Leaders across the globe welcomed the arrival of U.S. President Joe Biden and the end of the often confrontational presidency of Donald Trump, noting the world’s most pressing problems, including the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change, require multilateral cooperation, an approach Trump ridiculed.
Many expressed hope Wednesday (Jan. 20) that Biden would right the world’s largest democracy two weeks after they watched rioters storm the Capitol, shaking the faith of those fighting for democracy in their own countries.
Governments targeted and sanctioned under Trump embraced the chance for a fresh start with Biden, while some heads of state who lauded Trump’s blend of nationalism and populism were more restrained in their expectations for the Biden administration — and in some cases spoke nostalgically of the Trump years.
But a chance to repair frayed alliances and work together to address problems extending beyond any one country’s borders carried the day.
Biden “understands the value and the importance of multilateralism. He understands the importance of cooperation among nations,” said former Colombian president and Nobel Peace Prize winner Juan Manuel Santos, who left office in 2018.
“As a matter of fact, if we don’t cooperate – all nations – to fight climate change, then we will all perish. It’s as simple as that,” Santos said.
French President Emmanuel Macron also noted the urgency of addressing the perils the world faces from climate change after Trump withdrew the U.S. from the Paris climate accord, a move Biden was to reverse in the first hours of his presidency.
With Biden, “we will be stronger to face the challenges of our time. Stronger to build our future. Stronger to protect our planet," he wrote on Twitter. “Welcome back to the Paris Agreement!”
Elsewhere in Europe, close U.S. allies finally saw a chance to come in out of the cold after strained security and economic relationships with the Trump administration.
“This new dawn in America is the moment we’ve been waiting for so long,” said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, hailing Biden’s arrival as “resounding proof that, once again after four long years, Europe has a friend in the White House.”
European Council President Charles Michel said that trans-Atlantic relations have “greatly suffered in the last four years. In these years, the world has grown more complex, less stable and less predictable.”
“We have our differences and they will not magically disappear. America seems to have changed, and how it’s perceived in Europe and the rest of the world has also changed,” added Michel, whose open criticism of the Trump era contrasted with the silence that mostly reigned in Europe while the Republican leader was in the White House.
In Germany, President Frank-Walter Steinmeier issued a video statement, calling Biden's inauguration a “good day for democracy.”
“Despite the attempts to tear at America’s institutional fabric, election workers and governors, the judiciary and Congress have proven strong,” he said.
With Biden and incoming Vice President Kamala Harris, Steinmeier said the U.S. would again be a “vital partner” to tackle issues like the coronavirus pandemic, climate change, security issues including arms control and disarmament, and multiple conflicts.
In Ballina, Ireland, where Biden’s great-great-grandfather was born in 1832, a mural of a smiling Biden adorned a wall in the town, where some of the president’s relatives still live.
“As he takes the oath of office, I know that President Biden will feel the weight of history — the presence of his Irish ancestors who left Mayo and Louth in famine times in search of life and hope,” Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin said.
Pope Francis urged Biden to help foster reconciliation in the U.S. and build up a society “marked by authentic justice and freedom” and looking out especially for the poor.
The “grave crises” facing all of the humanity calls for farsighted responses, Francis said.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who formed close ties with Trump, noted a “warm personal friendship” with Biden. “I look forward to working with you to further strengthen the U.S.-Israel alliance ... and to confront common challenges, chief among them the threat posed by Iran,” Netanyahu said.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who has accused Trump of unfair bias toward Israel with policies like moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, expressed hope for a more even-handed approach from Biden. He urged “a comprehensive and just peace process that fulfills the aspirations of the Palestinian people for freedom and independence.”
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, whose country has had a tumultuous relationship with Washington, having been criticized for aiding the Afghan Taliban, said in a tweet he looked forward to building a stronger partnership through trade, economic engagement, and countering climate change.
In Latin America, Biden faces immediate challenges on immigration, and the leaders of the two most populous countries — Brazil and Mexico — were chummy with Trump. The Trump administration also took a hard line against governments in Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua, expanding painful sanctions.
In Venezuela, President Nicolás Maduro's government urged dialogue with the Biden administration, while hoping the incoming president abandons the avalanche of damaging sanctions Trump imposed to attempt a regime change.
Some Venezuelans, however, like retired accountant Jesús Sánchez, 79, said he was disappointed to see Trump leave power. Trump backed opposition leader Juan Guaidó, giving Venezuelans like him hope that Maduro’s days in power were numbered.
Carlos Vecchio, Guaido’s envoy in Washington who the U.S. recognizes as Venezuela’s ambassador, tweeted photos of himself at Biden's inauguration. The invitation to attend was touted by Venezuela’s opposition as evidence the Biden administration will continue its strong support and resist entreaties by Maduro for dialogue that the U.S. has strenuously rejected until now.
Cuba’s leaders perhaps have a more realistic hope for improved relations: Biden was in the White House for the historic thaw in relations in 2014, and various officials expressed willingness to reopen a dialogue with Washington if there was respect for Cuba’s sovereignty.
President Miguel Díaz-Canel railed against Trump via Twitter, citing “more than 200 measures that tightened the financial, commercial and economic blockade, the expression of a despicable and inhuman policy.”
In Mexico, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who cultivated an unexpectedly friendly relationship with Trump and was one of the last world leaders to recognize Biden’s victory, read from a letter he sent to Biden in 2012, calling for reorienting the bilateral relationship away from security and military aid and toward development.
He urged Biden to implement immigration reform, and added: “We need to maintain a very good relationship with the United States government and I don’t have any doubt that it’s going to be that way.”