Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: The world reacts to the U.S. Capitol invasion by Trump loyalists, Japan to announce state of emergency in Tokyo, and Italy’s government faces a crunch cabinet vote.
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Pro-Trump Mob Storms Capitol
A violent mob of protesters loyal to and egged on by U.S. President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol building on Wednesday as lawmakers were attempting to officially certify the victory of President-elect Joe Biden in November’s election.
Rioters overwhelmed local police, invaded House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office, looted furniture and mementos, and ran freely through the hallways of the Capitol as hundreds of lawmakers went into hiding.
Washington, D.C. authorities say four people died during the violence, one of whom was shot by police. The joint session of Congress reconvened late on Wednesday evening and, after debating through the night, officially certified Biden’s victory early on Thursday morning.
The events seem to have taken local authorities by surprise: Police could be seen jostling with protesters while clad in bike helmets and light protective gear—a far cry from the mass militarization the city saw in the wake of protests over the death of George Floyd during the summer.
The world reacts. International reaction came swiftly. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson condemned the scenes as “disgraceful” and called for a peaceful transfer of power. “American democracy tonight appears under siege,” said Josep Borrell, the European Union’s foreign-policy chief. Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, meanwhile, retweeted posts comparing the protesters to those that stormed the Venezuelan National Assembly with Juan Guaidó last year.
It can happen here. If the limp U.S. response in 2020 to the coronavirus pandemic shattered the long-held belief (in official Washington at least) of an exceptional America, unique among nations, Wednesday’s scenes of a people’s legislature under armed assault dusted away any remaining shards.
President-elect Joe Biden, in urging Trump to tell the mob to stand down, employed rhetoric that sometimes seemed from a bygone era. Congress, a den of gridlock for the past decade, was a “citadel of liberty” under attack. The Capitol scenes “do not reflect the true America,” Biden said.
Other politicians had more practical concerns. Rep. Ilhan Omar has begun drafting articles of impeachment against the president. Her Democratic colleague Sen. Tom Carper was more circumspect, cautioning against retribution and urging lawmakers to “turn the page.” Even so, Carper was calling for Trump’s resignation soon after making those comments.
The insurrection lives on. As Wednesday’s attack makes clear, there is a vocal minority with no interest in reconciliation. Brendan O’Connor, the author of a forthcoming book on the extremist groups given new life by President Trump, told Foreign Policy that these organizations are in for the long haul.
“We need to prepare ourselves for this kind of thing in the years to come,” O’Connor said. “I don’t think that political violence and political street violence is going away: This is part of politics in the U.S. now. “
It’s also part of U.S. national security concerns. A report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies found that of 893 terrorist attacks and plots in the United States since 1994, 57 percent of those were planned or carried out by right-wing extremist groups, (and that share is even higher if only recent years are taken into account).
QAnon and on and on. Among the protesters were tell-tale signs of QAnon support, which Justin Ling describes as a “conspiracy movement-cum-mass delusion.” It’s beliefs have now become so mainstream in Republican circles, Ling writes, that “Trump is, for all intents and purposes, the new Q.”
A coup? Not quite, says Naunihal Singh, a professor at the Naval War College and the author of Seizing Power: The Strategic Logic of Military Coups in an interview with FP Editor-at-Large Jonathan Tepperman. Paul Musgrave, argues that it was undeniably a coup attempt.
America the exceptional? It’s not easy to say how much the storming of the Capitol will contribute to the decline in the reputation of the United States abroad. That’s because that decline has already been so steep: A Gallup poll of 29 countries in 2020 found that 20 already had approval ratings of U.S. leadership that are at new lows or that tie the previous record lows.
What We’re Following Today
Kim promises defense boost. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un pledged to expand North Korea’s military capabilities in remarks at the ruling party congress. Kim said he would place “state defense capabilities on a much higher level, and put forth goals for realizing it,” although he did not mention the country’s nuclear weapons. In a sign of an even more militarized posture from the North Korean leader, officials unveiled the first portrait of Kim in full military regalia at Wednesday’s conference.
Tokyo in state of emergency. Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga is expected to announce a state of emergency in the Tokyo metropolitan area today after the region saw record numbers of coronavirus cases. Tokyo recorded 2,447 new cases on Thursday, beating the previous record of 1,591 cases set the previous day. The state of emergency will be in place until February 7, with residents urged to stay at home as much as possible until then.
Italian government on edge. Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte faces a potential showdown with his cabinet today over his economic recovery proposals. Matteo Renzi, the former prime minister and head of the Italia Viva party, wants changes to Conte’s plans and has called on him publicly to give up the reins of the country’s secret services. If the two ministers from Italia Viva refuse to support Conte at a cabinet meeting today, it could spell the end of the government.
EU says no to Guaidó. The 27 governments of the European Union will no longer label Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s interim president as his term as leader of the National Assembly has ended. In a joint statement, EU governments condemned Dec. 6 elections in which many Venezuelan opposition parties were effectively banned from participating, referring to Guaidó only as one of the “representatives of the outgoing National Assembly.” On Tuesday, the United States reaffirmed its support for Guaidó, dismissing the Dec. 6 elections as fraudulent.
Yemen U-turn. Rep. Ro Khanna, has indicated that the Biden White House could follow Congress in ending U.S. support for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen’s civil war. Speaking to the Daily Beast, Khanna said Biden would be a “partner” in ending the war in Yemen, beginning with ending logistical, military, and intelligence support to Saudi Arabia’s forces. In 2019, the U.S. House and Senate passed a bill ending U.S. support for Saudi actions in Yemen, which President Trump then vetoed.
Doha dealing. Talks between the Afghan government and Taliban are to go ahead on Saturday in Doha after a preliminary meeting concluded successfully on Wednesday. Both sides are expected to discuss a cease-fire and a power-sharing structure as part of this round of talks.
Duterte tricks. Philippine Senator Leila de Lima has called for an inquiry into the unauthorized use of coronavirus vaccines by the security detail of President Rodrigo Duterte. The call comes after Duterte admitted that members of his security team had gotten the vaccine in September and October for his protection, but that he only learned of their vaccination after it had occurred. The Philippines has yet to approve any COVID-19 vaccines and doesn’t manufacture any in the country, leading to questions around how the security forces managed to acquire the shots.
Norway has become the first country where more new electric cars were bought than gasoline-powered ones in a calendar year. Sales of electric cars increased to 54.3 percent of all car sales in 2020, up from 42.4 percent in 2019, according to Norway’s Road Traffic Information Council.
Europe’s largest oil and gas producer has boosted sales by creating generous incentives for buyers, such as tax exemptions for green vehicles. Gasoline prices of more than $7 a gallon have also helped tip the scale.
The trend is expected to continue, as the Norwegian government has said that by 2025 all new cars sold in the country must be emission-free.
That’s it for today.
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Photo credit: OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP
Mob Invades U.S. Capitol as World Looks On The British Journal Editors and Wire Services/ Foreign Policy.