In this photo released by the official website of the office of the Iranian Presidency, President Hassan Rouhani speaks during a cabinet meeting in Tehran, Iran, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021

In this photo released by the official website of the office of the Iranian Presidency, President Hassan Rouhani speaks during a cabinet meeting in Tehran, Iran, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021 Iranian Presidency Office via AP

China, Russia, Iran Spin Capitol Insurrection

As allies lamented the “disgraceful” scene, adversaries used Wednesday’s riot to attack U.S. democracy.

Leaders around the world reacted with shock and dismay to Wednesday’s Capitol Hill riot. But the governments of China and Russia were happy to use the events to attack the United States and democracy in general. 

“We reiterate that the electoral system in the United States is archaic, it does not meet modern democratic standards, creating opportunities for multiple violations," said one Russian government spokesperson, Maria Zakharova, on Facebook. “American media has become a tool for political struggle. This was largely the cause of the division of society now observed in the United States.” 

Hua Chunying, a spokesperson for China’s foreign ministry, argued that U.S. media were hypocritical in denouncing yesterday’s rioters after extolling pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. It was time, Hua told the state-owned Global Times, for "people to reflect on why some people and media in U.S. gave different narrative on social turmoil in Hong Kong in 2019.” She continued, “What word did they use about #HK? What words are they using now? #US media condemn the incident in US, calling it 'violence,' 'thugs,' 'extremists,' and 'disgrace.' What words did they use to describe riots in #HK? 'Beautiful sight,' 'fighters for democracy.”

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said, “What we saw last night in America showed that Western democracy is weak...Look what a populist did to America. He tarnished his country's image and damaged America's ties with the whole world.” 

Allies reacted far less gleefully.

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson called the riot “disgraceful,” and said that “The United States stands for democracy around the world and it is now vital that there should be a peaceful and orderly transfer of power.”

British Home Secretary Priti Patel laid blame squarely on the shoulders of Donald Trump. 

“His [President Trump’s] comments directly led to the violence, and so far he has failed to condemn that violence and that is completely wrong," Patel said. "He basically has made a number of comments yesterday that helped to fuel that violence and he didn't actually do anything to de-escalate that whatsoever [...] what we've seen is completely unacceptable.” 

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said, “I deeply regret that President Trump has not conceded defeat since November, and again refused to do so yesterday. Doubts about the outcome of the election have been stoked, and that set the atmosphere which made the events of the [last] night possible.” Politico Europe further reported that she was “sad and furious.” 

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, considered a populist strongman in the style of Trump and one of the U.S. president’s closest personal allies abroad, repeated Trump’s fallacious accounts of election fraud. “Now, [there was] a lot of reports of fraud, a lot of reports of fraud,” he told the Anadolu Agency newswire. 

But Rodrigo Maia, president of Brazil’s Chamber of Deputies, and Davi Alcolumbre of Brazil’s Democrats party, both condemned Wednesday’s events. 

“The invasion of the US Congress by extremists represents an act of desperation by an undemocratic chain that lost the elections. It is increasingly clear that the only way is democracy, with dialogue and respecting the Constitution,” Maia said on Twitter. 

Said Alcolumbre, “The images of the invasion of the American Congress, in a clear attempt at insurrection and contempt for the result of the elections by a group, are unacceptable in any democracy and deserve the repudiation and disapproval of all leaders with public spirit and responsibility.”

Even a spokesman for Turkey’s ruling Democracy And Justice party, Ömer Çelik, on Thursday urged acceptance of the election outcome. "Violence is never a method of seeking justice. We call on everyone to respect democratic values.” Given the harsh crackdown on freedom of speech in Turkey and the power consolidation by the Erdoğan regime, which founded the party, the appeal to respect for democratic values is somewhat ironic. 

Some national security observers lamented that the events tarnished the reputation of the United States and its ability to promote democracy abroad. “The U.S. has suffered a severe blow to its global credibility after yesterday’s insurrection at the Capitol. It is a lasting and irrefutable legacy of Trump’s presidency+a gift to Russia+China. We’ll need to work very hard over many years to recover,” said former NSC staffer and diplomat Nicholas Burns.

James Stavridis, retired Navy admiral and former NATO supreme allied commander, said that it “Will take decades before American officials talk with foreign officials about importance of free and fair elections peaceful transfer of power without having the horrors of January 6th thrown back in their faces.January 6th will join 9/11 and Dec 7th as days that live in infamy.”