After Trump’s Conviction, a Wary World Waits for the Fallout

The world does not vote in American presidential elections. Nor do its jurors play a part in the American judicial system. Nevertheless, the conviction of Donald J. Trump on all 34 felony counts in a hush-money trial in a New York court on Thursday has again made clear how consequential what happens in the United States is for the rest of the planet.

Many America-watchers are grappling with the same questions posed by people in the United States: Can Mr. Trump still run for president? (Yes.) And if so, will the guilty verdicts cut into the support from his political base? (Unclear.)

Foreign observers also began wondering if Mr. Trump, already a volatile force, would become even less likely to stay within the guardrails of normal politics and diplomacy if he won the presidency again in November.

Mr. Trump’s supporters in anti-immigrant, right-wing nationalist circles abroad quickly jumped to his defense. Viktor Orban, Hungary’s Kremlin-friendly prime minister, called Mr. Trump “a man of honor” in a post on X and said the American people should deliver their own verdict in November.

Matteo Salvini, Italy’s deputy prime minister and the leader of the hard-right League party, expressed “solidarity and full support,” and called Mr. Trump a “victim of judicial harassment.”

“This verdict is a disgrace,” Nigel Farage, the pro-Brexit campaigner and Trump supporter, who is honorary president of Reform UK, a small right-wing party in Britain, wrote on social media. “Trump will now win big.”

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia did not immediately respond to the verdict but has seized on the situation more broadly to undermine American influence. Mr. Putin last year called the various proceedings against Mr. Trump political “persecution” and said they had revealed the “rottenness of the American political system, which cannot pretend to teach others about democracy.”

His spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov, reiterated the point on Friday in response to the verdict, saying it was clear to the entire world that the U.S. authorities were trying to eliminate political rivals “by all possible legal and illegal means.”

The convictions by a Manhattan jury come as the question of American engagement has become central in several global crises.

In Ukraine, the war effort against Russia has been stymied after Republicans in Congress delayed American military aid for months.

In Europe, leaders reliant on the United States for their defense are jittery about a return to a more acrimonious relationship with Washington and a possible withdrawal of American support for hardening defenses against Russia.

In Asia, where the Biden administration perceives a growing Chinese threat and worries about a possible invasion of Taiwan, American allies are concerned about the sanctity of defense treaties that have long girded the regional security order.

On the campaign trail, Mr. Trump has said he would encourage Russia to attack any NATO member that doesn’t pay sufficiently for its defense and has questioned whether the United States should defend South Korea, a treaty ally that hosts a large American military presence. He is considering the Ohio senator J.D. Vance, one of Washington’s most vociferous opponents of military aid for Ukraine, as a possible running mate.

Foreign analysts worry that Mr. Trump’s favored currency, unpredictability, could again shake up the global order.

Concern about his possible return to the White House is particularly palpable in Germany, the object of Mr. Trump’s ire for much of his first term and the host of more than 35,000 U.S. troops.

Andrea Römmele, vice president of the Hertie School, a public policy-focused graduate school in Berlin, said many Germans watching the Trump verdict were relieved to see that even a former president was not above the law in the United States. But she said Germans remained very anxious about a Trump victory.

“I think everyone is much more prepared to think the unthinkable,” she said.

Prime Minister Donald Tusk of Poland, whose right-wing domestic opponents accuse him of using the judiciary to settle political scores, hailed the conviction of Mr. Trump in New York as “an American lesson” for Polish politicians.

“The law determines guilt and punishment, regardless of whether the perpetrator is a president or a minister,” Mr. Tusk said in a message posted on X. A veteran centrist, Mr. Tusk took office after an October election that ousted a nationalist government that cultivated close ties with Mr. Trump during and after his time in the White House.

Still, on Friday, most foreign governments, forced to surf every shift in the American political mood, reacted cautiously.

“I would like to refrain from commenting on matters related to judicial procedures in other countries,” Yoshimasa Hayashi, Japan’s chief cabinet secretary, said at a news conference in Tokyo on Friday.

In Britain, where a national election campaign is underway, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak refused to discuss the Trump case. His Labour Party opponent, Keir Starmer, a former top prosecutor, said he respected the court’s decision and called the situation unprecedented.

“Ultimately whether he is elected president will be a matter for the American people and obviously, if we’re privileged to come in to serve, we would work with whoever they choose as their president,” Mr. Starmer told BBC Radio Scotland.

Mao Ning, a spokeswoman for China’s foreign ministry, declined to comment on the verdict. She said she hoped whoever is elected president would “be committed to developing healthy and stable China-U. S. relations.”

The possibility of Mr. Trump’s return to the White House is a source of anxiety for U.S. allies in Asia that rely on Washington for their defense.

When Prime Minister Fumio Kishida of Japan made a state visit to Washington in April, President Biden called relations between the countries the most important bilateral alliance in the world. With American concern rising over China’s expanding military footprint, Mr. Biden has strengthened American defense partnerships with Japan, South Korea, the Philippines and others in Asia.

By contrast, while president, Mr. Trump called for Japan, which hosts more than 50,000 American troops on its soil, to pay $8 billion for the upkeep of American bases there. (It never happened.)

Still, the fundamental tension in regional geopolitics — the contest between the United States and China — will continue no matter who wins the American presidential election.

“Beijing has no illusion about Trump or Biden, given their anti-China solid stance,” said Lau Siu-kai, an adviser to the Chinese government on Hong Kong policy. “Beijing is all set for a more intense confrontation with the U.S. over technology, trade and Taiwan.”

Officials in China’s U.S. embassy and its consulates around the country are most likely scrambling to make an assessment on how the verdict could affect the election, said Willy Lam, an analyst of Chinese politics at the Jamestown Foundation in Washington.

“The majority of Xi Jinping’s advisers now think a Trump presidency might be worse for U.S.-China relations,” Mr. Lam said of China’s top leader. “If Trump were to win, given the now peculiar circumstances of his victory, he might gravitate towards unpredictable actions to assert his authority.”

There is a sense in Asia that the region is perennially overlooked and underappreciated by U.S. presidents, particularly as crises in Europe and the Middle East have monopolized Mr. Biden’s attention. That sentiment was also felt acutely during Mr. Trump’s presidency, and for American partners in Asia it was made worse by his affinity for regional strongmen.

In addition to occasional expressions of admiration for Mr. Putin and Kim Jong-un of North Korea, Mr. Trump invited to the White House a former army chief who led a coup in Thailand and installed himself as prime minister. Mr. Trump drew accolades from Rodrigo Duterte, formerly the president of the Philippines and now under investigation by the International Criminal Court over his deadly war on drugs.

The Philippines is now led by the son of the longtime dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos, who died in exile in Hawaii. He has reoriented the country away from China back toward the United States.

In at least one regard — the prosecution of former leaders — the rest of the world is far ahead of the United States. South Korea, where four former presidents have been convicted of corruption and abuse of power, has made something of a national sport of imprisoning disgraced leaders. The former French presidents Nicolas Sarkozy and Jacques Chirac were convicted of corruption.

Jacob Zuma, the former president of South Africa, has been charged with money laundering, among other crimes. And Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was sentenced to years in prison for corruption after leading Brazil. His convictions were eventually annulled. He is again president of the country.

Reporting was contributed by Stephen Castle, Elisabetta Povoledo, Roger Cohen, Zixu Wang, Andrew Higgins, Camille Elemia, Choe Sang-Hun, Motoko Rich, Alexandra Stevenson, Sui-Lee Wee and Sameer Yasir.


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