actually seems to be interested in addressing them – but that can wait until the Americans are done with their infighting.