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A Wary World Looks For Clues To Donald Trump's Foreign Policy

Russian President Vladimir Putin holds a drink Wednesday at a Kremlin ceremony where he welcomed foreign ambassadors who recently arrived in Moscow. Putin said Moscow wants to restore good relations with the United States in the wake of the election of Donald Trump. But, he added, the current friction "is not our fault."
Sergei Karpukhin

As the world woke up Wednesday to Donald Trump's presidential election victory, congratulations from foreign leaders were mixed with worries about how Trump's provocative campaign pronouncements will be translated into policy.

Russian President Vladimir Putin sent a telegram — yes, a telegram — to congratulate Trump. But Putin also addressed the troubled state of relations between the two countries.

"We understand and are aware that it will be a difficult path in the light of the degradation in which, unfortunately, the relationship between Russia and the U.S. are at [in] the moment," Putin said at a Moscow ceremony for recently arrived foreign ambassadors in Russia. "It is not our fault that Russia-U.S. relations are as you see them."

Despite friction between the countries on multiple fronts, Trump and Putin spoke positively of one another during the campaign.

Trump rarely offered details about foreign affairs during the campaign. But he frequently unleashed controversial statements dismissive of existing U.S. positions, including bipartisan policies in place for decades.

He questioned the fundamental tenets of the NATO alliance. He raised the possibility of withdrawing U.S. troops from their long-standing missions in Japan and South Korea. He denounced trade agreements and threatened to impose tariffs on China. He said last year's nuclear agreement with Iran was "a terrible deal" that he would tear up.

In Iran, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, the lead Iranian negotiator on the nuclear deal, called on Trump to uphold the agreement. However, hardline Iranians supported a Trump victory on the grounds that his presence in the White House will increase tension between the countries and undermine any efforts at further cooperation.

Four wars

In addition, Trump inherits four wars where the U.S. is actively involved: the campaigns against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, the 15-year-old battle against the Taliban in Afghanistan and stepped-up airstrikes against ISIS in Libya.

Trump has said relatively little about the wars, including the one in Afghanistan, where U.S. forces now number around 8,400 and are engaged mostly in training, advising and providing air support.

But the Taliban had their own recommendation for the president-elect.

"Our message is that the Americans should draft a policy not to take away the independence and sovereignty of other nations. Most importantly they should withdraw all their troops from Afghanistan," the Taliban said, according to Reuters.

Trump received congratulations from leaders around the world, who will be vying for his attention when he assumes office in January. In particular, he received strong endorsements from a number of conservative leaders abroad.

"President-elect Trump is a true friend of the State of Israel, and I look forward to working with him to advance security, stability and peace in our region," Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement.

Trump has said he would like to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a move favored by Netanyahu and other Israeli hard-liners, and strongly opposed by the Palestinians.

The U.S. and most all other countries have kept their embassies in Tel Aviv, saying the final status of Jerusalem needs to be negotiated by the Israelis and the Palestinians, both of whom claim the city as their capital.

In France, Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right National Front, said Trump's win showed that forgotten citizens have been heard.

"Congratulations to the new president of the United States, Donald Trump, and to the free American people!" she tweeted. Le Pen is expected to be a strong candidate in France's presidential election in May.

Her father, party founder Jean-Marie Le Pen, who reached the second round of French presidential elections in 2002, added his voice. "Today the United States, tomorrow France," he tweeted.

In recent months, Trump repeatedly drew parallels between his campaign and Britain's Brexit vote in June, where U.K. voters opted to leave the European Union in another electoral upset led by anti-establishment forces.

"It's going to be Brexit plus, plus, plus," Trump said in North Carolina on Monday. As with the Brexit campaign, Trump tapped into opposition to immigration and resentments among voters who felt they were being ignored by the political establishment.

And in Turkey, the newspaper Posta jumped the gun, rushing out a Wednesday edition of the paper, on the streets and online, with a front-page headline that read simply: "President Clinton."

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Greg Myre is a national security correspondent with a focus on the intelligence community, a position that follows his many years as a foreign correspondent covering conflicts around the globe.
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