Global markets plunged after learning that Donald Trump was elected the 45th president of the United States.
Few saw it coming, and the polling industry will have to spend some time in the wilderness for a while, but the market response shouldn’t shock anyone. It’s exactly what happened after the Brexit vote, when the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union.
“They will soon be calling me MR. BREXIT!” Trump said on Twitter in August. “Brexist times five,” he said at rallies last month.
It’s not hard to understand why British voters gave a middle finger to the establishment in Brussels, nor is it hard to understand why Americans are furious at the political establishment on this side of the Atlantic. There are almost as many reasons for both as there are voters.
Much of the world is in a panic, though, because what happens in America doesn’t stay in America. The United States is the world’s only superpower, and Donald Trump has threatened not only to kick over the garbage cans in Washington, but to kick over the entire global order that has been built since we won World War II. In addition to his promises to overturn American trade agreements, he has cozied up to Vladimir Putin’s Russia, called NATO “obsolete” and threatened to retract the security umbrella that protects our allies as far away as Japan and South Korea.
It’s one thing to rail against the American establishment and another thing entirely to rail against the parts of the international establishment built and maintained by America. The most powerful person on earth can’t do that sort of thing without provoking an overwhelming reaction.
German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen, Germany’s defense minister, said the election is a “huge shock” and fears it will be the end of “Pax Americana.”
Sweden’s foreign minister said that after first Brexit and now Trump, “Looks like this will be the year of the double disaster of the West.”
“After Brexit and this election, everything from now on is possible,” French Ambassador to the US Geraud Araud wrote on Twitter. “A world is collapsing before our eyes. Vertigo.”
“The West is no longer,” said Finnish diplomat Anssi Kullberg on Facebook. “The times of darkness have dawned. Watch the spineless jump to the bandwagons of fascism, watch rules and rights crumble, as crude power will now have impunity. Forget checks and balances, the rules have just changed. It is back to small-state nationalism and basic survival. The Molotov-Ribbentrop era is back.” Kullberg is no hysterical leftist, by the way. He’s a conservative.
Norbert Roettgen, another European conservative on Germany’s foreign affairs committee, spoke in a more moderate yet still worried tone. “We're realizing now that we have no idea what this American president will do if the voice of anger enters office and the voice of anger becomes the most powerful man in the world. Geopolitically we are in a very uncertain situation.”
Earlier this year, Britain actually considered refusing to grant Trump a visa.
The reaction in Asia is more muted, but South Koreans are also quite nervous. Government news agency Yonhap said the “stunning victory of Donald Trump casts deep uncertainty over US policy on the Korean Peninsula and beyond as he has campaigned on pledges to overhaul the relations with allies and renegotiate trade deals under his ‘America First' policy.’” The Korea Times says the US-Korean trade agreement is in “unprecedented jeopardy.”
The Japanese have remained politely neutral, but their stock market is crashing, forcing the government to convene an emergency meeting. The Mexican peso is also crashing, and hard. It is now at its lowest level ever against the dollar.
Those are the reactions among American friends and allies. The Kremlin in Moscow, meanwhile, is euphoric.
“It turns out that the United Russia [Vladimir Putin’s party] has won the elections in the United States!” and Omsk governor Viktor Nazarov.
“Tonight we can use the slogan with Mr. Trump; Yes We Did,” said Boris Chernyshev, a member of the Russian parliament’s ultranationalist faction.
“I want to ride around Moscow with an American flag in the window, if I can find a flag,” said Margarita Simonyan, editor in chief of Putin propaganda channel RT (Russia Today).
Putin himself is pleased, of course, and says that the United States and Russia can now restore full diplomatic relations.
Fierce Putin critic Garry Kasparov, meanwhile, is despondent. He wrote a book a while back called Winter is Coming, and last night he tweeted “Winter is here.”
Europe’s far-right is also popping champagne corks. “Their world is falling apart,” said senior French National Front figure Florian Philippot. “Today the United States, tomorrow France!” The National Front’s founder, Jean Marie Le Pen, repeatedly referred to the Nazi gas chambers as a mere “point of detail of the history of the Second World War” and said the Nazi occupation of France “was not particularly inhumane, even if there were a few blunders.”
We can only imagine the paranoia sweeping the Middle East now since Trump has repeatedly said the United States should haven “taken the oil” in Iraq. Perhaps he has done us a favor, though, by pointing out to the conspiracy theorists of the world that we did not, in fact, steal Iraq’s oil like they thought we did.
I honestly don’t know what to make of all this. Is the world overreacting? Is Trump serious about NATO and Russia and Iraq and Korea? How much of all that was just campaign bluster? Will he change his mind on a couple of things after he starts getting top secret briefings from our intelligence agencies? Will his advisors steer him in a more mainstream direction?
Your guess is as good as mine.