Images of a pro-Trump mob swarming the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday reverberated around the world, where many are used to U.S. lectures about orderly transitions of power, not frenzied bids to overturn American elections.
There was shock among the United States’ long-standing democratic allies. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called the scenes in Washington “disgraceful.”
“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,” Johnson, an ally of President Donald Trump, wrote on Twitter.
Over and over, senior officials expressed concern about the state of America’s democracy and called for the outcome of the election to be respected.
Among them was NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, who called the scenes “shocking.”
Shocking scenes in Washington, D.C. The outcome of this democratic election must be respected.
— Jens Stoltenberg (@jensstoltenberg) January 6, 2021
The high representative of the European Union, Josep Borrell, wrote that American democracy appeared to be “under siege.”
In the eyes of the world, American democracy tonight appears under siege.
This is an unseen assault on US democracy, its institutions and the rule of law.
This is not America. The election results of 3 November must be fully respected.
— Josep Borrell Fontelles (@JosepBorrellF) January 6, 2021
Italy’s prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, called what was happening “really serious” and said it was “a real scar to democracy, an attack to the freedom of the American people.”
Germany’s foreign minister, Heiko Maas, warned on Twitter that “the enemies of democracy will rejoice about these incredible images,” adding: “Trump and his supporters should finally accept the decision of the American voters and stop trampling democracy.”
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz tweeted that it was an “unacceptable assault on democracy,” while Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz tweeted: “The pictures from Washington hurt the hearts of everyone who believes in democracy.”
Shocked by the scenes in Washington, D.C. This is an unacceptable assault on democracy. A peaceful and orderly transfer of power must be ensured.
— Sebastian Kurz (@sebastiankurz) January 6, 2021
The chaos began after Trump told a large crowd in front of the White House that he would never concede to President-elect Joe Biden and baselessly asserted that the election results were fraudulent.
Earlier Wednesday, he had called on his supporters to march to the Capitol, and he even suggested that he might join them, before he ultimately returned to the White House.
After the mob stormed the Capitol, Trump falsely claimed again in a video message that he won the election in a “landslide” before telling his supporters: “You have to go home now.”
The scenes of demonstrators breaking through barricades, forcing Congress to evacuate and pause a ceremonial event affirming that Biden won the election, will badly damage the U.S.’s standing around the world, said Peter Trubowitz, director of the U.S. Centre at the London School of Economics and Political Science.
“There is nothing comparable, certainly in modern American history, to this moment,” Trubowitz said. “The images here are terrible for America’s standing and credibility.
“People look to the United States, and this is not what they have in mind,” he added. “It’s going to take a lot of work on the part of the Biden administration to reset things.”
He warned that credibility was “hard to earn and easy to lose.”
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Countries more accustomed to being chided for their lack of democracy and the rule of law also responded.
Ukraine’s foreign affairs minister, Dmytro Kuleba, said the health of American democracy doesn’t matter only to Americans. “This is important not only for the U.S., but for Ukraine and the entire democratic world as well,” he wrote.
In Turkey, which has been lambasted by previous administrations for its lack of democratic norms, the Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying it was “following with concern the internal developments happening in the U.S. following the Presidential elections.”
“We advise Turkish citizens in the U.S. to avoid crowded areas and places where protests are taking place,” it said.
The Venezuelan government, which has been subjected to harsh U.S. sanctions and criticized for its undemocratic ways, condemned the “political polarization and spiral of violence.”
“With this unfortunate episode, the United States suffers from what they have generated in other countries with their aggressive policies,” it said in a statement. “Venezuela hopes that the acts of violence will soon cease and the American people can finally open a new path towards stability and social justice.”