Trump, Bolton clashed of­ten

Pres­i­dent, ad­viser dis­agreed on for­eign pol­icy

USA TODAY International Edition - - FRONT PAGE - Deirdre Sh­es­green, David Jack­son and John Fritze

WASH­ING­TON – The po­lit­i­cal mar­riage be­tween Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and his hawk­ish na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser John Bolton was trou­bled from the start.

Trump cam­paigned on with­draw­ing the U. S. from “end­less wars,” while Bolton em­braced an ag­gres­sive, in­ter­ven­tion­ist for­eign pol­icy agenda.

Trump sought ne­go­ti­a­tions with re­viled despots. Bolton, who was ousted Tues­day, wanted the

U. S. to top­ple them.

Their op­pos­ing views col­lided most re­cently over Afghanista­n, spilling into pub­lic view over the week­end.

Trump dis­closed on Satur­day that he had in­vited, and then un­in­vited, the Tal­iban – a mil­i­tant Is­lamic group – to Camp David to seal a peace deal that would have paved the way for a U. S. with­drawal from that 18- year war. Bolton ar­gued that the Tal­iban could not be trusted.

Whether that rift was the last straw for Trump, or for Bolton, is not clear. That was just one of oh- so- many mat­ters on which they dis­agreed.

“You can only say ‘ no, no, no’ to a pres­i­dent so many times,” said Aaron David Miller, who served as a top State De­part­ment ne­go­tia­tor for past pres­i­dents of both par­ties and is now a sen

ior fellow at the Carnegie En­dow­ment for In­ter­na­tional Peace. “North Korea, Iran, Venezuela and – the last straw – Afghanista­n ... They were out of sync both per­son­ally and on pol­icy.”

Take North Korea, for starters. Trump rel­ished showy sum­mits with Kim Jong Un, the coun­try’s ruth­less leader. Bolton was skep­ti­cal that such talks would amount to any­thing.

That was on dis­play dur­ing the last Trump- Kim sum­mit in Hanoi, where North Korean of­fi­cials offered to par­tially dis­man­tle their coun­try’s pri­mary nu­clear fa­cil­ity. Bolton, among oth­ers, suc­cess­fully pressed Trump to re­ject the deal and de­mand full de­nu­cle­ar­l­iza­tion. The talks col­lapsed and both lead­ers went home empty- handed.

In the months since those ne­go­ti­a­tions stalled, North Korea has re­peat­edly tested short- range mis­siles – a provo­ca­tion that Bolton has high­lighted and Trump has down­played.

Trump’s ap­proach is to “stiff arm” his coun­ter­part with one hand and offer an olive branch with the other, said James Carafano, a na­tional se­cu­rity and for­eign pol­icy ex­pert with the con­ser­va­tive Her­itage Foun­da­tion. Bolton’s ap­proach, he said, is to ne­go­ti­ate only an op­po­nent’s sur­ren­der.

Carafano ar­gued that de­spite those tac­ti­cal differ­ences, Trump and Bolton agreed on a broad swath of is­sues. They both strongly sup­ported Brexit, the United King­dom’s efforts to leave the Euro­pean Union. They shared a dis­taste for the United Nations and agreed on the U. S. with­drawal from the Iran nu­clear deal, a land­mark U. S.- Rus­sia arms con­trol treaty and sev­eral other mul­ti­lat­eral pacts. But Bolton wanted to ag­gres­sively con­front Iran, par­tic­u­larly af­ter its mil­i­tary shot down a U. S. drone this sum­mer. He sought mil­i­tary op­tions for oust­ing Venezue­lan Pres­i­dent Ni­co­las Maduro. He op­posed Trump’s plans to with­draw U. S. forces from Syria and Afghanista­n.

Trump viewed Bolton as a war­mon­ger, and some of the pres­i­dent’s al­lies feared the hard- line ad­viser was pulling him deeper into mil­i­tary con­flicts, par­tic­u­larly in the Mid­dle East.

“It seems clear that Bolton and Trump did not share any­thing close to a sim­i­lar view of global affairs,” said Harry J. Kazia­nis, se­nior di­rec­tor of the Cen­ter for the Na­tional In­ter­est, which ad­vo­cates for “strate­gic re­al­ism” in U. S. for­eign pol­icy. “Trump is now free to find a na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser who is against wars of regime change, a smaller foot­print in the Mid­dle East, some sort of diplo­matic track with North Korea and a much bigger fo­cus on the rise of China.”

For­eign pol­icy ex­pert Danielle Pletka said Iran may have been the most con­tentious for­eign pol­icy clash be­tween Bolton and Trump.

Trump has em­braced a “maximum pressure” cam­paign aimed at iso­lat­ing Iran eco­nom­i­cally and po­lit­i­cally. But at the same time, the pres­i­dent has re­peat­edly said he would meet with Ira­nian Pres­i­dent Has­san Rouhani with no pre­con­di­tions.

Such a ses­sion would likely make Bolton’s blood boil, said Pletka, se­nior vice pres­i­dent of for­eign and de­fense pol­icy stud­ies at the Amer­i­can Enterprise In­sti­tute.

“He doesn’t be­lieve in the power of talk, ex­cept on truly rare oc­ca­sions,” Pletka said. “He’s very, very hawk­ish.”

It’s per­haps fitting that Trump and Bolton even clashed on Tues­day as their divorce be­came of­fi­cial. Trump said in a tweet that he had fired Bolton be­cause of their pol­icy clashes.

“I in­formed John Bolton last night that his ser­vices are no longer needed at the White House,” the pres­i­dent wrote on Tues­day. “I dis­agreed strongly with many of his sug­ges­tions, as did oth­ers in the Ad­min­is­tra­tion.”

Bolton quickly re­sponded with his own tweet: “I offered to re­sign last night and Pres­i­dent Trump said, ‘ Let’s talk about it tomorrow.’ ”



Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and John Bolton have clashed in pub­lic and pri­vate.

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