By David R. Sands
THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Published November 9, 2006
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez yesterday led a global chorus of Bush administration critics gloating over the outcome of Tuesday’s midterm elections, but some foreign leaders expressed concern over what the Democratic victory will mean on issues such as global trade and the Middle East.
Latin American populists, European leftists and Islamic fundamentalists were all quick to point to the U.S. vote as a repudiation of Mr. Bush’s aggressive, go-it-alone approach on Iraq and the global war on terror.
The resignation of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld also sparked praise from leaders of countries from the heart of what Mr. Rumsfeld once memorably dismissed as “Old Europe.”
The Democratic sweep ranks as “the beginning of the end of a six-year nightmare for the world,” 200 members of the Socialist bloc in the European Parliament declared in a joint statement yesterday.
Said Italian Foreign Minister Massimo D’Alema, “A cycle has ended. The cycle of pre-emptive wars, of unilateralism, ends in great failure.”
With Mr. Bush still in charge of U.S. foreign policy for another two years, the pugnacious Mr. Chavez was one of the few world leaders to comment publicly on the elections.
“It’s a reprisal vote against the war in Iraq, against the corruption” inside the Bush administration, he told reporters in Caracas. “All this fills us with optimism.”
Informed of Mr. Rumsfeld’s resignation as he was speaking, Mr. Chavez said, “Heads have started to roll. The president should resign on moral grounds, and Rumsfeld should go to jail.”
Iran’s state-controlled television said in a commentary that U.S. voters were rejecting “Bush’s wrong strategy in the Middle East,” as well as “financial corruption in the United States.”
Sudan, which has clashed with the United States over the humanitarian crisis in its Darfur region, is hoping for “relations of cooperation, not confrontation” with the chastened U.S. administration, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs al-Samani al-Wasiyla said.
The celebration was not universal, with some foreign commentators worrying that the new Democrat-led Congress will be more protectionist on trade and will disappoint those hoping for a major U.S. shift on issues such as Iraq, North Korea, global warming and the International Criminal Court.
Jose Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, the European Union’s executive arm, urged the United States to make a “renewed commitment” to revive faltering World Trade Organization talks for a new global trade pact.
A spokesman for Mexican President Vicente Fox said the Democratic gains could soften the U.S. stand in talks on illegal immigration.
“We hope this new makeup of Congress can be a catalyst for the U.S. government working toward a migration reform with the characteristics proposed by Mexico,” spokesman Ruben Aguilar said.
Mr. Bush’s diminished clout also was a cause of concern for some allies.
Japanese press commentators worried that a weakened Mr. Bush will not be able to push through major trade deals or stick to the hard line he has taken against North Korea’s nuclear-weapons programs. Analysts in India predicted Democrats may demand new concessions in the massive civilian nuclear pact Mr. Bush has championed, putting the deal in doubt.
Alexander Pikayev of the Moscow-based think tank Scholars for Global Security noted that U.S.-Russian relations historically fared better under Republicans than Democrats.
“As a result of the election, we expect the political struggle in the United States to toughen, and this may lead to sudden, spontaneous jumps of the American elephant in the international arena,” he told a Moscow radio interviewer yesterday.
Foreign leaders closely aligned with Mr. Bush, including British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Australian Prime Minister John Howard, were undercut by the U.S. vote.
John McDonnell, a leftist member of Mr. Blair’s ruling Labor Party and a critic of the Iraq war, said the U.S. results “mean that Blair is now totally isolated in the international community.”
•This article is based in part on wire service reports.