Pro-Trump agitators stormed the US Capitol Wednesday, and the world witnessed a symbol of US democracy under assault.
The scenes of chaos that followed — including rioters breaking into congressional offices and an armed standoff on the House floor — were stunning. All the more so because they were taking place in the United States, a country that has served as an example of democracy and peaceful transitions of power for decades.
World leaders have responded with shock and condemnation — and, in some cases, thinly veiled schadenfreude.
As the rest of the world catches up to the developments in the US, more reactions will likely follow. But here are some of the early responses to the insurrection at the US Capitol.
How the world is responding so far
Many traditional US allies issued statements denouncing the storming of the Capitol — and much more forcefully than President Trump himself. Many officials defended the sanctity of the peaceful transfer of power and even reiterated their faith in US democracy. Some lamented how US politics, once a beacon of democracy, has descended into such chaos.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called the violence “disgraceful” while acknowledging the example US democracy sets around the world and calling for “a peaceful and orderly transfer of power.”
Disgraceful scenes in U.S. Congress. 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.— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) January 6, 2021
UK politician Nigel Farage — an ally of President Trump — also expressed concerns, tweeting that rushing the building was “wrong” and that the rioters should leave.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg called for the results of the election to be respected.
Shocking scenes in Washington, D.C. The outcome of this democratic election must be respected.— Jens Stoltenberg (@jensstoltenberg) January 6, 2021
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who has clashed with Trump in the past, said he was “deeply disturbed and saddened” by Wednesday’s attacks. Trudeau declared that “violence will never succeed in overruling the will of the people” while affirming his faith that US democracy would be upheld.
Canadians are deeply disturbed and saddened by the attack on democracy in the United States, our closest ally and neighbour. Violence will never succeed in overruling the will of the people. Democracy in the US must be upheld - and it will be.— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) January 6, 2021
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas also reacted strongly, tweeting in German, “The enemies of democracy will be happy to see these incredible pictures from DC.” He compared the scene to the August 3 storming of the Reichstag in Berlin, during which hundreds of right-wing protesters attempted to enter the building in protest against Germany’s coronavirus restrictions.
Die Feinde der Demokratie werden sich über diese unfassbaren Bilder aus #WashingtonDC freuen. Aus aufrührerischen Worten werden gewaltsame Taten - auf den Stufen des Reichstages, und jetzt im #Capitol. Die Verachtung demokratischer Institutionen hat verheerende Auswirkungen. (1)— Heiko Maas (@HeikoMaas) January 6, 2021
Armin Laschet, a potential successor to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, said the US has “for centuries” been “a global symbol for freedom and democracy.” Laschet also directly blamed Trump’s supporters for the violence, saying they “hurt every friend in the US. Those sowing populism and polarization with words will reap hatred and violence.”
The Gov. of Germany’s largest state @ArminLaschet “For centuries the US Congress was a global symbol for freedom and democracy. The attacks by fanatic Trump supporters hurt every friend of the USA. Those sowing populism and polarization with words will reap hatred and violence.” https://t.co/OpsZkKkZZf— Frederik Pleitgen (@fpleitgenCNN) January 6, 2021
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez tweeted that he was watching the scenes in Washington “with concern” and affirmed his “trust in the strength of American people.” He added that the incoming president, Joe Biden, would ease the tensions and help unite Americans.
I am following with concern the news that are coming from Capitol Hill in Washington. I trust in the strength of America's democracy.— Pedro Sánchez (@sanchezcastejon) January 6, 2021
The new Presidency of @JoeBiden will overcome this time of tension, uniting the American people.
David Sassoli, president of the European Parliament, tweeted he was “certain the US will ensure that the rules of democracy are protected.”
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, with whom Trump has tried to curry favor in the past, tweeted that Australia “condemns these acts of violence.”
Very distressing scenes at the US Congress. We condemn these acts of violence and look forward to a peaceful transfer of Government to the newly elected administration in the great American democratic tradition.— Scott Morrison (@ScottMorrisonMP) January 6, 2021
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian called the events “a grave attack against democracy.” He added that the “American people’s will and vote must be respected.”
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte issued a direct appeal to Trump to “recognize Joe Biden as the next president today.”
Some used the chaos in the US to point out American hypocrisy
The Turkish state-run news agency Andalou reported that Turkey’s government — which experienced a coup in 2016 — was urging “all parties” in the US to find a “calm” and “common sense” solution to this “domestic political crisis.”
#BREAKING Turkey invites all parties in US to use moderation, common sense to overcome this domestic political crisis— ANADOLU AGENCY (ENG) (@anadoluagency) January 6, 2021
The Venezuelan government took advantage of the chaos to decry “political polarization,” adding that it “hopes for stability of the American people.” The Trump administration has pursued an intense pressure campaign to depose Venezuelan leader Nicolás Maduro and install previously recognized opposition leader Juan Guaidó as the country’s rightful president.
As of press time, many of the world’s strongmen, including Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping — some of whom were reluctant to congratulate Joe Biden on his win — have not yet weighed in on the situation.
Other allies close to Trump, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, have also stayed quiet.
But what world leaders are probably paying attention to most is what Trump and US political leaders do next. Trump’s refusal to accept the election results and his frenzied call to his supporters may have profound implications for how the US is perceived abroad.
Trump has already tested America’s standing in the world, and Wednesday’s insurrection showed just how shaky one of the world’s longest-standing democracies is.
President-elect Biden has made rebuilding relationships with world leaders a cornerstone of his foreign policy and has promised to restore America’s reputation abroad. Wednesday’s chaos on Capitol Hill may make that project even more difficult.
Correction, January 6, 11:20 pm ET: This article originally misstated German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas’s Reichstag reference. He was referring to the August 3 storming of the Reichstag in Berlin.