World reactions: In aftermath of Capitol attack, U.S. political turmoil draws ongoing global attention


Last week’s breach of the U.S. Capitol by a mob of President Trump’s ardent supporters, following a speech by Trump, drew stunned dismay from around the world, along with some satisfaction on the part of U.S. adversaries.

The political turmoil that followed, including Trump’s banishment from social media and this week’s impeachment proceedings, has continued to command global attention as President-elect Joe Biden prepares to assume office on Jan. 20.

On Wednesday, Trump was impeached for a second time, an unprecedented indictment that is likely to lead to a Senate trial after his departure.

Here’s what some world leaders and top officials have had to say about the chaos and its aftermath.

‘Stop trampling democracy’

Angela Merkel

German chancellor

In German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s view, companies’ permanent suspension of Trump’s social media accounts was “problematic,” her spokesman said on Monday.

“The right to freedom of opinion is of fundamental importance,” spokesman Steffen Seibert told reporters, adding that Merkel thinks decisions to curb it should be made through the legislature, not by the management of social media companies.

Earlier, Merkel denounced the mob violence at the Capitol. “Unfortunately, President Trump has not accepted his defeat since November, and also did not accept it yesterday. And of course this has created an atmosphere, which led to such incidents, violent incidents,” she said on the day of the siege.

Other German politicians echoed her. “Trump and his supporters should finally accept the decision of the American voters and stop trampling democracy,” Foreign Minister Heiko Mass said on Jan. 6. “The attacks on the Capitol by fanatical Trump supporters hurt every friend of the United States,” tweeted Armin Laschet, the leader of Germany’s most populous federal state.

Alexei Navalny

Russian opposition leader

Alexei Navalny, a Russian opposition leader now living in Berlin after he was the target of an assassination attempt in Siberia last year, wrote on Twitter on Saturday that he did not think that Trump should be banned from Twitter, comparing it to the censorship activists like him see around the world.

“I think that the ban of Donald Trump on Twitter is an unacceptable act of censorship,” Navalny tweeted. “Don’t tell me he was banned for violating Twitter rules. I get death threats here every day for many years, and Twitter doesn’t ban anyone (not that I ask for it).”

“If you replace ‘Trump’ with ‘Navalny’ in today’s discussion, you will get an 80% accurate Kremlin’s answer as to why my name can’t be mentioned on Russian TV and I shouldn’t be allowed to participate in any elections,” he said.

Josep Borrell

European Union foreign policy chief

In a blog post published on Monday, the European Union’s top foreign policy official said the events on Capitol Hill reminded him of an attempted coup in a newly democratic Spain.

“It had a particular echo for me because I had to remember how, forty years ago, the young Spanish democracy had been threatened by an assault of the Congress of Deputies by a group of military police,” Josep Borrell wrote. “Fortunately, Spain was able to overcome this ordeal, starting since the best years of our modern history.”

Borrell, who serves as the high representative of the E.U. for foreign affairs, said some of the blame for what happened should fall on Trump. “If some people believe that an election was fraudulent, because their leader has been once and again telling them, they will behave accordingly,” he said.

Other European leaders have made similar remarks. “I believe in the strength of US institutions and democracy. Peaceful transition of power is at the core,” E.U. Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Jan. 6, adding that Biden was the winner of the election.

Michael McCormack

Acting Australian prime minister

The acting leader of Australia, one of a handful of leaders to avoid direct criticism of Trump after the Capitol siege, equated the pro-Trump protests in Washington to the anti-police-brutality Black Lives Matter protests of the year before.

Michael McCormack told Australia’s ABC television on Monday that the events of last week were “unfortunate” and “similar to those race riots that we saw around the country last year.” He later doubled down on the comments after they caused criticism from human rights groups.

“It involves violence, it involves destruction of property, it involves deaths of people. And any violence of that form is condemned,” said McCormack, who has been temporarily serving as acting prime minister while Scott Morrison is on vacation.

Pope Francis

“I was astonished because [Americans] are people so disciplined in democracy,” the pontiff told Italy’s Canale 5 news channel on Saturday, his first public comments on the events. “Thank God that this has burst into the open and is clear to see well, because like this you can put it.”

“Yes, this must be condemned, this movement, no matter who is involved in it,” he said.

Emmanuel Macron

French president

“What happened today in Washington, D.C., is not America, definitely,” French President Emmanuel Macron said in an English-language video statement on Jan. 6. “We believe in the strength of our democracies. We believe in the strength of American democracy.”

Marine Le Pen, leader of the French far-right group National Rally, said she was “extremely shocked” by scenes from the Capitol and said Trump “must condemn [the events] in the clearest terms.”

Benjamin Netanyahu

Israeli prime minister

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a key foreign ally for the Trump administration, said in a statement on Jan. 7 that the acts at the Capitol were “disgraceful.”

Israel analysts noted that Netanyahu had waited longer than many other world leaders to criticize the storming of the Capitol. Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz, an electoral rival and former army general, tweeted out a message the day before.

“This is proof that, before political rivalry, we must agree on the rules of the game: the maintenance of the rule of law, respect for democratic procedures and respectful discourse,” Gantz said in a video message.

Boris Johnson

British prime minister

In a news conference the day after the storming of the Capitol, the British prime minister said that Trump had been “completely wrong” to encourage the scenes of chaos that unfolded.

In a Jan. 6 tweet, Johnson had said the scenes at Congress were “disgraceful” and emphasized the need for a democratic transition of power. “The United States stands for democracy around the world and it is now vital that there should be a peaceful and orderly transfer of power,” he tweeted.

British Home Secretary Priti Patel, a key ally of Johnson, told the BBC that Trump’s comments had “directly led” to the storming of the Capitol.

Nicola Sturgeon, the first minister of Scotland, also condemned the scenes as “utterly horrifying” and called for “solidarity with those … on the side of democracy and the peaceful and constitutional transfer of power.”

‘An assault on democracy’

Stefan Lofven

Swedish prime minister

“This is an assault on democracy. President Trump and several members of Congress bear substantial responsibility for developments,” tweeted Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven on the day of the siege.

Justin Trudeau

Canadian prime minister

At a news conference on Friday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau criticized Trump for inciting the rioters at the Capitol.

“What we witnessed was an assault on democracy by violent rioters, incited by the current president and other politicians,” Trudeau said. “As shocking, deeply disturbing and frankly saddening as that event remains — we have also seen this week that democracy is resilient in America, our closest ally and neighbor.”

As the events unfolded on Jan. 6, Trudeau said that he had been “following the situation minute by minute.”

Vladimir Putin

Russian president

The Russian leader has offered no public comment in response to the storming of the Capitol, but other members of his government have weighed in.

“The events in Washington show that the U.S. electoral process is archaic, does not meet modern standards and is prone to violations,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said the day after the riot, according to the state-run RIA Novosti news agency.

U.S. democracy is “obviously limping on both feet,” said Konstantin Kosachev, chairman of the foreign affairs committee in the Federation Council, the upper house of Russia’s parliament, and a member of the Putin-backing party United Russia. “America no longer charts the course and therefore has lost all right to set it. And even more to impose on others.”

Ali Khamenei

Iranian supreme leader

The Iranian supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, mocked the U.S. political system after the attack, suggesting in speeches and on Twitter that the chaos in Washington was retribution for U.S. policy in the Middle East.

“Have you seen the situation in the U.S.? This is their democracy and this is their election fiasco. Today, the U.S. & ‘American values’ are ridiculed even by their friends,” he said in a tweet on Friday.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani echoed the sentiment. “What happened in the United States showed how weak Western democracy is,” he said the day after the attacks in Washington.

Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister, said in a tweet the same day that Trump’s actions made him concerned about his control of U.S. nuclear weapons. “What’s disturbing is that the same man has the UNCHECKED authority to start a nuclear war; a security concern for the entire int’l community,” he wrote.

‘On the verge of a civil war’

Nicolás Maduro

Venezuelan president

The Venezuelan leader, a frequent target of U.S. ire under Trump, on Sunday suggested that the United States could be “on the verge of a civil war.”

“The United States is in a crisis,” Nicolás Maduro said in a speech. “Joe Biden’s term as president will start under the worst scenario, which includes hostile polarization, a split, animosity and confrontation.”

Emmerson Mnangagwa

Zimbabwe president

Zimbabwe’s president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, saw the acts of insurrection as an opportunity to decry U.S. sanctions on his country.

“Last year, President Trump extended painful economic sanctions placed on Zimbabwe, citing concerns about Zimbabwe’s democracy,” the African leader wrote on Twitter on Jan. 7. “Yesterday’s events showed that the U.S. has no moral right to punish another nation under the guise of upholding democracy. These sanctions must end.”

Xi Jinping

Chinese president

While Chinese President Xi Jinping has not commented directly on the Capitol assault, high-ranking Beijing officials have used the fray to argue a double standard between U.S. lawmakers’ response to the Capitol rioters and their characterization of protesters in Hong Kong.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying on Jan. 7 likened the Capitol mob to an incident in 2019, when pro-democracy demonstrators stormed Hong Kong’s parliament, smashing windows, spray-painting the walls and defacing portraits of lawmakers. “The US mainstream media had unanimously criticised violent Trump fans in [Washington], saying it’s a violent event and those protesters are mobs, extremists. … But what description did they use on the Hong Kong protest? ‘Beautiful sight.’ ”

Narendra Modi

Indian prime minister

On Jan. 6, as events were unfolding in the Capitol, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a close ally of Trump’s, expressed his dismay and rejected Trump’s efforts to contest the election.

“Distressed to see news about rioting and violence in Washington DC. Orderly and peaceful transfer of power must continue. The democratic process cannot be allowed to be subverted through unlawful protests,” he wrote in a tweet.

Modi’s Hindu nationalist government and lawmakers in his party have come under criticism over accusations that they incited vigilante mob violence against the country’s Muslim community.

This report has been updated.

Photo editing by Chloe Coleman. Video editing by Alexa Juliana Ard. Story editing by Benjamin Soloway. Copy editing by Mike Cirelli. Design by J.C. Reed.

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