Opinion | ‘Democracy Should Not Be Taken for Granted’

“Mr. Biden has vowed to turn the page on the ‘aberration’ of Mr. Trump’s foreign policy,” wrote Robert Malley and Philip H. Gordon in the Op-Ed “Trump Still Has 70 Days to Wreak Havoc Around the World.” But is that what people around the world really want?

We asked readers living outside of the United States to give us their perspectives on the election and the way that President Trump and President-elect Biden have handled the transition. Some were disappointed in the results.

“Trump is not popular in Korea, but his actions to break through the long-frozen U.S. and North Korean relationship were very promising,” wrote Youngsook Soahn in Seoul, South Korea. “I doubt a President Biden and the Democrats will do any good for the Korean Peninsula.”

For others, the race itself was a cautionary tale:

“To see the U.S. move away from a slide into autocratic leadership was gratifying, but everything that has happened since has only reinforced the idea that this may be a brief sojourn from the madness,” wrote Jack McColl in Melbourne, Australia. “It seems the time we could rely on the U.S. to play a consistent leading role in global society has come to an end.”

More reactions from international readers follow. They have been edited for clarity and length.

South America

‘Biden understands the necessity of ending the Maduro regime’

Fernando Coca Ruiz, Tarija, Bolivia: America has shown the world that democracy should not be taken for granted, that it requires our willingness to participate constantly in order to make sure it actually represents “The People.” As for my own country, I’m sure Joe Biden understands the necessity of ending the Maduro regime. It would be a major win for him and for the Venezuelan people. But I’m concerned that hard-line progressives like Senator Bernie Sanders and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez will influence the administration to support socialist presidents like Alberto Fernández in Argentina and Luis Arce in Bolivia. If this were to happen, Latinos and the new administration will move further apart. Just look at the election results in Miami.

‘Biden will have a very hard time reversing the damage’

Saul Zambrano, Mexico City: The U.S. presidential election has made the limits and shortcomings of its electoral system more evident than ever. Biden will have a very hard time reversing the damage that has been done in a short Trump administration. And I’m appalled and ashamed by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s refusal to congratulate President-elect Joe Biden. Looking at the club of countries that haven’t congratulated him, it’s clear we shouldn’t be a part of it.

‘It will be business as usual’

Uziel Nogueira, Florianópolis, Brazil: Even Pinochet accepted the results that ended his dictatorship of 25 years. As far as the impact to Brazil, it will be business as usual. The good news is Bolsonaro’s foreign policy will now be guided by national interest and not to please Donald Trump.

North America

‘America had chosen a racist’

Liza, Bequia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines: I’m on the formation committee of Democrats Abroad, Caribbean Islands Group. We’re thrilled that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were elected and our overall sense is that throughout the plethora of Caribbean island nations, most people are relieved by this win. They recognize that Trump threatened to destroy democracy itself. And in a region where the Indigenous are primarily Black, they were saddened and appalled that America had chosen a racist to lead it. Black Lives Matter gave them hope, and so do Biden and Harris.

Harris’s Jamaican heritage, and her many accomplishments, fuel a particularly deep-welled source of pride throughout the region. She coolly exhales benevolent messaging over the seemingly endless conflagrations of our outgoing leadership. Likewise, the Biden/Harris “unity first” and “facts matter” prescriptive is resoundingly joyful and heartening.

‘The rot in your democracy will continue to spread’

Glen Rowe, Nanaimo, British Columbia: As a neighbor and a friend, I am deeply concerned for the well-being of your country. While I am profoundly relieved that Biden and Harris have won your election, I worry that they will be rendered largely ineffective by Mitch McConnell and his obstructive, anti-democratic crew of Republican senators and the rot in your democracy will continue to spread. My country’s well-being is tied to yours.

The Middle East

‘Trump has been unintentionally beneficial to Middle Eastern peace’

Terry Plasse, Sde Yaakov, Israel: I’m a dual U.S.-Israeli citizen and have lived in northern Israel the past six years. Most of the American expats I know in Israel share my negative view of Donald Trump. Israelis without ties to the U.S. are mostly concerned with how he has affected Israel and most favored moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem. I think Trump has been unintentionally beneficial to Middle Eastern peace. Not because he did any negotiating, but because several Arab countries in the region have decided that they share more interests with Israel than the U.S. And those shared interests or alliances with Israel may be more valuable than those with the U.S. (an example of transactional diplomacy, which is not a bad thing).

‘Biden needs to show no leniency’

Mohammad Reza Mohammad Karimi, Karaj, Iran: President-elect Biden is expected to correct the global perception that Americans condone lies, violate international commitments, commit fraud, abuse offices and support dictators — as long as they remain economically strong. To do this, Biden needs to show no leniency to Donald Trump and let the law take its natural course. If a court were to sentence Trump to prison, Biden should not try to protect him. This alone will ensure that Trump’s type of misrule is never, ever repeated and the havoc unleashed on the world will become a lesson for all future generations.


Hope for ‘an ambitious climate policy’

Pratik Londhe, Pune, India: The new administration gives me hope, especially for an ambitious climate policy. The U.S. can take the lead and set the example for the rest of the world with something like the Green New Deal. This could set off a chain of events across the globe in favor of renewable energy and sustainable development. The politics in my country repeatedly sidestep this issue.

‘We do not need a hot war nearby’

C.K. Ung, George Town, Penang, Malaysia: The chaos in the U.S. before and after Election Day was a big concern for countries in Southeast Asia. In the months before the election, the U.S. had escalated its military movements in the South China Sea and around Taiwan, maybe to show voters that Trump’s administration is tough on China. With Trump and his supporters taking actions on multiple fronts to retain his presidency, there is a risk that he may actually provoke a shooting war in the South China Sea, which would cause economic hardship to countries in Southeast Asia. Times are bad and people are suffering under the Covid-19 pandemic. We do not need a hot war nearby to add to our suffering.

They are ‘amused by his Twitter feed’

Jeff Axelrod, Zhangjiagang, Jiangsu, China: Some of my students at the Chinese high school where I teach say they’re a little sad Trump will be leaving. They’ve been entertained and amused by his Twitter feed. But as an American expat, I’ve had several local adults ask for my opinion — they don’t want to offend by stating theirs first — and they’ve been greatly relieved when I’ve told them I’m not a fan. They see him as immature, petty and dangerous.


America has ‘missed the boat, badly’

Leslie Michael Anderson, Orange, New South Wales: I don’t really believe that Biden is strong or smart enough or has the ability to do much good for the American people. After more than four decades in politics his contributions have basically been to agree with whatever was happening, including the invasion of Iraq. I don’t like Trump but I don’t believe that Biden can be trusted to do more than make promises. If America is looking for a leader with the ability to make a real difference they have missed the boat, badly.


‘We should not be so reliant on the U.S.’

Faadiel Essop, Paarl, South Africa: I’m glad Trump’s presidency is (hopefully!) coming to an end so President-elect Biden can begin to restore U.S. relations with Africa. Maybe he could increase support to help counter major burdens of diseases such as H.I.V.-AIDS and Covid-19. However, the Trump years made us realize that we should not be so reliant on the U.S. and to gaze elsewhere for supporters and allies. On a personal level, I used to attend at least one major science congress in the U.S. until Trump took over, and I imposed a “travel ban” on myself. I’m not sure if I will return now that I am collaborating with scientists in other countries that are far more welcoming and helpful.


‘The E.U. has become less dependent on its “big brother”’

Charlotte Raab, Leuven, Belgium: I cannot recall ever following an election that closely and anxiously before, not even ones in which I’m allowed to vote. I’m confident this new administration will re-establish the bonds that exist between the United States and the European Union, but the past years have also shown that the E.U. has become less dependent on its “big brother” and can stand up for itself. Biden and Harris will have a lot of work to do rebuilding trust in institutions.

‘Biden will bring more interventionist foreign policy’

Joshua Rice, Adana, Turkey: I’m an American expat living in Turkey. People here think Biden will bring more interventionist foreign policy in the Middle East. Turks are anti-Kurdish thanks to P.K.K. terrorist attacks and they like that Trump moved our troops away from the border to allow Erdogan to establish a security buffer.

‘Johnson eagerly imitated Trump’s insults to the international order’

Abigail Maxwell, Northamptonshire, England: As do many Britons, I hope Trump’s defeat will make Mr. Johnson, our prime minister, think again about his threat to break the Good Friday Agreement, by which there is no hard border in Ireland. I hope Mr. Johnson will use his last few days to make a trade agreement with the E.U., on which the British economy depends. While Johnson eagerly imitated Trump’s insults to the international order, I hope he will see that there is more cost to that position now that Trump is gone.

‘A giant needs to take care where and on what he steps’

Larus Jon Gudmundsson, Iceland: It’s the old story of the fluttering of a butterfly wing in one corner of the world resulting in a hurricane in another. But in this case it’s the kicking of an elephant in an Oval Office whose multiple effects can and will be felt in every corner of the earth. A giant needs to take care where and on what he steps. Being a member of a small nation, I’m very much aware of the effects of your president’s actions. Leaving international treaties and institutions should not be left to the whim of one person.

‘Others will take up the baton elsewhere’

Diego, Crespos, Spain: I’m certainly glad that Mr. Trump lost the election, but I’m still shocked by the fact that almost half of Americans voted for him. Trump has shown authoritarian leaders all over the world that you can lie shamelessly and despise international organizations and get away with it. We’ll be suffering his legacy for years to come as others will take up the baton elsewhere. That is something that Mr. Biden can’t undo.

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