The news that Donald Trump has been infected with COVID-19 echoed around the world, making front pages and prompting a gush of wishes from leaders in all continents — and snark from many corners.
In the night between Oct. 1 and 2, U.S. Eastern Time, the U.S. president confirmed on Twitter that he and his wife Melania had tested positive to Covid-19 and were going into quarantine.
The announcement drew responses ranging from incredulity, solidarity and uncertainty — as well as a few more pointed comments. Here is how the world reacted:
FRONT PAGES & HOMEPAGES
La Stampa: "U.S., Trump and his wife Melania test positive to coronavirus'
Süddeutsche Zeitung: "The sick president"
Calcalist homepage: "Trump will get the best medical care in the word, millions of Americans won't"
Challenges: "Trump and the virus: Hide-and-seek is over"
Kwong Wah Yit Poh (Malaysian Chinese daily): "Trump and his wife diagnosed!"
WORLD LEADERS REACT Presidents and prime ministers were quick to react to the news, with some taking to Twitter in a matter of minutes while others, like Russian President Vladimir Putin choosing less immediate ways of sending their thoughts:
INDIA - Prime Minister Narendra Modi:
ISRAEL - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
ITALY - Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte
EUROPE - European Council President Charles Michel
WHO - Director-General of the World Health Organization Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus
RUSSIA - President Vladimir Putin sent his American counterpart a telegram, stating: "I am confident that your vital energy, high spirits, and optimism will help you cope with the dangerous virus," according to the Kremlin press service.
International news outlets tried to make sense of (or offer conjecture) on the implications of the annoucement for the month remaining in the U.S. presidential campaign.
Italy, we've seen this before: Trump's infection was actually quite predictable, Roberto Pavanello noted in Italian daily La Stampa: nearly every political leader who has dismissed the danger of the virus has then become infected.
• Lessons could have been drawn, once again, from Italy, the country many have depicted as the West's canary in the coal mine during the first wave. After the first cases in late February, politicians sought to quell panic in the economy by encouraging people to go out. Nicola Zingaretti, of the ruling Democratic Party, went for a celebratory aperitivo in Milan — and became infected on March 7, when the rest of the West had barely recorded any other cases.
• Silvio Berlusconi and Flavio Briatore — both patients of a prominent Italian doctor who had declared the virus to be "extinct" — were also hospitalized after attending parties this past summer on the island of Sardinia.
• Beyond Italy, Pavanello notes, COVID-19 has infected Brazil's Bolsonaro, "sworn enemy of facemasks', Britain's Johnson, "who was touring hospitals and casually shaking hands and invoking herd immunity in the first days of Italy's lockdown" and the Belarussian Lukashenko. All of them had underestimated the pandemic.
Takeaway: "The coronavirus must have a peculiar sense of humour," and the news of Trump's infection is one more hint that the pandemic should be taken seriously, not as a dark joke.
German warning of double #Karma: In a piece entitled "Trump's infection is dangerous. For the Democrats too," Clemens Wergin of German daily Die Welt, weighs the consequences of the diagnosis on the election campaign, an impact he calls "unfathomable and not as obvious as one might think at first glance."
• Not being able to appear in public for at least half of the time remaining until election day is detrimental to Trump. Still, the situation could even prove more serious if Trump (himself part of a risk group due to his age, weight and high blood pressure) were to develop serious symptoms.
• On the other hand, the journalist continues, "the president is now likely to gain sympathy from many citizens." In other words, poking fun at the ailing president (tempting as it is, as shown by the hashtag #Karma trending on Twitter) might even prove counterproductive for the Democrats and give MAGA supporters the higher moral ground.
• This new development, Wergin concludes, makes the U.S. presidential campaign "even more unpredictable."
French: A "coup de théâtre"! Les Echos shares the sense of uncertainty:
• In the French daily, Nicolas Rauline and Adrien Lelièvre call this new development a coup de théâtre, i.e. a "spectacular turn of events."
• The 2020 election, they write, will "undoubtedly be remembered for its unprecedented events," with potentially more to come as America scrutinizes the health of its president in the coming days — a president who, Rauline and Lelièvre add, has always remained largely secretive about the topic.
ETC. ... and as is wont to happen, the world also reacted with its usual dose of online outrageousness (from both sides of the political spectrum), conspiracy theories — and downright trolling:
Former foreign minister of Poland and now member of EU Parliament Radoslaw Sikorski tweeted: "Mr. President I suggest you do not try to treat yourself with bleach"
Responding to the instant conspiracy theory that that the president is "faking" the COVID-19 result to avoid the next debate with Joe Biden, or to take the focus away from his $750 tax scandal, or to emerge from this unscathed ("it's just the flu!"), author and self-described "conspiracy theory debunker" Mike Rothschild tweeted:
Meanwhile the A.V. Club"s editor-in-chief sent his commiserations to Saturday Night Live writers:
Russia has decided to cut off relations with the Western military alliance. But Moscow says it was NATO who really wanted the break based on its own internal rationale.
MOSCOW — The Russian Foreign Ministry's announcement that the country's permanent representation to NATO would be shut down for an indefinite period is a major development. But from Moscow's viewpoint, there was little alternative.
These measures were taken in response to the decision of NATO on Oct. 6 to cut the number of personnel allowed in the Russian mission to the Western alliance by half. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the removal of accreditations was from eight employees of the Russian mission to NATO who were identified as undeclared employees of Russian intelligence." We have seen an increase in Russian malicious activity for some time now," Stoltenberg said.
The Russian Foreign Ministry called NATO's expulsion of Russian personnel a "ridiculous stunt," and Stoltenberg's words "the truest hypocrisy."
In announcing the complete shutdown in diplomacy between Moscow and NATO, the Russian Foreign Ministry added: "The 'Russian threat' is being hyped in strengthen the alliance's internal unity and create the appearance of its 'relevance' in modern geopolitical conditions."
The number of Russian diplomatic missions in Brussels has been reduced twice unilaterally by NATO in 2015 and 2018 - after the alliance's decision of April 1, 2014 to suspend all practical civilian and military cooperation between Russia and NATO in the wake of Russia's annexation of Crimea. Diplomats' access to the alliance headquarters and communications with its international secretariat was restricted, military contacts have frozen.
Yet the new closure of all diplomatic contacts is a perilous new low. Kommersant sources said that the changes will affect the military liaison mission of the North Atlantic alliance in Moscow, aimed at promoting the expansion of the dialogue between Russia and NATO. However, in recent years there has been no de facto cooperation. And now, as Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has announced, the activities of the military liaison mission will be suspended. The accreditation of its personnel will be canceled on November 1.
NATO told RIA Novosti news service on Monday that it regretted Moscow's move. Meanwhile, among Western countries, Germany was the first to respond. "It would complicate the already difficult situation in which we are now and prolong the "ice age," German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told reporters.
"Lavrov said on Monday, commenting on the present and future of relations between Moscow and the North Atlantic Alliance, "If this is the case, then we see no great need to continue pretending that any changes will be possible in the foreseeable future because NATO has already announced that such changes are impossible.
The suspension of activities of the Russian Permanent Mission to NATO, as well as the military liaison and information mission in Russia, means that Moscow and Brussels have decided to "draw a final line under the partnership relations of previous decades," explained Andrei Kortunov, director-general of the Russian Council on Foreign Affairs, "These relations began to form in the 1990s, opening channels for cooperation between the sides … but they have continued to steadily deteriorate over recent years."
Kortunov believes the current rupture was promoted by Brussels. "A new strategy for NATO is being prepared, which will be adopted at the next summit of the alliance, and the previous partnership with Russia does not fit into its concept anymore."
The existence and expansion of NATO after the end of the Cold War was the main reason for the destruction of the whole complex of relations between Russia and the West. Today, Russia is paying particular attention to marking red lines related to the further steps of Ukraine's integration into NATO. Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov previously stated this, warning that in response to the alliance's activity in the Ukrainian direction, Moscow would take "active steps" to ensure its security.
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