Former White House National Security Advisor and former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton warned on Jan. 19 that the U.S. must abandon the “fantasy” of isolationism and develop policies and defence budgets to counter Russian and Chinese aggression around the globe.
“I think we’re at a particularly important point in American history,” said Bolton. “The beginning of a presidential election cycle is a time when we should be asking candidates to weigh out what their vision is of how to keep America safe for the next several decades.”
Bolton spoke to a crowd of some 250 people in a forum sponsored by the University’s LeMieux Center for Public Policy. “I believe we’ve come to the end of what we can call the post-Cold War period,” he said. Russia’s “unprovoked aggression against Ukraine,” Bolton said, makes clear that the end of the Cold War did not represent the end of the threats to free people.
“Just because the conflict isn’t occurring in a country that borders us doesn’t mean it doesn’t affect us,” he said. “It affects our friends, our allies and affects our economy.”
Bolton served as national security advisor from April 2018 to September 2019 under former President Donald Trump and also served in the presidential administrations of Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush. Having met with Vladimir Putin “any number of times,” Bolton called the Russian president “as cold-blooded a man as I’ve ever met.”
“Now we’re engaged effectively in Ukraine in a world war,” Bolton said. “This is an investment in our future, to protect Ukraine. The Russians are after the re-creation of the Russian empire. If they can succeed in Ukraine, every other formerly independent part of the Soviet Union will be at risk, and Russia will also expand in the Middle East.”
After Bolton’s prepared remarks, former U.S. Sen. George S. LeMieux, LeMieux Center founder, posed questions about other tense areas, including Taiwan. “Will Chinese President Xi Jinping actually make an attempt to invade?” LeMieux asked.
“That’s also why I think the Ukraine lesson is so important to get right,” replied Bolton. “I think they (the Chinese) can be deterred.” He called it “a stunning development” that the nation of Japan has dramatically increased its defence budget under the threat of Chinese expansion. “That’s how you constrain and deter China,” Bolton said. “It doesn’t have to all be The United States.”
LeMieux also asked Bolton’s views on other topics:
On immigration, Bolton said, “The answer is obvious: you say to the people walking through Central America and Mexico to get to the American border, ‘You’re not getting in.’
If they think it’s fruitless, they’ll stay where they are, or they do what immigrants from all over the world do: fill out an application and come in as a legal immigrant. I personally think we should substantially increase the amount of legal immigration into the United States.
“America is a country of immigrants,” continued Bolton. “All I’m saying is ‘come in, in an orderly fashion.’ But I think the idea that controlling the border is somehow anti-immigrant is just wrong.”
John Bolton described the experience of working under Trump as “like working inside a pinball machine.” He said Trump had no theory of how to approach important foreign policy issues. “The president’s style was to sort of come in every morning and say, ‘Well, what’s up today?”
“That may work in business,” Bolton said, but “it’s not what you want in the presidency of the United States.”
Regarding speculation that Bolton might run for president, Bolton declined to make any such announcement. “I did consider very seriously running in 2016,” he said. “And I concluded there just wasn’t the path do it; there were so many candidates in the field. And I wasn’t thinking about it this time, but what sparked my attention was when President Trump said a few months ago, that the Constitution should be terminated.
“We’ve got to be clear,” Bolton continued: “If you don’t believe in the Constitution, you are not a conservative.”