Global leaders watched live as a mob stormed the U.S. Capitol, and many saw it as a warning to global democracies, placing the blame squarely on President Trump.
BERLIN â As an angry mob stormed the heart of the worldâs most powerful democracy, the rest of the world watched the once-unimaginable scenes unfolding in Washington with dismay and disbelief â and deep concern about what the turmoil could mean as authoritarian forces gain strength around the globe.
Many of those following live broadcasts of armed rioters forcing their way into the Capitol saw it as a stark and disturbing warning for all the worldâs democracies: If this can happen in the United States, it can happen anywhere.
âWe currently witness an attack on the very fundaments of democratic structures and institutions,â said Peter Beyer, the German governmentâs coordinator for trans-Atlantic affairs. âThis is not merely a U.S. national issue, but it shakes the world, at least all democracies.â
One by one, officials around the globe responded with the sort of statements previously issued by the United States State Department when political violence consumed other countries.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison of Australia condemned the violence, calling what unfolded inside Congress âvery distressing.â
Matteo Salvini, the leader of the nationalist League party in Italy and a vocal admirer of President Trump, wrote on Twitter, âViolence is never the solution, ever,â while Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India called for an âorderly and peaceful transfer of power.â
The secretary general of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, took the highly unusual step of weighing in on a domestic issue in a member state, writing, âThe outcome of this democratic election must be respected.â
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand said she and her countrymen were âdevastatedâ by the events, but expressed confidence that democracy would ultimately prevail. âThe right of people to exercise a vote, have their voice heard and then have that decision upheld peacefully should never be undone by a mob,â she wrote on Twitter.
The attack on the Capitol â coming less than a day after the Hong Kong police arrested more than 50 democracy activists â was seen as a deep blow to Americaâs global credibility, making it harder for the United States to hold to account authoritarian leaders around the world who trample on democratic values.
The worldâs authoritarian leaders âmust be in euphoric and celebratory mood,â wrote Yossi Melman, a writer for Haaretz, the Israeli newspaper, mentioning President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, President Xi Jinping of China, the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and Iranâs supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
In Cambodia, Sok Eysan, a senator and spokesman for the governing Cambodian Peopleâs Party, cited Mr. Trumpâs claim that the U.S. election was tainted when he asked, âIf the U.S. has election fraud and corruption, which country is cleaner?â
âThis is what happens when you sow hatred,â StÃ©phane SÃ©journÃ©, a member of the European Parliament and close ally of President Emmanuel Macron of France, wrote on Twitter. âLet us defend and protect our democracy, because it cannot be taken for granted.â
The German vice chancellor, Olaf Scholz, wrote: âThe peaceful transfer of power is the cornerstone of every democracy. A lesson once taught to the world by the USA. It is a disgrace that @realDonaldTrump is undermining it by inciting violence and destruction.â
Charles Santiago, an opposition lawmaker in Malaysia who is also the chair of ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights, said that Mr. Trump had joined other world leaders âin subverting democracy and the will of the people.â He cited Prime Minister Hun Sen of Cambodia and President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines.
âThe U.S. has lost its moral authority to preach democracy and human rights to other countries,â he said. âIt has become part of the problem.â
Marzia Rustami, a womenâs rights activist in Afghanistan, read the news about what was happening in the United States as Taliban fighters attacked a military base near her home in the northern city of Kunduz.
âIn the United States, I see that the dialogue has given way to chaos,â she said, describing how she heard explosions and gunfire in the distance as she followed the news online. âIn my country, it has been like this for 40 years, and now the failure of the United States in this country has made the situation worse for us.â
For many foreign leaders, the scenes in America were also reminders of recent political attacks on democracy at home.
Heiko Maas, the German foreign minister, drew a parallel between the storming of the U.S. Capitol and the recent attempt by a far-right German mob to enter the Reichstag, the building that houses Germanyâs Parliament.
âInflammatory words will lead to acts of violence â on the steps of the Reichstag, and now in the Capitol. The contempt for democratic institutions has a devastating effect,â Mr. Maas wrote on Twitter. He added, âThe enemies of democracy will be happy about these unbelievable pictures from Washington, D.C.â
In Russia, the violence fit neatly into the Kremlinâs propaganda narrative of a crumbling American democracy. Russiaâs state-controlled news channel, Rossiya-24, broadcast the chaos in the Capitol on a split screen, one side showing happy Orthodox Christmas festivities in Russia, the other the violent mayhem in Washington. President NicolÃ¡s Maduro of Venezuela took to state television to lecture his ministers on the virtues of democracy, while Iranâs official state media offered minute-by-minute updates highlighting Mr. Trumpâs role in instigating the violence by making false claims about election fraud.
In China, The Global Times, a nationalist newspaper controlled by the Communist Party, ridiculed American support for the huge protests that took place in Hong Kong, which at one point included the takeover of the legislature in 2019.
Similar accusations of hypocrisy circulated widely on Chinaâs heavily censored social media, often mentioning a 2019 statement by Nancy Pelosi, the U.S. House speaker, that the protests in Hong Kong were âa beautiful sight to behold.â
One of the territoryâs beleaguered opposition activists was quick to distinguish the brief takeover in Hong Kong from the storming of Congress.
âLet me be clear, there is no way for anyone to justify what is happening in the States today with what happened in Hong Kong,â Joey Siu wrote on Twitter. âYes both went inside the legislative chamber but one with determination to sacrifice for defending democracy and one trying to damage it.â
A feeling of schadenfreude surfaced in other parts of the world that had been on the receiving end of advice on good governance from Washington.
âAs Africa we call for Americans to respect democracy, to respect rule of law and allow for a peaceful transition to power,â Mmusi Maimane, South Africaâs former leader of the opposition, wrote on Twitter. âFollow the example of great democratic states like South Africa which respect outcomes of elections.â
Amid the expressions of alarm, there were several hopeful voices insisting that this was a last convulsion of the Trump presidency rather than the beginning of the end of Western democracy â and that a Biden presidency would turn things around.
âI trust in the strength of Americaâs democracy,â tweeted Prime Minister Pedro SÃ¡nchez of Spain. âThe new Presidency [email protected] will overcome this time of tension, uniting the American people.â
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada also struck an optimistic tone in a tweet. âDemocracy in the U.S. must be upheld â and it will be,â he wrote.
Others warned that the crisis of democracy went beyond Mr. Trump and that America might take years to repair.
In Germany, where democracy once succumbed to Nazi rule following a volatile decade of marauding far-right militias and failed coups, the images of an armed mob attacking the U.S. seat of national power conjured uneasy echoes of history.
âAfter our catastrophic failure in the 20th century, we Germans were taught by the U.S. to develop strong democratic institutions,â said Andreas Michaelis, the German ambassador to Britain. âWe also learned that democracy is not just about institutions. It is about political culture, too.â
The Lebanese-British comedian Karl Sharro drew a winking parallel between Mr. Trumpâs encouragement of the Capitol mob with the United Statesâ history of helping to overthrow other countriesâ leaders. âTrump basically imported the USâs foreign policy to the US,â he wrote on Twitter.
âIâm waiting for the USA to invade the USA so they can âre-establish democracy,ââ he wrote on Twitter.
Katrin Bennhold reported from Berlin, and Steven Lee Myers from Seoul. Reporting was contributed by Melissa Eddy and Christopher F. Schuetze from Berlin; Andrew Higgins and Anton Troianovski from Moscow; Natalie Kitroeff and Oscar Lopez from Mexico City; Aurelien Breeden from Paris; David M. Halbfinger, Isabel Kershner and Adam Rasgon from Jerusalem; Mark Landler, Megan Specia and Benjamin Mueller from London; Ernesto LondoÃ±o from Rio de Janeiro; Anatoly Kurmanaev from Caracas, Venezuela; Julie Turkewitz from BogotÃ¡, Colombia; Vivian Yee from Tunis; Jason Horowitz from Rome; Catherine Porter from Toronto; Farnaz Fassihi from New York; Ruth Maclean from Dakar, Senegal; Matina Stevis-Gridneff and Steven Erlanger from Brussels; Austin Ramzy from Hong Kong; Emily Schmall from New Delhi; Thomas Gibbons-Neff and Najim Rahim from Kabul, Afghanistan; Damien Cave from Sydney, Australia; Hannah Beech and Richard C. Paddock from Bangkok; Sun Narin from Phnom Penh, Cambodia; Choe Sang-hun from Seoul; Motoko Rich and Mikiko Inoue from Tokyo; and Amy Chang Chien from Taipei, Taiwan.
News – Americaâs Friends and Foes Express Horror as Capitol Attack âShakes the Worldâ