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.

North Korea

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.

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