[National Security Adviser John] Bolton dismissed a question about whether [President] Trump has been more willing to criticize U.S. allies than authoritarian leaders of rival nations, including [Russian President Vladimir] Putin and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un. Trump feuded with Group of Seven leaders during a summit in Canada last month over trade, abruptly dropping support for a routine joint statement. The president also suggested Russia, which was kicked out of the group after it annexed Crimea in 2014, be invited back into the organization.
“I don’t read the way he conducted these meetings the same way,” Bolton told “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace. “I don’t think anybody ought to have a case of the vapors over discussions we have in NATO or the G-7 versus discussions we have with Putin or Kim Jong Un. They’re very, very different; the president treats them differently. He understands what the strategic interests are, and that’s what he’s trying to pursue.”
The irony (hypocrisy) here is jaw-dropping. Until Bolton became a Fox News apologist for Trump, the one-time U.S. ambassador to the United Nations fiercely criticized politicians who showed any inclination to give ground to authoritarian aggressors. He slammed Republican and Democratic presidents for not seriously considering military action against North Korea and Iran. He lambasted nuclear-arms deals that assumed any level of good faith on the part of adversaries. He’s spent most of his adult life demanding we stand up to, first, the Soviets and then the Russians.
[President Barack] Obama has insisted that the nuclear-proliferation threat represented by Iran and North Korea could be defused through negotiation. Although he has never articulated the slightest reason to believe that either rogue state would voluntarily eliminate its weapons program, he has extended his “open hand,” waiting for Tehran and Pyongyang to unclench their fists. In both cases, gullibility and the fascination with negotiation as a process, or perhaps just Obama’s narcissism, have given the proliferators the precious assets of time and the cover of legitimacy, both of which they have unfortunately used all too productively. . . .
In bilateral talks in New York in late July, Obama’s diplomats treated North Korea’s leading purveyors of disinformation as serious negotiating partners (a mistake unfortunately inherited from the [George W.] Bush administration).
Rational observers would conclude that Trump’s blind faith in negotiations with Pyongyang and his unceasing reliance on Putin’s assurance that he did not interfere with our elections has demonstrated far more “gullibility” than Obama ever did. Trump certainly is giving North Korea the “precious assets of time and cover of legitimacy.” Had Obama actually met with North Korea’s leader, Bolton would have had a meltdown — and rightly so.
Bolton is right about one thing: Trump treats allies and adversaries differently. In public, he has mocked, ridiculed and threatened allies; in private, he reportedly was rude and dismissive. Since he came down with “summit-itis,” Trump has had nothing but praise for Kim, refraining from any criticism and waxing lyrical about how tough is the young dictator, whose labor camps would put Joseph Stalin to shame.
When it comes to Russia, surely Bolton knows that, since entering office, the Trump team has tried to figure out how to lift sanctions against Russia. Once in office, Trump essentially ceded Syria to Russia and revealed code-word intelligence to the Russian ambassador and foreign minister in the Oval Office.
Trump can’t contain his willingness to make concessions to Russia. CNN reports: “President Donald Trump once again raised the idea of pulling the US out of Syria this week — this time privately during a meeting with King Abdullah II of Jordan at the White House, according to two diplomatic sources familiar with the sit-down.” Though Trump pulled out of the Iran deal, he has taken no steps to sanction Russia (or any other country) for continuing to do business with Iran.
If Bolton is right about his boss’s toughness, Trump will play hardball with Putin, pushing back on Russian war crimes in Syria, its illegal occupation of Crimea, its poisoning of defectors in England, its killing of journalists and its continuing support for Iran. If he does not, and instead goes to his default position with Putin (eager subservience), Bolton should seriously consider resigning. At this point, Bolton is enabling a president who favors foes over friends and is simply too foolish to be left in the room alone with an enemy of the United States. In short, he’s become a purveyor of the foreign policy he’s spent his life decrying.