Vyacheslav Molotov served in senior positions in the Soviet Union for more than a quarter century, including 10 years as Stalin’s foreign minister. He was dismissed in 1949 when he fell out of favor with Stalin, but he found his way back in to the Foreign Ministry after the dictator’s death in 1953. Over the next four years, he fought with the new Soviet leader, Nikita Khrushchev. According to Molotov’s biographer, Geoffrey Roberts, Khrushchev “accused Molotov of being a dogmatist whose actions as foreign minister had united the USSR’s imperialist enemies.” The Soviet plenum passed a resolution that charged Molotov with opposing measures “to reduce international tension and strengthen world peace.” Molotov was dismissed from his post and named ambassador to Outer Mongolia (what is now independent Mongolia). This role wasn’t unimportant, and his fate was sweeter than those of Khrushchev’s other party rivals—Georgy Malenkov was made to manage a power station in Kazakhstan and Lazar Kaganovich a potash factory in the Urals. Even so, Molotov was far, far from the action. Banished to Outer Mongolia quickly entered the English lexicon.
On June 30, another mustachioed foreign-policy chief found himself in Outer Mongolia. John Bolton was sent to the capital, Ulaanbaatar, while President Donald Trump stepped into North Korea to meet Kim Jong Un. Trump was accompanied by loyalists—Mike Pompeo, Mick Mulvaney, Jared and Ivanka Trump—and a new adviser, Fox News’s Tucker Carlson, who is credited with talking the president out of striking Iran as his Cabinet had recommended. Trump invited Kim to the White House, and reports swirled that the United States would settle for a nuclear freeze by North Korea instead of denuclearization. In response, Bolton tweeted, “Neither the NSC staff or I have discussed or heard of any desire to ‘settle for a nuclear freeze by North Korea.’ This was a reprehensible attempt by someone to box in the President. There should be consequences.” The words NSC staff or I were doing a lot of work, implying that others in the administration were behind the move. We now know that Stephen Biegun, the State Department’s special envoy to North Korea, briefed reporters on Pompeo’s plane back from Korea that the administration was considering a “complete freeze” to unlock the talks.