|Japanese newspapers report the victory of Donald Trump. Japan’s prime minister Shinzo Abe is a big loser from the election result. Photograph: Toru Yamanaka|
Donald Trump's election victory: the winners and losers around the world
Bashar al-Assad and Vladimir Putin will be celebrating Trump’s defeat of Hillary Clinton, but it’s not such good news for Mexico, Iran, Japan and Europe
Wednesday 9 November 2016 21.22 GMT
Donald Trump triumphed, but so did Bashar al-Assad. Like other leaders around the world, Syria’s isolated president most likely spent the day after assessing the impact on him of the Republican’s unexpected victory. The dreadful Assad, soaked in blood after five years of civil war, is probably one of the big winners. But there are plenty of big losers, too.
Vladimir Putin heads up the first category. Trump has shown unusual partiality towards the Russian president, even though the two men have never met.
As a candidate, Trump suggested that, unlike Barack Obama, he could do business with Putin and might, for example, accept Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea.
Trump failed to condemn alleged Russian online hacking of the Democratic party and covert meddling in the election process.
He has rattled Nato allies in eastern Europe by stating that, as commander-in-chief, he would not necessarily rush to their military assistance if threatened by Russia.
In Syria and Iraq, Trump says his top priority is defeating Isis, not toppling the regime in Damascus – hence Assad’s big sigh of relief. He has declined to condemn Russia’s leading role in the merciless bombardment of eastern Aleppo and its actions on other Syrian battlefronts, which the UN says may constitute war crimes. It is widely believed Russia is gearing up for a final battle to take Aleppo for its ally, Assad, while the American transition is under way.
Perversely, despite his focus on Isis, little or nothing has been heard from Trump about Moscow’s targeting of Syrian opposition factions rather than the jihadis.
Like the people of Syria, the citizens of Afghanistan are losers, too. For them Trump represents a new twist in an old nightmare. He sees continued US military involvement there as contrary to American interests and could simply pull out, leaving the country to the Taliban and al-Qaida.
Xi Jinping, China’s president, is probably feeling quite good. Xi is a strong, authoritarian, quasi-dictatorial figure – the sort of leader, like Putin, that Trump appears to admire.
One can imagine the two men hitting it off on a personal level, although Xi is the more subtle of the two. He will worry about Trump’s unpredictable temperament and his talk of trade tariffs on China.
Xi will relish Trump’s criticism of Obama’s so-called pivot to Asia, which he sees as a bid to contain China. If Trump pivots away from the region, that will suit Beijing just fine, especially if it means it can accelerate its illegal expansionism in the South China Sea and ratchet up the pressure on Taiwan.
A big Asian loser, on the face of it, is Shinzo Abe, Japan’s prime minister, who has bet the farm on closer military ties with the US. Trump says Japan and South Korea must do more to defend themselves, including possibly acquiring nuclear weapons to deter North Korea. His threats to nuke North Korea if provoked could, if realised, make losers of us all.
In contrast, a big, undeserving winner is Rodrigo Duterte, the new Philippines president, who famously called Obama a “son of a whore” and declared he was cutting military cooperation. Duterte, notorious for the drug-busting death squads he has unleashed, welcomed Trump’s victory on Wednesday – a reaction that will likely be shared by human rights abusers from Belarus to Burma.
In Iran, Hassan Rouhani is in an even bigger bind, now that Trump is heading for the White House. His nuclear deal last year with Obama is under constant fire from conservatives, including the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. In this respect, Trump has much in common with the mullahs. He called the pact “the worst ever deal in history” and vowed to scrap it.
Trump’s evident ignorance of and lack of interest in large parts of the world mean, for example, the pressure may be off leaders like Omar al-Bashir, Sudan’s president, who stands accused of genocide and war crimes in Darfur, and the repressive regime in Saudi Arabia, responsible for documented atrocities in Yemen.
Trump does not support the international criminal court or the UN system in general. Antonio Guterres, the incoming UN secretary-general, may struggle to keep a Trump administration engaged.
Mexico – as yet not walled off – looked like another big loser, as the peso went through the floor; President Enrique Peña Nieto is widely loathed by his electorate for failing to challenge Trump during his surprise visit to the country in September – but in private he may be congratulating himself for getting on the right side of his new neighbour.
The lukewarm reaction to Trump’s success in many European capitals reflects a deep ideological as well as a political antipathy. German ministers, normally extremely cautious in public statements, went so far as to imply it was a thoroughly bad outcome.
François Hollande, the French president, was even surlier, saying the result showed the need for Europe looking after itself.
For the EU, already battered by Brexit, Trump is bad news. His hostility to free trade means the proposed TTIP agreement is dead if not yet buried. His belief that Europe must do more to maintain its own security challenges the EU to put its money where it mouth is in developing a Euro army and other independent capabilities.
This could hardly come at a worse time for the stripped eurozone countries.
The positive reaction of rightwing populist and nationalist parties across Europe, including France’s National Front, indicates that they feel his anti-establishment insurgency may facilitate theirs, as close elections loom in France, Germany and the Netherlands.
For Britain’s government, however, Trump could provide a much-needed boost. Trump applauded the narrow British vote to leave the EU and hosted its best-known advocate, Nigel Farage, on the campaign trial. He disowned Obama’s threat to penalise Britain’s trade with the US. Trump is bad news for Nicola Sturgeon, the pro-independence, pro-EU Scottish leader.
But he may be good news for Theresa May, Britain’s pro-Brexit prime minister. She was quick to congratulate Trump in flattering terms. As she faces her own possible general election test, May maybe hopes his winning aura will rub off on her.