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Seven John Bolton policy views you should know about

John Bolton speaking during the Conservative Political Action Conference earlier this month.
John Bolton speaking during the Conservative Political Action Conference earlier this month. Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

President Donald Trump said Thursday that he had picked John Bolton, a Fox News analyst and an ex-ambassador to the United Nations, to become his next national security adviser, choosing a longtime brash, conservative hawk to help shape his foreign policy operation.

Bolton, 69, has been in the public eye, and in Washington, for 30 years. Outspoken and never one to back down from a debate, he served in the administrations of the past three Republican presidents, mostly in the State Department, and has elevated his profile in recent years. Some of his views were once seen as out of the political mainstream — his harsh criticism of the United Nations, for example — but his blunt, in-your-face approach now resembles that of Trump’s.


Over the years, Bolton’s views on foreign policy have both raised concerns and grabbed headlines. Here are seven of his positions you should know about:

He is a hard-liner on North Korea — and recently discussed striking first

Bolton, who is scheduled to start at the White House on April 9, will take over as a top adviser to Trump during a critical time. Trump recently accepted an invitation from North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un, to meet for negotiations over its nuclear program. That meeting is expected to take place sometime within the next month and a half.

While the person Bolton is replacing, Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster, has advocated diplomacy with North Korea, Bolton has long taken a hard line toward the country. In 2003, when he was an undersecretary in the State Department under President George W. Bush, Bolton criticized North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Il, as a “tyrannical dictator” over a country where “life is a hellish nightmare.”

His brash comments complicated the Bush administration’s dealings with North Korea, which fired back with its own criticism of Bolton, calling him “a human scum” and a “bloodsucker.”


In an interview with The New York Times in 2002, Bolton was asked about the Bush administration’s stance on North Korea. He grabbed a nearby book and placed it on the table. The title: “The End of North Korea.”

“That,” he said, “is our policy.”

His view has not changed. Last month, he pondered a U.S. military strike against North Korea in a Wall Street Journal column titled, “The Legal Case for Striking North Korea First.”

“It is perfectly legitimate for the United States to respond to the current ‘necessity’ posed by North Korea’s nuclear weapons by striking first,” he argued.

Like Trump, he has been dismissive of the United Nations.

In 1994, Bolton remarked about U.N. headquarters: “The Secretariat building in New York has 38 stories. If it lost 10 stories, it wouldn’t make a bit of difference.” In that same speech, he said, “There’s no such thing as the United Nations.” At that time, Bolton had just left his position as an assistant secretary of state after Bill Clinton became president.

His dismissive views of the United Nations, along with his hawkish ideology, led to a five-month showdown in 2005 between the Bush White House and Senate Democrats when Bush nominated him as ambassador to the United Nations. The president ultimately bypassed the Senate and appointed Bolton as ambassador in August 2005 through a backdoor procedure known as a recess appointment.

Asked by senators in 2005 about his harsh speech about the United Nations in 1994, Bolton shrugged off his criticism, saying that he was just trying to get the audience’s attention. “The comment about the 10 stories was a way of saying there’s not a bureaucracy in the world that can’t be made leaner and more efficient,” Bolton told senators.


Bolton resigned as the U.N. ambassador in December 2006, around when his recess appointment was set to expire and as it was clear he would not win Senate confirmation.

He believes the Iran nuclear deal is a ‘massive strategic blunder.’

The appointment of Bolton as national security adviser will place two of the most outspoken critics of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal around Trump. Both Bolton and Mike Pompeo, the CIA director who was recently nominated as the next secretary of state, oppose the deal, which was made under President Barack Obama.

In October, Bolton wrote in The Hill that he believed senior advisers were giving “flawed advice” to Trump to preserve the deal. He warned, “Obama’s Iran nuclear deal is poised to become the Trump-Obama deal.”

In 2015, he suggested Israel should bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities, while the United States supported the Iranian opposition to bring about “regime change.”

‘‘There are two views on Bolton among the Israeli security establishment,’’ said Ofer Zalzberg, an analyst with the International Crisis Group. ‘‘There is a concern that he’s primarily an ideologue and there’s a risk to stability, and others who say he has decades of experience.’’

He advocated for the Iraq War -- and has stuck by that

Bolton was a vocal proponent of the Iraq War and has remained unrepentant in his view that ousting Saddam Hussein was the right move, saying only that the United States bungled the aftermath of the campaign. As an undersecretary of state in George W. Bush’s administration, he said that after the Iraq War, the United States would go after Iran, Syria and North Korea.

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Unlike Trump, he’s a hawk on Russia

Unlike his boss, Bolton has been tough on Russia. Amid fears of Russia’s military might in a number of European nations, including in Sweden and Estonia, Bolton vowed ‘‘that we will not let Russia push the U.S. or its allies around.’’ He told The Washington Post days after Trump’s election, “Vladimir Putin’s Russia is on the prowl in Eastern Europe and the Middle East in ways unprecedented since the Cold War. ... Putin has had every reason to believe that persistence will achieve any objective Russa has the capacity to seek.” In a piece in the Telegraph in July, he said Russian interference in US elections was “is in fact a casus belli, a true act of war, and one Washington will never tolerate.”


He’s also a hawk on China and wants a massive military buildup to face off with it

At the CPAC conservative conference this year, he said, he called for a massive military buildup, with increases of Navy ships and “massive new capabilities in the air and for our land forces.”

“We need a comprehensive national debate on why preventing China from becoming the dominant world power in the 21st century is something all Americans should commit to,” he said. “If the United States is not safe, all the other issues are secondary.”

He has suggested a three-state solution for Israel and the Palestinians

A vocal advocate of moving the US embassy to Jerusalem, has suggested a ‘‘three-state solution’’ in which the occupied West Bank is handed over to Jordan, and Gaza to the Egyptians.

‘‘These territories have no particular history either of national identity or of economic interdependence,’’ he wrote in a 2014 op-ed in the Washington Times. ‘‘The only logic underlying the demand for a Palestinian state is the political imperative of Israel’s opponents to weaken and encircle the Jewish state.’’


Palestinians say the administration is already stacked with officials whose views chime with the right wing of Israeli politics.

Martin Finucane and Rosemarie MacDonald of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Material from The New York Times, Bloomberg News, and Washington Post was included.