Fear, protests but also Champagne: The world reacts to Donald Trump's inauguration

Raucous Champagne toasts in Russia, prayerful wishes from the Vatican, late-night yawns in China and defiant protests in central London: The world greeted Donald Trump’s inauguration as the 45th U.S. president with apprehension, anxiety and a smattering of glee — much like the swirl of mixed emotions that accompanied his improbable march to power.

In living rooms and cafes, nightclubs and bars, millions across the globe tuned in to live coverage of the new American leader taking the oath of office, the capstone of a day of inaugural pomp in Washington, D.C. Many said they hoped for the best, but feared the worst; others welcomed a break with the past.

In China, already roiled by Trump’s rhetoric over trade and Taiwan, the state clamped tight controls on media coverage of fresh utterances from the fledgling U.S. president. In France, Friday’s lead headline in the left-leaning daily Liberation — accompanied by a photo of Trump leaning into a stiff headwind — read: “Here we go!”

As Trump assumed the presidency, there were some pockets of pride. Sevnica, the Slovenian hometown of Trump’s third wife, Melania, declared three full days of celebration built around her husband’s inauguration. In the Mideast, the mayor of Jerusalem expressed inauguration-eve hopes for a speedy fulfillment of Trump’s controversial pledge to move the U.S. embassy to the contested city.

In his inaugural address, Trump initially appeared to signal inclusiveness toward those watching from outside America. “People of the world, thank you,” he intoned. But he quickly pivoted to vociferous declarations: “It’s going to be only America first, America first… America will start winning again.”

That struck a sour note with overseas listeners like Briton Nicola Frith, a professor at the University of Edinburgh.

“It’s the most nationalistic address I’ve heard since … I don’t know when,” she said. “It’s like Donald Trump has just flooded the whole nation with his personality.”

The inauguration galvanized demonstrations in European capitals such as London, where protesters draped signs on bridges reading “Build bridges not walls,” and Berlin. Many Germans were rattled by a weekend interview in which Trump threatened to slap heavy duties on German carmakers and suggested he placed equal trust in Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, one of the closest U.S. allies.

But not all Germans shared the sense of Trump-generated angst. Friedrich Merz, a senior figure in Merkel’s party, warned against a “hysterical reaction” to the new U.S. president.

“It’s quite possible that this president could be good for a number of positive surprises,” he said.

At the Vatican, Pope Francis offered good wishes and prayers for the new president, but appeared to allude to concerns about Trump’s harshly anti-immigrant stance and to fears for the fate of social welfare programs under his administration.

“May America’s stature continue to be measured above all by its concern for the poor, the outcast and those in need who, like Lazarus, stand before our door,” the pontiff said in a statement.

Though Trump refrained in his speech from specifically blasting Mexico — a topic that for months was a campaign staple — his inauguration generated a new wave of worry among Mexicans.  A small group gathered to chant protest slogans in Mexico City’s Plaza de Angel.

“God bless America,” said Carlos Matias, a 49-year-old small-business owner. “And God bless Mexicans, because we are Trump’s No. 1 enemy.”

Trump’s use of his first speech as president to vow to eradicate “radical Islamic terrorism” caused a ripple of unease across the Middle East, although the comments were in keeping with his previous statements. 

In the Jordanian capital of Amman, one bar extended its happy hour because “we were all glued to the TV,” said patron Jared Kohler. On Facebook, he mourned that an occasion like happy hour served to mark “the global tragedy” of Trump’s inauguration.

The opposite sentiment prevailed in a rowdy bar near the Kremlin and at nightclubs elsewhere in Russia, where revelers cheered and popped Champagne corks to mark Trump’s swearing-in. Already, his image is ubiquitous: The new president’s swoop-haired image adorns traditional matryoshka nesting dolls for sale at tourist shops across Moscow, and the Reuters news agency reported that silver and gold commemorative coins reading “In Trump We Trust” were struck in Zlatoust, a city east of Moscow.

Putin and his lieutenants have expressed eagerness to work with the new U.S. administration and have vehemently denied U.S. intelligence findings that Moscow used cyberattacks in hopes of swaying the election toward Trump. The then president-elect last week grudgingly acknowledged apparent Russian meddling for the first time, but insisted it did not affect the election outcome.

Russian observers were already looking ahead to Trump’s first post-inauguration encounter with Putin. That encounter will be “a defining moment in history,” Russian senator Alexei Pushkov opined in a tweet.

In Beijing, where it was well after midnight local time when Trump laid his hand on the Bible to be sworn in, the inauguration ceremonies were shown in a handful of late-night establishments. At one French bar, only a few patrons glanced up as footage of Trump’s limousine filled the TV screen — the sound drowned out by James Brown’s “Get On Up” — then returned their attention to their whiskeys.

Chinese officials, though, were wary about new post-inaugural outbursts from Trump and of any equally freewheeling coverage. Censorship instructions leaked to China Digital Times, a California-based watchdog group, warned that “unauthorized criticism” of his words or actions was not allowed in state media, with the official Xinhua news agency being the only legitimate source of news about China-U.S. relations.

In Israel, where the right-wing government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu greeted Trump’s election victory with satisfaction, reaction was muted by the start of the Jewish Sabbath at sundown Friday. Israeli news reports detailed the rabbinical dispensation given to Trump’s daughter Ivanka and her husband, Trump advisor Jared Kushner — who are observant Orthodox Jews — to ride in vehicles after the start of the Sabbath, actions that would normally be religiously prohibited.

A mixed Israeli and American crowd turned out at a Tel Aviv bar, near the current U.S. embassy, to parse the speech. Maya Rosen, a 26-year-old waitress, clapped a hand to her mouth in disbelief when Trump vowed to stop the “carnage” in what he described as decaying, crime-ridden American cities.

 “What a demagogue,’’ she said, calling his characterization “racist.”

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat took a parting shot at President Obama in a video posted on Facebook on the eve of the inauguration, disdaining the departing president’s longstanding opposition to a U.S. embassy move to Jerusalem and calling on Israelis to greet Trump “as our friend.”

Some, though, mourned the end of Obama’s tenure. In the Kenyan town of Kajiado, on the edge of the savanna south of Nairobi, a bar at the Empuet Resort showed the inaugural ceremonies on television. Obama’s father was Kenyan and the president is a widely loved figure in the country.

"I'll miss Obama so much," said waitress Irene Wambua, 28. "Obama has made America a great place.”

But she was willing to wait and learn what the future will hold.

“With Trump, we'll see,” she said. “But I don't think he'll just make it fail — he'll push it in another direction, like Obama did."


Staff writer Jonathan Kaiman in Kajiado, Kenya, contributed to this report, along with special correspondents Cecilia Sanchez in Mexico City, Mansu Mirovalev in Moscow, Josh Mitnick in Tel Aviv, Jessica Meyers in Beijing and Nabih Bulos in Amman, Jordan. 

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