Serves as senior advisor to the President on international affairs, chairs the National Security Council and oversees the National Security Staff.
Ambassador John Bolton has a long career of service in Republican Administrations, having served as Ambassador to the United Nations and Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security and Assistant Attorney General under President George W. Bush, Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs under President George H.W. Bush, and General Counsel and Assistant Administrator for Program and Policy Coordination at USAID under President Reagan.
Bolton advised Mitt Romney in the 2012 election and served as an informal advisor to the Trump campaign in 2016. After the election, President-elect Trump suggested Bolton was being considered for the position of Secretary of State and also considered nominating him as Deputy Secretary of State, although some speculated that he would face similar difficulties in being confirmed by the Senate as he did in 2006 as UN Ambassador, which required a recess appointment. Bolton has been a long-time senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and a frequent commentator on FOX News.
Known as a military hawk, Bolton was a strong supporter of the war in Iraq in 2003 and in recent years, he has repeatedly called for military force over diplomacy against Iran and North Korea. As Undersecretary for Arms Control under President George W. Bush, he supported the U.S. withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and was a critic of the 1994 arms agreement with North Korea.
Bolton’s foreign policy views have left him with vocal supporters and detractors. Senator Lindsey Graham responded to the nomination, saying “Selecting John Bolton as National Security Advisor is good news for America’s allies and bad news for America’s enemies,” while Senator Chris Coons warned, “Ambassador Bolton’s stated positions on today’s major issues, most notably North Korea’s and Iran’s nuclear programs, are overly aggressive at best and downright dangerous at worst.” Council on Foreign Relations President Richard Haass highlighted a tension with President Trump, suggesting, “John Bolton’s combative unilateralism, anti-institutionalism and propensity to advocate for military intervention meshes well with America First. What it does not mesh well with is Making America Great Again. Sooner rather than later Donald Trump will have to choose.”
Bolton is known as a long-standing critic of multilateral institutions, saying “While the UN system performs many beneficial activities through the specialized agencies and by providing humanitarian assistance, the UN’s political decision-making bodies function no better today than during the Cold War on the major global issues.” He has called for privatizing the multilateral development banks “with the possible exception of the one for Africa,” suggesting that “US taxpayers are compelled to provide subsidized interest rates for loans by international development banks that benefit foreign competitors.”
Bolton said in an interview at AEI several years ago, “foreign aid can certainly contribute to advancing American national interests around the world, but only if it designed and implemented with those interests in mind.” He has criticized the view that the U.S. should be driven by what he calls an “abstract obligation to engage in ‘nation building’ or international welfare.”
Bolton believes that UN votes should be considered when determining U.S. foreign assistance: “I’ve been of the view that votes in the United Nations should cost people, cost countries that vote against us, and I think while others have agreed with it, we never really have. I think in the general assembly in many U.N. bodies the membership simply doesn’t pay attention to the American position unless they think there is money on the line.”
He has proposed re-directing foreign assistance from multilateral to bilateral programs, saying “Especially in times of great budgetary stringency, we should redirect our assistance away from multilateral programs, such as the World Bank, the regional development banks and the United Nations, toward bilateral programs, both military and economic. We should focus particularly on countries that support our efforts against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and international terrorism.”
Bolton has acknowledged the complexities of America’s interests when talking about aid to Pakistan, saying on Fox News just last year: “There are few recipients of foreign aid that attract more opposition in Congress than Pakistan,” but “We’ve got interests around the world that need protecting. It would be a mistake to think you can just eliminate it and not have an adverse effect on America’s interests in the world.”