US allies on Saturday wasted no time in congratulating Joe Biden on his projected victory, as the president-elect vows to restore America’s global role following President Donald Trump’s chaotic four years in power.
The Republican tycoon has refused to concede defeat and made unsubstantiated claims of fraud but any hopes he entertains of clinging to power face a roadblock as US allies swiftly welcomed Biden and made clear they were moving past Trump.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has had especially tense relations with Trump, sent congratulations to Trump and called the transatlantic relationship “irreplaceable.”
French President Emmanuel Macron told Biden he wanted to “work together,” while Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo wrote pointedly on Twitter, “Welcome back America!”
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, whom the outgoing US president has fondly called the “Britain Trump,” also turned the page, calling for cooperation with Biden on trade and climate change — one area of major contrast between the president-elect and the fossil fuel-loving Trump.
An activist impersonating US President Donald Trump demonstrates in the Mexican border city of Tijuana after Joe Biden is declared winner of the election © AFP / Guillermo Arias
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has also had comparatively warm relations with Trump, congratulated both Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, whose mother was from India, saying her win was a source of “immense pride.”
Congratulations also came from the European Union, Canada and New Zealand, where Prime Minister Jacinda Adern wished well to “outgoing President Donald Trump.”
The only international leader immediately to take a different tone was Prime Minister Janez Jansa of tiny Slovenia, the birthplace of Trump’s wife Melania, who criticized media projections and noted that Trump’s campaign has lodged legal challenges.
– Restoring ‘moral authority’ –
Biden, 77, will be the most experienced new president in decades on foreign policy.
During a campaign largely focused on Trump’s failure to halt the Covid-19 pandemic, Biden vowed that he would restore US “moral authority.”
After Trump’s flirtation with autocrats, Biden has vowed to hold a summit of democracies within one year of his presidency.
“As president, I will remind the world who we are. The United States of America does not coddle dictators. The United States of America gives hate no safe harbor,” Biden said in a foreign policy speech during the campaign.
While the election is welcome news for many close US allies shellshocked by Trump’s abrasive approach and his enthusiasm for tariffs, Biden is expected to get tougher on some of Trump’s close partners, such as Saudi Arabia.
Trump courted Saudi Arabia even after the brutal killing of US-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate.
Biden has promised to reassess relations with the kingdom, saying he will make sure the United States “does not check its values at the door to sell arms or buy oil.”
A senator for 36 years and vice president for eight more, Biden has a comparatively cordial relationship with another Trump ally, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
But Biden has also promised to work to create a state for the Palestinians, a goal abandoned in all but name by Trump, who delivered a wish-list for Netanyahu.
Katrina Mulligan, managing director for national security and international policy at the left-leaning Center for American Progress, said there was a chance for Biden to act on US values rather than just raw interests.
“I think Israel’s a very important relationship to the United States, but I do think that there should be consequences in terms of the foreign policy relationship for actions that violate our values.
Turkey had already denounced Biden, who has openly spoken of backing the opposition to counter the NATO ally’s increasingly authoritarian president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
– Pressure at home –
Biden will face a closely divided Senate where Republicans are not expected to be shy in seeking to hold up his appointments and policies.
But Biden also faces skepticism from the left of the Democratic Party which wants a fundamental rethink of US foreign policy.
A Biden administration “presents an opportunity to begin to challenge the institutions and groupthink that have led to a disastrous, overly militarized, unilateral approach to foreign affairs,” said a letter by groups including Justice Democrats, founded by supporters of Senator Bernie Sanders.
Biden initially backed the 2003 Iraq invasion but he was an early advocate of withdrawing troops from Afghanistan.
He agreed with Trump on ending the nearly 20-year war in Afghanistan, although he is unlikely to be as tied to the outgoing president’s campaign promise to remove all troops by the end of the year.