Trump, Bolton didn’t find much common ground abroad
These 5 countries were sources of clashes between president and former adviser.
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Tuesday fired his third national security adviser, John R. Bolton, as their positions on major foreign policy issues clashed, most recently on pursuing a peace plan with the Taliban.
The two men have regularly been at odds over how to take on major foreign policy challenges facing the United States. Bolton, a longtime national security hawk, held some views that contrasted with Trump’s, favoring sanctions and pre-emptive military action against some countries even as the president pursued diplomacy.
Here are five countries where Bolton and Trump, who has been reluctant to expand America’s military footprint abroad, disagreed over policies during Bolton’s 17 months in the post.
Most recently, Bolton was the leading voice against negotiating a peace plan with the Taliban — an idea supported by Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo with the goal of removing U.S. troops from Afghanistan after almost 18 years of war. Trump went so far as to schedule negotiations to take place at Camp David over Labor Day weekend.
Bolton had argued that the United States could with draw some troops from Afghanistan — and keep one of the president’s campaign promises — without making a pact with members of a terrorist group.
Trump ultimately canceled the meeting, but aides in support of the negotiations blamed Bolton for public leaks about his opposition.
Trump views one of his major foreign policy achievements to be the melting of tensions between the United States and North Korea. While Trump has repeatedly said he was “not happy” that North Korea chose to conduct weapons tests in May, he has played down their significance and said that the tests did not distill his optimism that the two countries could continue negotiations over American sanctions and the North’s denuclearization efforts.
But Bolton saw no gray area in those tests and declared that they violated United Nations Security Council resolutions.
After Trump became the first sitting American president to set foot in North Korea when he met with Kim Jong Un, the North Korean leader, in June, Bolton reacted angrily to a New York Times report about a possible agreement in which the United States would make concessions in exchange for North Korea freezing its nuclear activity. Bolton had long argued that North Korea should dismantle its entire nuclear program before getting any reward. But others in the administration, including the president, were open to considering a step-by-step process.
Long before he was Trump’s national security adviser, Bolton had advocated military action against Iran. Trump has recently focused on a diplomatic approach to Iran, saying he was willing to meet with President Hassan Rouhani of Iran under the right circumstances. The meeting would be the first of its kind since the Tehran hostage crisis that began in 1979 and ended in 1981.
Trump and Bolton did agree on one major policy decision: withdrawing the United States from the Obama-era nuclear deal in May 2018. Tensions between the two countries have risen due to that decision and the crippling sanctions the United States reimposed on Iran. In June of this year, the president rejected a plan by his advisers, led by Bolton, to retaliate with military action after Iran shot down an American surveillance drone, saying that such an attack would have been disproportionate.
After the United States and allied countries declared that President Nicolas Maduro’s authoritarian government was illegitimate and threw their support behind the opposition movement led by Juan Guaido, Trump grew frustrated that the efforts to push out Maduro had not met with immediate success.
The Trump administration learned it had less influence in the region than anticipated, leaving the White House-backed opposition in a stalemate with the Maduro government for months. Trump has questioned his administration’s strategy there, while Bolton continued to push for more pressure from the United States, and in August said, “now is the time for action.”
As recently as last month, Bolton assured Ukranians that they would receive support in their conflict with Russian separatists, but the White House has done little to show it backs that promise. In recent days, the White House has delayed a military assistance package for the Ukranian government. And Trump has privately told aides that he considers Ukraine to have a corrupt government.
Bolton has also confronted Russia over its election interference, a notoriously touchy subject for Trump, who sees discussion of it as undermining his legitimacy.
John Bolton, President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, looks on as Trump meets Aug. 20 with President Klaus Iohannis of Romania in the Oval Office.