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Ukraine Call Reinforces Image of Trump Abroad as Transactional President

BRUSSELS — This summer, just after he visited the White House for the second time, President Andrzej Duda of Poland held forth about how much he admired President Trump’s transactional style.

“I must tell you that in this respect I find it very easy and good to cooperate with President Donald Trump,” Mr. Duda said in an interview in Warsaw. “Because he’s very down to earth, very concrete. He tells me what he wants, he asks me what he can get from us.”

Given that well-established style of wheeling and dealing, the revelations about Mr. Trump’s phone call with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine — in which Mr. Trump asked the Ukrainian leader for a ‘‘favor,’’ to dig up dirt on a political opponent — have reinforced impressions of the American president.

Regardless of impeachment, for now, at least, many analysts and media commentators abroad say they assume that Mr. Trump will remain president. But some wondered if this was perhaps ‘‘the deal too many,’’ as the headline on the cover of the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel read, showing Mr. Trump on the phone.

“Presidents always ask for things, but what’s different is the nature of the ask here,” said Simon Jackman, head of the United States Studies Center at the University of Sydney, Australia, the latest country Mr. Trump has appeared to pressure for renewed investigations of his political foes.

“It’s not about contributing with defense for an operation we might be doing together, or for a trade matter,’’ he added. ‘‘This is: ‘What were the circumstances under which Australia felt compelled to pass on this intelligence about election interference that helped me become president?’ We’re in a whole new category.”

Still, in Australia, there was little surprise. The same sentiment prevailed in much of Europe, along with a gloomy sense of inevitability among critics that nothing much seemed to damage Mr. Trump.

Many expected him to survive until the end of his term and very possibly be strengthened for re-election by the impeachment ordeal, which could let him trumpet his victory over the “Washington elite.”

“We all know that impeachment is a political affair, not a legal one,” said Jan Techau, an analyst with the German Marshall Fund in Berlin. “If it keeps the pressure on Trump, whose reactions already show the strain, it could cost him votes. But if it falls like a soufflé it can embolden him, as the golden one who can’t be touched.”

In Germany, which Mr. Trump loves to criticize, Mr. Techau said, “there’s lots of hope impeachment will succeed, but no confidence that the Democrats can run this thing efficiently.’’

‘‘Germans are puzzled that there is no natural leader of the opposition,’’ he added, ‘‘and it feels like Trump so dominates the stage there’s no room for anyone else.”

French reaction has been muted. Impeachment has not been on the front pages, with the media consumed with the death of former President Jacques Chirac. The center-left Le Monde editorialized a bit wearily that impeachment was forced on the Democrats, but probably without result.

“Confronted with this norm-breaking president, the Democrats were obligated to set a limit beyond which they considered that the counter-powers, the famous ‘checks and balances’ of the American system, could no longer function: in their eyes, this limit had been reached,” the paper said.

But François Heisbourg, a French analyst, noted that the notion of impeachment was itself somewhat unknown abroad.

“Nobody outside the U.S. understands impeachment,” he said. “Many would be chuffed if it works but everyone assumes it will strengthen Trump and not weaken him, which of course may be wrong.”

More important, Mr. Heisbourg said, was the impact on Ukraine and Mr. Zelensky’s standing with Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and French President Emmanuel Macron, both of whom he criticized even more harshly than Mr. Trump did on their telephone call, even though the Europeans provide more economic aid to Ukraine than does Washington.

The partial phone transcript hurts Mr. Trump’s relationship with other leaders, who can no longer trust the privacy of their conversations, but “it has made Zelensky look incredibly naïve and even stupid, which he is not,” Mr. Heisbourg said.

“Zelensky didn’t just let Trump diss Merkel and Macron but does it himself,’’ Mr. Heisbourg said. ‘‘And when people say they won’t hold it against him, they’re wrong. Macron and Merkel won’t appreciate it, and in one fell swoop, Zelensky has lost a lot of good will.”

Mr. Techau agreed. “This is damaging for Ukraine, because it reinforces the image of this country as a hopeless case, where all these external powers mingle and trample and nothing comes out well,” he said. “It damages the feeling of solidarity with Ukraine, already lagging.”

Russia cited a victory not only in the tensions displayed between Mr. Zelensky and President Trump, but also between Mr. Zelensky and Ukraine’s main European supporters, especially in Germany and France, whom he needlessly insulted in the phone call.

In Moscow, where power in office is routinely traded for political favors and personal profit, there was glee.

The Russians, who annexed Crimea and are deeply engaged in the fight for Ukraine’s east, like to argue that the West is just as cynical as they are, and often cite Mr. Trump as evidence.

And Russia has seized on the scandal to promote its longstanding theme that Ukraine and Mr. Zelensky are vassals of the United States.

On Sunday, Dmitri К. Kiselyov, the anchor of the Kremlin’s flagship propaganda news show, “Vesti Nedeli” or “News of the Week,” described Mr. Zelensky’s visit to the United States as a “catastrophe.” He said that Mr. Zelensky was “literally sucked into the funnel of intra-American fights between Trump and his enemies.”

“As a result, Zelensky now has no chance of building good relations neither with Trump nor with Biden,” said Mr. Kiselyov. “For Biden, Zelensky will forever remain the man who steadfastly promised Trump to relaunch the anti-corruption case against his son.”

Mr. Kiselyov noted that Mr. Zelensky offended Ms. Merkel, too. “As a result, Germany’s Spiegel already writes about insults against Merkel and only ‘pieces of relations’ with Ukraine. So now Trump, Biden and Merkel have all been removed from the list of Zelensky’s friends. How could he do it so quickly? An outstanding result!”

Norbert Röttgen, chairman of the foreign affairs committee of the German Parliament, was disgusted. The phone transcript “bitterly documents how Trump, behind the scenes, exploits his power over a state president who is dependent on American support and works for his private interests, his election campaign, and against Germany and Europe,” he wrote on his Facebook page.

In Poland, despite its president’s praise of Mr. Trump, not everyone is a fan of his deal-making style.

“In my opinion the government is silent on the issue because the kind of transactional offer he offered to Ukraine is quite similar to the way he treats Polish politicians,” said Ryszard Schnepf, a former Polish ambassador to Washington.

While he might not ask for dirt on political opponents, Mr. Schnepf said, Mr. Trump’s approach to foreign policy was “compromising, unbalanced and one sided.”

In the Arab world, reports of Mr. Trump’s efforts to extract favors from foreign leaders have generally been met with shrugs, not least because many people in the region are used to their leaders behaving in similar ways.

Leaders of the Arab world’s nondemocratic governments commonly use their offices for personal gain, and in the monarchies, there is often no clear distinction between public and private money.

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