Foreign governments traditionally remain neutral during US election campaigns, but this year several leaders and governments around the world are either directly or implicitly supporting George Bush or John Kerry.
"I have China's support, I hear Russia is backing you?"
Love him or loathe him, US President George Bush evokes strong emotions in most Americans. Foreigners appear to be no different, perhaps explaining why an unprecedented number of governments have decided to take sides in the contest for the White House.
Brushing aside concerns of meddling in American domestic affairs, China on Monday joined the swelling ranks of nations offering their opinion on the presidential race.
Beijing broke its practice of not commenting on US presidential candidates and chastised Bush for his foreign policies. In a rare commentary, former vice-premier and former longtime foreign minister Qian Qichen criticized Bush's war on Iraq. He accused an "arrogant" United States of trying to "rule the world" and blamed the US-led invasion for sparking an increase in terrorist attacks.
"The philosophy of the 'Bush Doctrine' is in essence force," Qian said in the government-run English-language China Daily. "It advocates the United States should rule over the whole world with overwhelming force, military force in particular."
While backing Bush's anti-terrorism efforts, China opposed the war in Iraq and sees the US administration's policies as an example of superpower hegemony, which Beijing frequently rails against. "The current US predicament in Iraq serves as another example that when a country's superiority psychology inflates beyond its real capability, a lot of trouble can be caused," Qian said.
Bush may be overwhelmingly unpopular overseas, but he does have the support of a significant number or world leaders. Italy's Silvio Berlusconi and Japan's Junichiro Koizumi have warm ties with Bush and both backed his decision to invade Iraq. Russian President Vladimir Putin recently tacitly threw his support behind the Texan by implying terrorists would prefer that Bush be booted from office.
Australian Prime Minister John Howard
Australia's Prime Minister John Howard has also strongly backed the Bush administration's uncompromising war on terror, however, his comments urging Bush's re-election has elicited criticism both at home and in America.
Australia's opposition called on Howard on Monday to publicly retract comments he made hoping Bush would win the US election. Howard's comment was earlier criticized by a top adviser to Democratic challenger John Kerry as "inappropriate" and interference in the United States' domestic affairs.
Kerry famously came under fire by the Bush campaign this summer for saying foreign leaders had told him they hoped he would unseat the president. Kerry refused to name names, however, it is widely accepted several European leaders would like to see Bush shown the door.
France's President Jacques Chirac certainly has no love lost for Bush and German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder long had extremely icy ties with Washington. Bush even when so far as to snub the German by not offering his congratulations after Schröder was reelected in 2002.
But a Kerry victory could make life complicated for both Chirac and Schröder since he has said if elected he would push for greater international involvement in Iraq, increasing pressure on Paris and Berlin to contribute troops to help stabilize the troubled country.