- The Washington Times
Sunday, November 8, 2020

Traditional U.S. allies rushed to congratulate presumptive President-elect Joseph R. Biden over the weekend, but U.S. enemies and geopolitical adversaries were more cautious, with several expressing outright relief at the prospect of no longer having to deal with President Trump and his bare-knuckle sanctions and trade policies.

Officials in China, Russia and North Korea were conspicuously tight-lipped as of Sunday night Washington time. Government leaders in Iran, Venezuela and Cuba suggested that they anticipate a major easing of pressure from Washington if Mr. Biden is inaugurated in January.

Turkey and Saudi Arabia responded cautiously, as did the Taliban in Afghanistan, which was attempting to project confidence that Mr. Biden would honor Mr. Trump’s promise to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan.

Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has been mocking the U.S. by complaining — first in a speech and later on Twitter — about the length of time it took to declare a winner in the presidential race and the charges of fraud as the counting continued.

“This is an example of the ugly face of liberal democracy in the U.S.,” the supreme leader’s English-language Twitter account declared after Pennsylvania called its results in Mr. Biden’s favor Saturday. “Regardless of the outcome, one thing is absolutely clear — the definite political, civil, & moral decline of the U.S. regime.”

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, meanwhile, expressed hope that a Biden administration could breathe life back into Iran’s crippled economy by easing sanctions and the global Iranian crude embargo that the Trump administration imposed after pulling the U.S. out of the 2015 nuclear deal.

Although neither said explicitly that they believe Mr. Biden will resuscitate the Obama-era accord that Mr. Trump renounced in 2018, which Mr. Biden has signaled a desire to do, Mr. Rouhani and Mr. Zarif hinted that Tehran expects an easier time with a Biden administration.

“Now is the time for the next administration of the United States to make up for past mistakes and return to the path of adherence to international obligations and respecting global regulations,” said Mr. Rouhani, according to the state-controlled Iranian Students’ News Agency.

Venezuela and ‘dialogue’

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, whose socialist government has been the target of steadily escalating U.S. sanctions under Mr. Trump, struck a similar tone.

Venezuela “will always be ready for dialogue and understanding with the people and government of the U.S.,” Mr. Maduro tweeted Sunday.

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido, whom the U.S. and some 60 other nations have backed in attempts to oust Mr. Maduro from power in recent years, also expressed hope in a prospective Biden administration. He said he believes the presumptive president-elect will work with him to “secure the restoration of democracy, freedom and human rights to the Venezuelan people.”

Mr. Guaido’s message included a thank-you to Mr. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence for their “firmness and determination” in confronting Mr. Maduro.

In Havana, meanwhile, drivers honked and applause erupted after Mr. Biden and presumptive Vice President-elect Kamala D. Harris were declared winners, according to Reuters. Mr. Biden, as the former vice president, was a top adviser when President Barack Obama began an unprecedented detente with Cuba’s communist government, one that Mr. Trump has largely reversed.

“I’m tremendously happy,” said Miriam Corrales, 68, a retired economist, told the Reuters news agency. “Biden gives me the impression he will do everything possible to ease sanctions and leave behind the pressures we experienced with Trump.”

Other Latin American leaders stuck to basic congratulations, although Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, a Trump ally and hard-line conservative, had not sent any public message to Mr. Biden as of Sunday night.

A handful of world leaders offered expressions of gratitude for the Trump administration. Among them was Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, one of Mr. Trump’s closest personal allies overseas.

“Thank you [President Trump] for the friendship you have shown the state of Israel and me personally, for recognizing Jerusalem and the Golan, for standing up to Iran, for the historic peace accords and for bringing the American-Israeli alliance to unprecedented heights,” Mr. Netanyahu wrote.

However, Mr. Netanyahu also made headlines by recognizing Mr. Biden’s victory. His left-right coalition government has a number of top officials who are likely to be even closer to the coming Democratic administration.

“Joe, we’ve had a long & warm personal relationship for nearly 40 years, and I know you as a great friend of Israel,” wrote Mr. Netanyahu, who separately opened a video conference Israeli Cabinet meeting Sunday by congratulating Mr. Biden and Ms. Harris.

There was no immediate reaction to Mr. Netanyahu’s comments from the White House, where Mr. Trump disputed reports of Mr. Biden’s projected victory and had not formally conceded the race.

Wait and see

Major U.S. rivals and adversaries appeared to be taking a wait-and-see approach to the presidential transition. Russia, China and North Korea all remained quiet as of Sunday night.

While Moscow’s state-run Tass news agency offered around-the-clock coverage of the bitter U.S. vote-counting battle, Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose intelligence agencies were accused of meddling in the 2016 election to help Mr. Trump win, had not commented. Opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who is recovering in Germany from a poisoning incident many blame on the Kremlin, offered his congratulations to Mr. Biden Sunday evening.

A “free and fair election,” Mr. Navalny pointedly tweeted, is a “privilege which is not available to all countries.”

Also keeping a low profile were Chinese President Xi Jinping and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Mr. Trump met personally with Mr. Kim three times over the past three years.

China has clashed with the Trump administration over trade, security, technology and global influence. Mr. Trump and his top advisers have roundly blamed China for allowing COVID-19 to spread into a pandemic and failing to cooperate with international scientists trying to study the origins of the coronavirus that causes it.

Social media users in China have welcomed the news of prospective Biden victory. A posting on the popular Sina Weibo microblog service, signed Gong Teng Xin Yi, congratulated the Delaware Democrat and called him “an old friend of Chinese people.”

Responses from several key Middle Eastern players were also cautious. Syria was silent Sunday, while Saudi Arabia and Turkey offered only muted reactions.

Saudi King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed congratulated Mr. Biden and Ms. Harris, according to the Saudi Press Agency.

Salman “praised the historical deep-rooted relations between the two friendly countries, adding that both countries are keen to develop and enhance these relations in all fields,” the state-owned news outlet reported.

A statement from Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay asserted that “nothing will change for Turkey” as a result of the U.S. election, according to Reuters.

Although Mr. Trump has maintained positive relations with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Ankara’s military adventurism of late has raised concern in Washington.

Regional analysts predict Mr. Biden will be tougher on Turkey, likely first by imposing the sanctions against officials close to Mr. Erdogan over Ankara’s recent purchase of an advanced S-400 missile defense system from Russia — a move that angered other NATO countries.

Mr. Erdogan was quiet Sunday, but Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has been known for public displays of bonhomie with Mr. Trump, tweeted a photo of himself with Mr. Biden and offered his congratulations “on your spectacular victory!”

The tweet triggered amusement among some foreign affairs experts.

“It’s moments like these you learn who your real friends are … and [President Trump] is learning that nobody has real friends in politics,” said Richard Gowan, the U.N. director at the International Crisis Group.

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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