Updated on November 9 at 10:58 am.
The U.S. foreign-policy establishment had a collective meltdown at the prospect of a Donald Trump presidency. Experts on the left and right projected all manner of calamity abroad should he beat Hillary Clinton in November. Foreign diplomats from Mexico to South Korea reportedly expressed “alarm” at the prospect of a Trump presidency. But now that he has won, not everyone is gearing up for World War Trump. For reasons from the pragmatic to the deeply cynical, it’s likely that many leaders will work with Trump as president, or perhaps even welcome him. Here are five world leaders who could benefit from a Trump presidency.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi
On a trip to Mumbai not long after Modi’s election in 2014, Trump crowed that the prime minister “has done a fantastic job of bringing people together” and predicted that “money will pour into India.” Trump himself does business there: India, he says, “is doing great.” Flattery aside, modern India’s pragmatic, commercial relationship with the United States favors Donald the dealmaker. Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric likely wouldn’t get in the way of pushing new contracts for American arms makers, for whom India is a major market. (Modi himself is no stranger to accusations of anti-Muslim bias.) Trump’s crusade against China’s economic power would also favor New Delhi in its strategic rivalry with Beijing. Then throw in Pakistan, whose troubled but longstanding alliance with the U.S. has been a serious problem for India. Clinton, who took twice as many trips to Pakistan as to India during her tenure at the State Department, worked hard to keep Pakistan onside during the Obama presidency. Trump, on the other hand, has declared Pakistan “the most dangerous country in the world other than Iran.”
Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi
Most leaders of Muslim countries would likely shun Trump. But in Sisi, a secular autocrat who reasserted military control after Egypt’s revolution, Trump may find a willing partner. While Clinton has claimed to mildly disagree with Obama’s decision to turn away from longtime U.S. ally Hosni Mubarak, who was deposed in the Egyptian Revolution of 2011, Trump has been unequivocal in his support for strongman government in Egypt. “We should have backed Mubarak instead of dropping him like a dog,” Trump tweeted in 2012. Trump was quick to denounce the Arab Spring as a failure, declaring protests against the military’s consolidation of power after the revolution a “coup.” Sisi has found himself under fire for his aggressive crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood, whose leader, Egypt’s post-Mubarak President Mohammed Morsi, he overthrew. Given Sisi’s own personal campaign against Islamist groups in Egypt, he may find common cause in Trump’s near-declaration of war on “radical Islam.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
The case for Trump in Israel is less about Trump and more about Israel, or at least its leadership. The Netanyahu government’s squabbles with the current Democratic White House have been notoriously public and reportedly extend to Clinton in her role as secretary of state. True, Trump’s standing with the American Jewish community has been questioned during the campaign, but that’s in the context of the relentlessly pro-Israel American primary system. In 2013, Trump issued an apparently unsolicited endorsement of Netanyahu (“Terrific guy, terrific leader”). Netanyahu publicly objected to Trump’s anti-Muslim stance last year but declined to cancel a planned meeting with him in Israel. (Trump later postponed the trip.) In Trump’s favor is his vocal opposition to the Iran deal, which Netanyahu has called “a historic mistake” and which Clinton supports. The question is: Could Netanyahu have a good relationship with a President Trump? It couldn’t be worse than his relationship with Obama.
Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa
The Latin left might seem the unlikeliest source of support for a right-wing American tycoon. But with Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez long gone, Bolivia’s leader on the ropes, and even Cuba opening to the U.S., the movement needs all the help it can get. Correa said last week that Trump might reignite an ideological fire in his region. “We may even see an increase in the progressive trend here,” should Trump win, Correa said. “That would be a major positive of a Trump victory.” To be fair, Correa also said that a Clinton victory would be better for world peace, but his government has sparred with leaders on both sides of the aisle in Washington, especially over drug policy. It’s hard to find a coherent meaning in Trump’s ambling commentary on the war on drugs, but he has at least flirted with the idea of abandoning the longstanding U.S. prohibitionist drug policy.
North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un
North Korea’s third-generation despot may be a madman and a maniac, according to Trump, but he’s apparently one with solid leadership chops. “You’ve got to give him credit,” said Trump, lauding Kim for ruthlessly consolidating his leadership. More to the point, if Kim can look beyond the insults come Trump’s inauguration, he’ll see a leader who is seriously revising the American security commitment in Asia. Trump has repeatedly bashed Japan for allegedly stealing American jobs and has complained that the decades-old military guarantee the U.S. provides that country is unfairly one-sided: “If we get attacked, Japan doesn’t have to help us.” South Korea is, in Trump’s view, similarly mooching off U.S. goodwill. “They’re rich because of us,” said Trump, who wants South Korea to pay for the U.S. military presence. “We are defending them against North Korea, we’re doing it for nothing.” (That Seoul does in fact pay is beside the point.) Even the “madman” in Pyongyang probably has enough sense to welcome a president who adds new strains to an already-creaking American alliance system.
Maybe the foreign-policy establishment has reason to worry after all.
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