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Russia And China Among Countries Holding Off On Congratulating Biden

Photo caption:

Photo by Alexander Demianchuk Alexander Demianchuk/TASS

Russian dolls with the likenesses of Russia's President Vladimir Putin, President Trump and China's President Xi Jinping for sale in at a gift shop in St. Petersburg, Russia, last month. While many world leaders have congratulated President-elect Biden, Russia and China have conspicuously held off.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu have congratulated President-elect Joe Biden on his victory. So have the leaders of Hungary, India and the Philippines, among others. But Russia, China, Brazil and Mexico have conspicuously held back, as President Trump refuses to concede election defeat. The president accuses Democrats of fraud, launching an uphill legal fight to contest the results.

The Kremlin said Monday that it would be premature to recognize Biden at this point, despite major U.S. news organizations calling the election for the former vice president on Saturday.

"We believe it's correct to wait for the official results of the elections to be announced," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists during a telephone briefing, according to the state-run TASS news agency.

"[We] hope that we will be able to establish a dialogue with the next U.S. president and agree together on ways to normalize our bilateral relations," Peskov added.

During the 2016 campaign, Trump talked about his personal relationship with Vladimir Putin, only to deny later that he'd ever met the Russian leader. U.S. ties with Moscow have been strained, especially due to evidence of the Kremlin's attempts to interfere in the U.S. political process.

In September, Trump said of Putin, "He likes me, I like him — not so bad."

The administration's relationship with China has been decidedly more hostile, amid an ongoing trade dispute and the president's harsh criticism of Beijing's handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Although Biden is likely to take a more measured approach to the Sino-U.S. relationship, he has nonetheless been critical of China, saying President Xi Jinping doesn't have "a democratic — with a small 'd' — bone in his body," and calling him a "thug" for his crackdown on minority Uighurs.

Beijing, like Russia, says it's taking a wait-and-see approach.

"We noticed that Mr. Biden has declared election victory," Wang Wenbin said at a daily media briefing in Beijing. "We understand that the U.S. presidential election result will be determined following U.S. law and procedures."

"We always believe that China and the United States should enhance communication and dialogue, manage differences on the basis of mutual respect, expand cooperation on the basis of mutual benefit and promote sound and stable development of bilateral relations," Wang said.

In a tweet, Hu Xijin, editor of the Global Times, a tabloid published by the ruling Communist Party's People's Daily, said he thinks China hasn't congratulated Biden because it "needs to keep larger distance from the U.S. presidential election to avoid getting entangled in its controversy."

So far, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has been in no rush to congratulate Biden. Despite Trump's border wall plan and his threat last year to slap tariffs on Mexican products unless López Obrador's government cracked down on Central American migrants seeking to cross into the U.S., the two leaders have maintained cordial relations.

Speaking on Saturday, López Obrador said: "President Trump has been very respectful of us, and we have reached very good agreements, and we thank him because he has not interfered and has respected us."

Meanwhile, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, often referred to as the "Trump of the Tropics" for his bravado, right-wing politics and populist message, openly rooted for Trump to win reelection. In the final stages of the campaign, Bolsonaro talked about attending Trump's inauguration. Bolsonaro has been silent on the matter since the election was called for Biden.

The president-elect has made it clear that, unlike Trump, a Biden administration will confront Bolsonaro over his government's handling of the Amazon rainforest. The Brazilian leader has allowed farmers and loggers to clear rainforest land. Bolsonaro has also insisted that it is a "fallacy" to see the Amazon as the heritage of humanity, saying it belongs to the people of Brazil.

NPR's Philip Reeves in Rio de Janeiro contributed to this report.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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