For America’s allies and rivals alike, the chaos unfolding during Donald Trump’s final days as president is the logical result of four years of global instability brought on by the man who promised to change the way the world viewed the United States.

From the outside, the United States has never looked so vulnerable — or unpredictable.

Alliances that had held for generations frayed to a breaking point under Trump — from his decision to back out of the Paris climate accord and the Iran nuclear deal, to quitting the World Health Organization amid a pandemic.

And then, by seeking to overturn his loss to Joe Biden, Trump upended the bedrock principle of democratic elections that the United States has tried — and sometimes even succeeded — in exporting around the world. How long those aftershocks could endure is unclear.

“It is one of the biggest tasks of the future for America and Europe — to fight the polarization of society at its roots,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said. “We will only be able to preserve the belief in togetherness, in democracy as the most humane form of statehood, and the conviction in science and reason if we do it together.”

But in many ways Europe has already moved on, forging ahead on the deal with Iran, negotiating a trade agreement with China spearheaded by Germany, and organizing global actions to protect the environment.

On the same day an angry mob stormed the Capitol to try to overturn the presidential election won by Biden, a record number of Americans died of coronavirus. One other recent event also showed U.S. vulnerability: the cyberespionage operation still working its way through an untold number of government computers and blamed on elite Russian hackers.

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World leaders who saw the deadly violence in Washington “will need to consider whether these events are an outlier event — a ‘black swan’ — or whether these extremist white supremacist groups will continue to be a significant influence on the direction of U.S. foreign and domestic policy, instead of receding with the end of the Trump administration,” the Soufan Group, a global intelligence and security firm, wrote Tuesday.

People tend to think of fragile countries “in terms of war as the biggest problem, rather than violence, and thinking in terms of state collapse as the biggest problem rather than states that internally disintegrate,” said Rachel Kleinfeld, a scholar of democracy and violence at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Kleinfeld, like many others, said the assault on the U.S. Capitol may have come to a head in a matter of weeks but was years in the making.

And the U.S. capacity to fight for democracy was already tarnished before the mob egged on by Trump sought to overturn his election loss. For many, those events were merely confirmation.

Adversaries including Russia, China and Iran used the violence to question U.S. democracy more generally.

In an internal note on the State Department’s “dissent channel” obtained by The Associated Press, American diplomats said Trump’s actions …read more

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