For four years, the world’s nations have watched as a very different American president engages with the international community — or doesn’t.
Longtime alliances have been strained, agreements wiped away, tariffs erected, funding withdrawn. Some nations have been the objects of presidential derision. Others, like North Korea, have been on the receiving end of diplomatic overtures once considered unthinkable.
For countries around the planet, the presidency of Donald Trump in its first term has been, it is safe to say, a singular experience to watch. Now that an inflection point in Trump’s time in office is at hand with Tuesday’s U.S. election, what’s at stake if his presidency ends — or if it continues? Nation by nation, how is Election Day in the United States being watched, considered, assessed?
Venezuela President Nicolás Maduro is sure to seize on the U.S. election as an opening to attempt a fresh start to shattered relations with his most troublesome adversary, no matter who wins the White House.
Neither President Donald Trump nor Joe Biden recognize Maduro as Venezuela’s legitimate president but, in the runup to Election Day, the South American leader repeated his desire to reengage in talks.
“We are going to have a single policy — dialogue, dialogue and dialogue — with whoever wins in the United States,” Maduro said. “We hope to overcome obstacles imposed by imperialist policies.”
Strained relations with the last five U.S. presidents completely broke down under Trump, who has pressed to rid Venezuela of Maduro, labeling him a “dictator.”
Trump closed the U.S. embassy in Caracas, backing Juan Guaidó, head of Venezuela’s congress, as the nation’s legitimate leader. He also hit Maduro with sweeping financial sanctions, and justice officials indicted him as a narcoterrorist, carrying a $15 million reward for his capture.
Luis Vicente León, president of the Caracas-based polling firm Datanalisis, said a second-term Trump might recognize his failure to force out Maduro and chart a new strategy, potentially inviting Maduro to negotiate his exit.
If Biden wins, he likely wouldn’t lift the sanctions, but could move to decrease the pain they cause average Venezuelans with moves like allowing in humanitarian aid or gasoline, León said.
“For Maduro, this could create an opportunity,” he said. “It is a matter of nuances rather than profound changes.”
—Scott Smith in Caracas, Venezuela
President Donald Trump has largely neglected Africa, with one glaring exception: the tussle between Ethiopia and Egypt over a massive dam project on a tributary of the Nile.
Ethiopians were shocked earlier this year when Trump issued guidance to suspend millions of dollars in aid to the country, a major security ally in the Horn of Africa, and again last month when he told reporters that Egypt will “blow up that dam.”
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed denounced the “belligerent threats,” and the Foreign Ministry summoned the U.S. ambassador. Ethiopia backed out of U.S.-brokered talks on the dam early this year, suspecting Washington of bias in favor of Egypt.
Now, some outraged Ethiopians have urged Ethiopian Americans to vote Trump out of office for daring to insert himself into the issue.
“America does not deserve him,” said Mesenbet Assefa, a law professor.
Social media is buzzing, too. “America can’t afford four more years of President Trump and his chaotic leadership,” tweeted Zemedeneh Nigatu, a renowned Ethiopian-American investor.
Several hundred Ethiopian Muslims took to the streets in Addis Ababa after Friday prayers last week, raising banners showing defaced photos of Trump. On Saturday, Ethiopians launched a global campaign to collect signatures denouncing his comments.
Trump might have supporters in pockets of Africa, notably in Nigeria, where some see him as a fellow Christian or a “big man” to be admired. But many across the continent see him as uninterested in Africa or outright insulting. His use of a vulgarity in characterizing African nations in 2018 is still remembered well.
—Elias Meseret in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Ukraine, which has played an unwitting backstage role in American political battles of late, is walking a thin line: trying to avoid being drawn into U.S. election drama, while also not being forgotten by the powers in Washington.
The former Soviet nation badly needs strong bipartisan U.S. support amid a tug-of-war with Russia, which annexed Ukraine’s Crimea in 2014 and has backed a separatist insurgency in eastern Ukraine.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, a sitcom star elected by a landslide in 2019, has tried to play to both sides of the American political divide to ensure U.S. financial and military aid keeps flowing no matter who comes out the winner.
Last year, Zelenskiy carefully stayed on the sidelines as U.S. lawmakers launched an impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump. At the heart of that probe were Trump’s efforts to get Ukraine to investigate the son of his rival Joe Biden. Hunter Biden was on the board of a Ukrainian energy company.
Ukrainian prosecutors promised to revisit past investigations into the gas company executive who recruited Biden’s son to its board but took no visible action.
“Zelenskiy has done his best to maintain neutrality during the U.S. election campaign,” said Volodymyr Fesenko, head of the Kyiv-based Penta think tank. “That guarantees bonuses to Zelenskiy and his administration under any outcome.”
—Yuras Karmanau in Kyiv, Ukraine
THE UNITED KINGDOM
If you’re the leader of an increasingly isolated country, what’s better — to keep an unreliable friend or gain a dependable critic?
That’s the dilemma facing British Prime Minister Boris Johnson over a U.S. election taking place weeks before the U.K. makes an economic split from the European Union at year’s end and seeks new trade and diplomatic partners.
Johnson has cultivated close ties with Trump, who has returned the affection, praising the Conservative leader as “Britain Trump.”
But Johnson has received little reward for his efforts. Work on a sought-after U.K.-U.S. trade deal is advancing slowly. And while Britain’s leader shares some of Trump’s populist instincts, there are important differences. Johnson supports international institutions and is committed to fighting climate change.
Leading Conservative lawmaker Tobias Ellwood expressed a widely held frustration that the Trump administration had “not read the unwritten rules that come with being the United States president: that there is a sense of duty to lead the West.”
Many British politicians, diplomats and citizens at large crave the return to relative normality promised by a Biden victory.
But Johnson’s embrace of Trump complicates things. Many Democrats mistrust Johnson and see Brexit as an error that echoes Trump’s “America First” isolationism. Some observers think a Biden administration would prioritize strong ties with the EU over nurturing a relationship with Britain.
Peter Westmacott, a former British ambassador to Washington, said recently that “it’ll be a little bit of a bumpy ride at the beginning” if Biden wins. But he acknowledged it would hold “lots of potential.”
—Jill Lawless in London
Mexico’s economy is forecast to contract nearly 10% this year — the biggest decline in the region — and President Andrés Manuel López Obrador knows any chance of climbing out of that hole will depend greatly on a rapid U.S. economic recovery.
Perhaps more important than who wins the White House will be a clear result and stability for its neighbor to the north, since the U.S. and Mexico are each other’s biggest trade partners.
López Obrador has shown a surprising ability to get along with President Donald Trump, who as a candidate four years ago famously said Mexico was sending rapists and criminals to the U.S. The two leaders see themselves as outsiders and are fond of populist rhetoric, despite coming from opposite ends of the political spectrum.
Raymundo Barraza Gómez, who owns and runs a jewelry shop in the border city of Tijuana, recalls the concern and uncertainty business owners felt when Donald Trump was elected four years ago.
“At the beginning of his administration, we expected economic matters toward Mexico to be a lot tougher,” Barraza said. “However, throughout all this time, it hasn’t been that bad.”
A Biden administration could offer more certainty to young Mexicans who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children and received protection from the Obama administration. Biden also has promised to end Trump’s Migrant Protection Protocols, commonly known as “Remain in Mexico,” which forced thousands of asylum seekers to wait in Tijuana and other Mexican border cities while their asylum cases were processed in the U.S.
—Jordi Lebrija in Tijuana, Mexico
From Moscow, the U.S. election looks like a contest between “who dislikes Russia most,” according to Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.
Russian President Vladimir Putin is frustrated with President Donald Trump’s failure to deliver on his promise to fix ties between the countries. But Democratic challenger Joe Biden does not offer the Kremlin much hope either.
U.S. officials say Russia interfered in the 2016 election in an effort to help Trump beat Democrat Hillary Clinton. But the Kremlin has been bitterly disappointed with Trump’s tenure, which saw multiple rounds of bruising sanctions against Moscow.
Still, American intelligence officials believe Russia is using a variety of measures to denigrate Biden and that individuals linked to the Kremlin are boosting Trump’s reelection bid — though Putin has repeatedly denied meddling.
Putin has tried to hedge his bets. Bemoaning what he called Biden’s “sharp anti-Russian rhetoric,” the Russian leader has praised the nominee’s promise to extend the last remaining U.S.-Russian nuclear arms control pact, something that Trump’s administration has been reluctant to do.
In another sign of flirting with the Democratic camp, Putin also said he didn’t see “anything criminal” about Biden’s son’s business dealings in Ukraine, refusing to back Trump’s favorite line of attack against his opponent.
“Biden’s chances of winning look strong enough for Russia to start preparing for that,” Tatiana Stanovaya, a political scholar with the Carnegie Moscow Center, said in a recent commentary. “The negative consequences of the Trump presidency and disappointment in him have led to a more sober and pragmatic approach.”
—Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow
On the eve of the U.S. presidential election, leaders of Israeli settlers in the West Bank gathered in the biblical city of Hebron to pray for victory for President Donald Trump.
It was a highly symbolic move by the settlers, who have been among the biggest beneficiaries of the president’s Mideast policies.
Monday’s gathering took place in front of a holy site revered by Jews and Muslims as the burial place of the biblical patriarch Abraham, a gesture to the Trump-brokered deals between Israel and Arab countries known as the “Abraham Accords.”
“We are grateful for his first term, and we pray that he may be elected for another four years of blessed endeavors,” said Rabbi Hillel Horowitz, mayor of Hebron’s ultranationalist Jewish community.
It was almost certainly the first time settler leaders, long ostracized by the U.S., have publicly prayed for victory for a sitting American president.
But Trump is unlike any of his predecessors. He has embraced Israel’s religious and nationalist right wing and showered Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with a string of diplomatic gifts: withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal, recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, offering a Mideast plan that would allow Israel to annex large swaths of the West Bank, including all of its settlements.
Netanyahu, while careful not to openly take sides, made little secret of his preference when he said this week he hopes Trump’s policies “will continue in the coming years.” The Palestinians, sidelined and humiliated by Trump, have been even clearer that they are pulling for Joe Biden.
The Democratic challenger has already signaled he will scrap Trump’s approach toward Iran and the Palestinians. That has raised concerns in Israel, especially on the right.
Elie Pieprz, an American-Israeli consultant who lives in the Karnei Shomron settlement, said Trump has been a “tremendous success” by rejecting policies of the past. He said, if Biden wins, he hopes he will “learn the proper lessons.”
—Josef Federman in Jerusalem
For many Indians, the American election is personal.
The prospect that vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris — who has Indian origins — could occupy the second-highest political office in the U.S. has caught the imagination of millions of ordinary people in the world’s largest democracy.
But for their government, the election is all about the recent military and diplomatic convergence between the two countries to counter their shared rival China.
Despite some friction over trade issues, the India-U.S. relationship has steadily strengthened in security and defense cooperation in the last four years. It has largely been defined by public displays of bonhomie between President Donald Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, both seen as populists.
Modi’s second term has been marked by many convulsions at home: widening social strife, policies that discriminate against Muslims and the rising intolerance against minorities. Trump has mostly chosen to ignore them, partly as an effort to woo Indian American voters.
By contrast, Democratic challenger Joe Biden and running mate Harris have been vocal about Modi’s hardline Hindu-nationalist policies, including his administration’s decision to revoke disputed Kashmir’s semiautonomous powers. Should they win, India might expect to come under more pressure internationally for such policies.
But India might not see as big a difference between the candidates as other countries do.
“No matter who wins the election, the trajectory of the U.S.-India relationship will remain favorable,” said Michael Kugelman, deputy director of the Asia Program at the Washington-based Wilson Center. “There’s not much that Trump and Biden agree on, but India policy is one of the rare convergences.”
—Sheikh Saaliq in New Delhi
For both North and South Korea, the fate of nuclear negotiations is top of mind as the two countries look at the U.S. election.
With the talks in disarray, the election could have serious implications for North Korea’s relentless pursuit of an arsenal capable of targeting U.S. allies and the American homeland.
President Donald Trump’s three summits with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un since 2018 — which South Korea helped set up — brought a temporary lull to tensions.
But negotiations — which seek to exchange an easing of crippling U.S.-led sanctions for disarmament steps by the North — have now stalled.
If Trump is reelected, some experts say the North would try to resume the summits. North Korea prefers a summit-driven process, which gives it a better shot at winning instant concessions, such as Trump’s surprise agreement to cease major U.S. military exercises with South Korea after his first meeting with Kim.
Democratic challenger Joe Biden, whom North Korea’s state media has called a “rabid dog” after he accused Trump of cozying up to dictators, has endorsed an approach that starts with meetings between lower-level officials. He has also demanded that the North show genuine willingness to abandon its nuclear weapons and missiles.
Some analysts say the North could try to pressure a Biden administration by resuming tests of nuclear warheads and long-range missiles it halted during its diplomacy with Trump. In a recent military parade in Pyongyang, Kim revealed a slew of new weapons, including what appeared to be North Korea’s biggest intercontinental ballistic missile yet.
South Korea, meanwhile, has struggled to deal with Trump, who has been less wedded to historic alliances than his predecessors. Trump has constantly complained about the cost of having 28,500 U.S. troops stationed in South Korea. A cost-sharing agreement expired in 2019, and the two sides have failed to agree on a replacement.
In an op-ed to South Korea’s Yonhap News last week, Biden vowed to strengthen the alliance.
But Biden would also be much more willing than Trump to strengthen sanctions and pressure North Korea.
“This could possibly force Seoul to choose between denuclearization and inter-Korean relations,” said Moon Seong Mook, an analyst for the Seoul-based Korea Research Institute for National Strategy.
—Kim Tong-hyung in Seoul, South Korea
It’s all about trade for China — and trade is about hitting economic growth targets at home and being a technology leader abroad.
The stormy commercial relationship between the world’s two biggest economies since President Donald Trump took office is front and center in China’s view of the U.S. election. While a win for Democratic challenger Joe Biden offers no guarantee of relief, Beijing hopes to avoid a further deterioration and see negotiations put on an even keel.
“People are concerned. They want to know what their future is to be,” said investor and prominent blogger Ding Chenling. “Whoever is the U.S. president has no choice: They will have to do business with China.”
Trump seized on longstanding concerns about Chinese commercial espionage, the forced handover of technology, and state subsidies for Chinese companies. He elevated them into a high-stakes tariff war launched in 2018, and last year tightened controls on Chinese purchases of computer chips and other high-tech components.
That could place a drag on China’s ambitions to be a global leader in cutting edge technologies and build, as it calls it, a “moderately prosperous society” at home, although the loss of access to U.S. technology is also motivating a drive for self-sufficiency.
Meanwhile, Trump’s vow that China would pay for allegedly cheating the U.S. consumer has yet to yield more balanced trade.
September exports to the U.S. rose 20.5% over a year ago to $44 billion as China’s factories continued to assemble most of the world’s smartphones, personal computers and consumer electronics, along with much of the clothing, housewares and toys sold in the U.S.
That means that, despite disruptions from trade tension and the pandemic, the ruling Communist Party is likely to hit its economic targets for the time being. Still, calming the stormy seas of trade could provide the long-term assurance Beijing’s leaders seek.
“I believe Joe Biden would ease relations,” said Qu Zhan, a Beijing health care worker.
The next U.S. president could reshape the country’s relationship with President Rodrigo Duterte, who leads a key American treaty ally in Asia — but presents a dilemma.
Duterte has been regarded by international watchdogs as a human rights calamity for his notorious anti-drug crackdown that has left thousands of mostly poor suspects dead. He has been accused of undermining one of Asia’s most vibrant democracies — an American legacy.
Known for his expletive-laced outbursts, the 75-year-old leader is hypersensitive to criticism of his so-called war on drugs. He once told then-President Barack Obama in a speech to “go to hell.”
Unlike his predecessor, President Donald Trump has not publicly raised red flags over Duterte’s brutal campaign. Trump’s gambit won him cozier ties with Duterte, who called on Filipino Americans in March to vote Republican, saying, “you are getting the best deal with Trump.”
But the Filipino leader has pressed on with his anti-U.S. broadsides while nurturing ties with China and Russia. In February, his government notified Washington of its intent to terminate a key security pact, although he later delayed the effect of that decision.
“Do we need America to survive as a nation?” he asked. He essentially said, no.
While a Trump reelection would likely mean business as usual for Duterte, a Biden presidency carries the prospect of a stronger U.S. pushback against Duterte at the risk of further alienating the leader of a crucial ally with less than two years left in office.
—Jim Gomez in Manila, Philippines