Arch-Neocon John Bolton Claims Putin Was ‘Waiting’ for Trump to Withdraw US From NATO
© AP Photo / Andrew Harnik / National security adviser John Bolton listens as President Donald Trump speaks during a cabinet meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House
© AP Photo / Andrew Harnik /
Bolton served as Donald Trump’s national security advisor from 2018-2019, advising him to take a hard line on US adversaries around the globe. After firing Bolton over a range of policy disagreements, Trump lambasted the hawk as “one of the dumbest people in Washington” and suggested the US “would be in World War Six” if he had listened to him.
Former national security advisor John Bolton has accused his former boss Donald Trump of planning to pull the US out of NATO if elected for a second term, and said that Russia’s Vladimir Putin was “waiting” for this eventuality.
“In a second Trump term, I think he may well have withdrawn from NATO, and I think Putin was waiting for that,” Bolton said in a video interview with the Washington Post.
Commenting on his memoir, ‘The Room Where It Happened’, in which Bolton claimed that the US had already come dangerously close to pullout out of NATO in 2018, the former national security advisor said that he had his “heart in [his] throat” at a meeting where this possibility was raised.
“I didn’t know what the president would do. He called me up to his seat seconds before he gave his speech. And I said, ‘Look, go right up to the line, but don’t go over it’. I sat back down, I had no idea what he’d do. I thought he’d put his foot over it, but at least he didn’t withdraw then,” Bolton said.
A Trump spokesperson dismissed Bolton’s claims, suggesting that the foreign policy hawk was “only happy when America is at war.”
“President Trump led America into one of the most peaceful times in US history, which included growing investment into NATO by $50 billion. John Bolton is just mad he was fired before it could be spent,” the spokesperson suggested.
Commenting on Bolton’s remarks, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki suggested they were “another reason why” the majority Americans were “grateful” “that President Biden has not taken a page out of his predecessors’ playbook as it relates to global engagement and global leadership, because, certainly, we would be in a different place.”
Russia Sanctions Not Tough Enough
Bolton blasted the Biden effort to withdraw from Afghanistan in 2021 as a “catastrophic strategic mistake,” suggesting the US was not “tough enough” and that Putin had seen US threats as “not credible.”
“I said at the time, others did as well that you had to begin imposing costs on Putin before he went in[to Ukraine],” the former official said. “I would have imposed costs on Russia in real time until they withdrew from the Donbass and frankly from Crimea. I would have cut Nord Stream off earlier, I would have begun the imposition of sanctions because of the threat that they were posing,” Bolton added.
The neocon praised the sanctions imposed by the US and its allies against Russia, but suggested they were not tough enough.
“I’ve been one of America’s greatest proponents of economic sanctions and we have imposed very stringent sanctions on Iran, on North Korea, on the Maduro regime in Venezuela in many cases comparable to or greater than the sanctions on Russia and those regimes are still rockin’ along. I don’t think that any of the sanctions that we’ve seen now are going to stop any significant military decisions that Putin might make. They might have longer-term effects, but that depends on the resolve of the West, which I think still remains to be tested. I think what we need to do is go further. I think you need to drive a stake through the heart of Russia’s energy sector. I think that’s what’s gonna get their attention. It’s 30% of their GNP, 60% of their export earnings. And we’ve been reluctant to touch it,” Bolton said.
The former official suggested that President Biden’s comments on a no-fly zone being out of the question were a “big mistake,” saying that “if Putin’s mere threat gets us to do something that he wants, he is getting it for free. It’s a serious matter. It requires careful consideration. But you’re saying there’s no difference between some use of force and all-out nuclear warfare is just wrong.” He added that one possibility would be to set up a no-fly zone only over Western Ukraine.
US lawmakers have so far shied away from establishing a no-fly zone over Ukraine, fearing that it could escalate the risk of a direct military confrontation with Moscow.
Bolton also rejected Russian-Ukraine peace negotiations, advising against “providing off-ramps at this point.”
Bolton served as Donald Trump’s national security advisor between April 2018 and September 2019, when he was fired over numerous policy disagreements with his boss. Before that, he served in the Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush administrations, and acted as one of the key architects of the US invasion of Iraq in 2003.
Bolton and Trump had a very public falling out after the neocon was fired from his post as national security advisor. Bolton subsequently released a memoir accusing the then-president of a broad range of foolish and potentially incriminating behaviour. Trump dismissed the claims, calling Bolton a “traitor,” a “dolt,” a “boring fool” and “one of the dumbest people in Washington.” In one interview, Trump suggested that the United States “would be in World War Six by now” if he had listened to Bolton’s advice.
Since leaving office, Bolton has provided Biden with a range of policy advice, urging him to take out “two-faced Pakistan’s” nuclear capabilities, claiming that the Taliban* could get access to nuclear weapons, calling on NATO to “stand up to Russia” amid the Ukraine escalation, calling on Washington to overthrow the Belarusian government, and slamming attempts to restore the Iran nuclear deal.
* An organization under United Nations sanctions over terrorist activities.