INDEPENDENCE SQUARE — As the news of Trump’s hasty departure ricocheted across the globe, reactions from world leaders reflected a mix of confusion, studied calm, and, in some cases, outright glee. None seemed more disoriented than British Prime Minister Theresa May, who summoned the US Ambassador to 10 Downing Street to assure him that “the ‘special relationship’ between our two countries will always remain special, no matter how special the occupant of the White House.”
While May might have been seeking to calm jittery markets by invoking the continuity of close ties between the United Kingdom and the United States, opposition Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn’s response struck a different note. “The people can carry you into power; the people can drive you out, too,” Corbyn said in a one-sentence statement issued this morning.
President Emmanuel Macron of France, freshly chastened by a wave of mass protest that began in late 2018, published an early-morning tweet: “L’etat ce n’est pas moi — ni toi, monsieur Trump.” As of press time there had been more than 1.5 million retweets, many featuring the hashtag #GiletsJaunes and the refrain, “L’etat c’est nous!”
Beijing reacted to Trump’s departure with a notable lack of surprise. The People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party, included a statement from the office of China’s president and paramount leader, Xi Jinping: “We have planned for this eventuality, of course. We congratulate President Pence and look forward to working with him on critical issues like trade deficits as China continues its peaceful rise to dominant superpower.”
In North Korea, Kim Jong-un had a similarly bracing message. In an official briefing, Kim suggested it was “too bad Trump did not know how to hold on to power the way a real leader must.”
In Saudi Arabia, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman appeared visibly shaken at a hastily convened press conference. Avoiding any mention of Trump, he instead directly reminded President Pence of the close ties between Saudi Arabia and the United States and the importance of moving forward with business deals “that are mutually beneficial to both of our countries” before shrugging and walking away from the dais.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, himself under several corruption investigations, was preparing to read a brief statement mourning the loss of a staunch ally, when he was caught on a hot mic saying (in English) “Shit! Shit! Shit!”
By contrast, the silence from Vladimir Putin has been the most tantalizing news of the day. Overnight odds sprung up in London betting shops on how long the Russian president would go without formally acknowledging Trump’s departure. The most popular option, “never,” was drawing 4-to-1 odds.
An official communique posted on the website of the Russian Foreign Ministry read, simply, “We are no fans of asylum seekers, on principle, but welcome, President Trump!” In a leafy suburb of Sebastopol, capital of the Republic of Crimea forcefully annexed from Ukraine in 2014, workmen were seen applying metallic gold paint to a Soviet-era dacha expected to be offered to Trump as he awaits indictment from the Department of Justice. The Intercept obtained and published an interoffice memo of the FSB (the KGB’s successor) that included the line, “Operation Friend Turkey concluded.”
Recently-sworn-in President Pence has yet to issue an official statement on foreign policy — or, for that matter, to do anything whatsoever. In the third of three chaotic press conferences today, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders answered a reporter’s question about Pence’s plans by saying that the incoming President “intends to keep as low a profile as possible,” before realizing the strangeness of what she had just said. “That’s because our new President is a humble man, a man of God, and in no position to govern, I mean before asking God. Next question.”