Friday, 27 Nov 2020

As the U.S. votes, a frazzled world holds its breath.

American presidential elections always seize international attention, but this year is exceptional: Mr. Trump has dominated news cycles and frayed nerves in almost every corner of the earth like few leaders in history. Having lived through his impulsiveness, and his disdain for allies and dalliances with adversaries, the world is on tenterhooks waiting to see whether the United States will choose to stay that rocky course.

No country has watched the American election unfold with greater anger and grievance than China — and few have more at stake. Tensions over trade, technology and the coronavirus have brought relations to their worst level since Washington first recognized the People’s Republic in 1979.

Even so, few Chinese officials appear to harbor much hope that a defeat for Mr. Trump would usher in any improvement.

In Russia, which the C.I.A. has accused of mounting a clandestine effort to re-elect Mr. Trump, pro-Kremlin news organizations have played up the possibility of violence and chaos, allowing commentators who depict American democracy as rotten to the core to declare the campaign an I-told-you-so moment.

To the Europeans, a Trump re-election would confirm that the United States has abandoned its leadership role in the western alliance. Beyond questioning membership in NATO, Mr. Trump has labeled the European Union a competitor and rival, tried to drive wedges among European countries and promoted right-wing populism.

Many Europeans fear a more radical and even less constrained Mr. Trump in a second term, freer to act on his instincts — like those that guided his response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

In the Middle East, where Mr. Trump’s foreign policy has had the biggest impact, the biggest impact of a Democratic victory could be to leave the autocratic leaders of Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Turkey with few friends in Washington, said Hisham Melhem, a columnist for the Lebanese newspaper Annahar Al Arabi.

Israel’s right-wing government has been showered with political favors by the Trump White House and backed to the hilt, culminating in normalization deals with three Arab countries that made the Middle East suddenly feel a bit less hostile to the Jewish state.

But a Trump victory offers Israel no guarantees. A second-term President Trump, unfettered of his need to please pro-Israel evangelical voters, might rush into an overly forgiving new deal with Iran, many Israelis fret.

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