European leaders react with caution as Trump falsely claims victory
European politicians have cautioned patience after Donald Trump falsely claimed victory in the US election in the early hours of Wednesday morning, warning that a drawn-out court battle over the outcome would have disastrous consequences for democracy’s global reputation.
Most government leaders remained silent, waiting for events to unfold, though the Spanish foreign minister, Aráncha González Laya, urged American leaders to wait until all the votes had been counted.
Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, the German defence minister, said: “This is a very explosive situation. This is a situation that can lead to a constitutional crisis in the US, as experts are rightly saying. And it is something that must cause us great concern.”
The EU foreign affairs chief, Josep Borrell, said: “The American people have spoken. While we wait for the election result, the EU remains ready to continue building a strong transatlantic partnership, based on our shared values and history.”
In Germany, the failure of Joe Biden, a committed pro-European and multilateralist, to secure a resounding win was causing deep dismay.
Politicians predicted chaos and warned the outcome had revealed the vote for Trump in 2016 was not an accident. Even if Biden is eventually declared winner, it was suggested he would be a weakened president, unable to command a Senate majority and therefore vulnerable to being overwhelmed by intense domestic pressures.
The Bundestag foreign affairs committee chairman, Norbert Röttgen, admitted the results so far had caught Germany off guard. “We are not prepared for it,” he said.
Peter Altmaier, a close political ally of the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, said: “I’m afraid that if it is a close result there will be a very, very long discussion. Regardless of who wins, it is bad that the US election campaign was mainly conducted on domestic issues.”
The German Green leader, Robert Habeck, said: “If Trump wins, the global order will change fundamentally. Europe must unite, otherwise it will no longer play a role internationally.”
Slovenia’s pro-Trump, far-right prime minister Janez Janša called the result in Trump’s favour and criticised “more delays and facts denying” from the media.
In the UK, Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary, called for patience, saying: “We respect the values of democracy, and the checks and balances reflected in the US system, which we’re very confident will produce a result.”
The former Conservative foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt said it would be a disaster if the nail-biting outcome ended in a court battle and accusations of fraud.
He told the BBC: “My biggest worry is that we forget that the US is the leading democracy in the world and if we end up with a huge argument about process, and people talking about a stolen elections left and right centre, we are only going to put a smile on the face of people like President Putin and President Xi who will look at their own people and say ‘are you not pleased we have not got any of this mess?’ and that would be an absolute disaster. We must remember that the reputation of democracy across the world is at stake here.”
Sir Nigel Sheinwald, a former UK ambassador to Washington, said the issue if Trump wins is whether the US continues to underperform on the world stage. He expressed concern the US was so internally divided and suffering such deep social problems that Trump will not provide the leadership the world craves. “I fear we will get more of the same or even worse even more unpredictable and inconsistent leader even than in the first term,” he said.
Vladimir Putin’s allies in Russia expressed satisfaction at the results so far, claiming that previous allegations that Trump’s victory in 2016 was due to Russian interference had been disproved.
Konstantin Kosachev, the chairman of the upper house Federation Council committee of foreign affairs, said :“[Russia] benefits from any certainty in which the losers won’t need to resort to [claims of] foreign interference. It’s time for America to return to the politics of sanity, in which case we will always support it. It is high time.”
Iran, one of the countries that has most at stake in the election due to Trump’s policy of maximum economic pressure on Tehran, reacted by claiming the US was in decline, and predicted Iran woud be able to resist.
President Hassan Rouhani said the result of the US election was not important for his country’s clerical rulers, but called on the next US president to respect international treaties and laws.