The World Waits and Wonders About Donald Trump

The forces that brought Donald Trump to victory were largely American. The repercussions of his election, however, have rocked Western democracies accustomed to seeing the United States as a beacon for democracy, progress and stability. If the president-elect wants to take seriously his responsibilities as head of the free world, he should waste no time in making clear how much of his campaign bluster was just that.

In the immediate wake of the election, the chorus of excited reactions from Europe’s far right, which has made common cause with Mr. Trump’s anti-globalization, anti-immigration and anti-establishment messages, reflected a sense that its cause had been given a huge boost.

Marine Le Pen, head of France’s far-right National Front, saw in Mr. Trump’s election a “great movement across the world” to upend the status quo. In the Netherlands, Geert Wilders of the similar Party for Freedom declared the election “historic.” In Britain, Nigel Farage, whose U.K. Independence Party was a major force behind the vote to leave the European Union, declared he “couldn’t be happier.” Germany’s Alternative for Germany and Austria’s Freedom Party chimed in with similar cheers.

The Netherlands, France and Germany all face national elections next year, and though the far-right parties have not been given strong chances of winning, neither had Brexit nor Mr. Trump. Even a strong showing by the populists in these countries would be a major threat to the European Union and its existing policies.

Mr. Trump’s victory was also greeted warmly in Russia, where it raised speculation that sanctions over the annexation of Crimea might soon be lifted. Aside from such concrete possibilities, foes of Western liberal democracy in Russia, China and elsewhere celebrated what they perceived as a vindication of their illiberal policies.

Beyond the threat of further advances by the far right in European electoral politics, mainstream European politicians and commentators were aghast at the potential of a Trump presidency to upend the political, economic and social order of the post-Communist world — much of it based on America’s deep and steadfast relationship with European democracies. Economic turmoil and the flood of refugees from a disintegrating Syria had already fired up the same sort of nativist sentiments that Mr. Trump rode to power. But nobody had really anticipated that the same passions were smoldering in that firm bulwark of Western values, the United States.

Now the entire structure of convictions and policies that were to underpin the Western world in the 21st century — the international trading regime, the united Western front against Russian revanchism, the security of NATO, the Paris accord on climate change — seems uncertain. In its stead are fears of costly trade wars, of new Russian pressures on countries from Estonia to Ukraine, of a steadily warming planet beset by drought, sea-level rise and human displacement.

The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, arguably the strongest leader in Europe, infused her message of congratulations to Mr. Trump with an unusual lecture on liberal democracy: “Germany and America are bound by their values: democracy, freedom, the respect for the law and dignity of human beings, independent of their origin, skin color, religion, gender, sexual orientation or political beliefs.”

No other president-elect in recent memory has needed this reminder. Mr. Trump would do well to recognize the genuine and profound trepidation behind it, and to give Ms. Merkel, Europe and the world the urgent reassurance they require.

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(Source:www.nytimes.com)

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