North Korea: “The Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea (DPRK) will never give up nuclear weapons voluntarily.”
Context: Bolton was part of the Bush administration when the Agreed Framework, the Clinton-era agreement with North Korea on its nuclear program, fell apart. Bolton is proud of his role in the deal’s collapse because he maintains North Korea cheated on its obligations—and will continue to cheat. (Supporters of the deal maintain that without the agreement North Korea would be further along in its nuclear program than it is at present.) Trump is to meet Kim Jong Un, the North Korean leader, in May. Bolton’s advice to the president will be key during this period.
Iran: “Throughout George W. Bush’s presidency, Iran’s nuclear weapons ambitions were a constant problem. Iran’s goals never changed, but the administration’s goals were too often in flux, and not pursued as consistently or as relentlessly as they might have been.”
Context: Bolton blames the EU, specifically, as well as U.S. diplomats and the Bush administration, for not taking a firm line on Iran’s nuclear program. Criticism of the U.S.-led war in Iraq, he said, may have persuaded Bush to adopt a softer tone with Tehran. This view is important because Trump must decide in May whether to withdraw from the agreement that the United States and other world powers signed with Iran on its nuclear program. Bolton, like Trump, is a harsh critic of that Obama-era deal, and signs suggest the United States may end up withdrawing.
Russia: Of Russia under Putin, he writes: “The Bush administration has lost whatever illusions it had about the direction of Putin’s Russia, and it is certainly hard now to find much that is encouraging in the direction of either Russia’s domestic or its international policies.”
Context: Bolton worked closely with the Russians on a host of issues, including the end of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. At the time, he noted in his memoir, Bush was sympathetic to Vladimir Putin, the Russian leader, who at the time was seen as a reformer fighting the “troglodytes” of the Russian military. The world is, of course, much different now. Russia under Putin has become a foreign-policy adversary of the United States in many places, including in Syria and Eastern Europe. U.S. intelligence agencies say Russia interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, though, they add, there is nothing to suggest Moscow’s efforts were successful. Bolton remains a critic of Russia—his ability to persuade Trump, who has declined to criticize Russian action or Putin, to be stronger on Moscow will be closely watched.
South Korea: This U.S. ally receives special criticism from Bolton for pursuing a “sunshine policy” with North Korea. He criticized Kim Dae Jung, the South Korean president who was the architect of that policy, and several South Korean officials and diplomats as “apologists” for the North.