In this exclusive interview with NRK, John Bolton talks about how unsuitable Trump was as president. He also warns Norway and the West against China, which he says poses an existential threat to Western democracies.
Could not stand Trump’s shaky policies
John Bolton was Trump’s security adviser for a year and a half, from April 2018 to September 2019. Then he could no longer bear Trump’s hesitant behavior in foreign and security policy, and resigned.
In retrospect, he has had little good to say about his former boss. He has written about this in the memoir “The Room Where It Happened”.
– Trump was not fit for president
Bolton is not gracious when he tells how Trumps performed the presidential act:
– I do not think he was fit to be president. Trump had almost no experience in political work, nor did he care to learn the role and the craft.
Relying on his instincts
– For example, he believed that he could manage to assess anyone after only hitting them for a few seconds, as he said in the meeting with Kim Jong-un (North Korea’s dictator, editor’s note). And as long as he had some sort of idea of what the issues were about, Trump thought he could trust his instincts.
– Then it becomes very, very dangerous. That is why we were always very nervous about what he might say during meetings with other heads of state, says Bolton.
Impressed by dictators and authoritarian leaders
Throughout his presidency, Trump talked about his good relations with dictators and authoritarian leaders such as North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, China’s Xi Jinping, Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan. He had a much more strained relationship with leaders in democratic, allied countries such as Canada and the EU countries.
– Why do you think Trump was so impressed with these authoritarian leaders?
– I do not know right. To me, it makes no sense at all. But perhaps he was impressed that they have no limit to how long they can stay in power.
Trump was exploited
– Do you think that he himself could wish to become such an authoritarian leader or dictator?
– I think Trump was really impressed with how powerful Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin were. He wanted to be a stork like them. These leaders knew this well. Therefore, they flattered him and exploited him in that way.
Admired China’s authoritarian leader
As a security adviser, John Bolton was particularly nervous about Trump’s deal with China’s authoritarian leader Xi Jinping.
Many times, Trump suddenly changed the United States’ adopted policy toward China to appease “his good friend” Xi Jinping, whom he admired.
Unlike Trump, Bolton is highly critical of Xi Jinping’s authoritarian rule, which he believes poses an existential threat to Western democracies.
China is an existential threat to the West
– Both militarily, politically, economically and socially, China is now an existential threat to Western democracies. China is no longer a communist country, but it is an authoritarian country. Which poses a threat to the whole spectrum of our interests.
But if the United States and Europe can work together, it could have a decisive impact on the outcome, Bolton believes.
– See how China treats its own
– Many will say that it is better to cooperate with China than to confront them?
– Yes, we should avoid confrontations. And we should use political and economic measures to avoid military confrontation. But if you look at the way the Beijing authorities treat the Uighurs in Xinjiang and the people of Hong Kong, how can one expect them to treat Europeans better than their own citizens? Bolton asks rhetorically.
The United States and some other Western countries have now declared that the Chinese regime is responsible for the genocide of the Uighur minority population.
– Steals inventions and intellectual property
Through its membership in the World Trade Organization WTO, China has gained great benefits and can export its goods all over the world. But the Chinese make it much more difficult for other countries to sell their goods to China.
– They have systematically stolen inventions and intellectual property from the United States, Europe, Japan and other countries. And they discriminate against foreign companies trying to do business in China.
I believe that an overall reaction from the democratic industrial nations could have a dramatic effect on the Chinese authorities.
Penalties Australia – despite free trade agreement
Gradually, several countries have signed free trade agreements with China. One of them is Australia. Nevertheless, the country has been severely punished by China’s leaders after the Australians demanded a thorough international investigation into how the covid virus originated and spread in China.
Despite the free trade agreement, the Chinese authorities are now preventing a large number of Australian goods from reaching the markets in China.
Norway has for many years wanted such a free trade agreement with China.
– Norway should say no
John Bolton has a clear appeal to the Norwegian authorities:
– As the situation is now, Norway should not sign a free trade agreement with China. China does not practice free trade. Rather talk to friends and allies and think more about what you can do together. Then there are greater chances of success for China.
Norway in the freezer
Negotiations on a free trade agreement between China and Norway began as early as 2008. But China placed Norway in the freezer for six years after Chinese democracy activist Liu Xiaobo received the Nobel Peace Prize.
Negotiations did not start again until Norway asked for nice weather and accepted China’s demands. Then both Prime Minister Erna Solberg and King Harald went on a reconciliation trip to Beijing.
Disappointed with the Norwegian government
– In Norway we have a conservative government. It wants a free trade agreement with China.
– Well, I know members of the Norwegian government, and it disappoints me to hear that. You have to look at the overall security issues by trading with China.
– For example, they have turned a commercial product such as telecommunications into a weapon. Huawei is an extension of the Chinese state. Here we should think self-defense. And the faster we do it, the better.
Will Trump run again in 2024?
Bolton sees China as the biggest challenge for both the United States and Europe. But can democracies also come under pressure if Trump runs in the 2024 presidential election – and wins?
– I do not think Trump will run in 2024. I think he will talk a lot about it until then. But deep down, he knows he lost in 2020. Even though he came up with an excuse that the election was “stolen” from him.
– But he will not be able to come up with a new excuse if he loses again. And since being a loser is the worst thing in the world for him, he will not take such a risk. He will not run in 2024, says John Bolton.
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