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Confront Iran now, before it is too late

History will record Biden’s obsessive efforts to negotiate with the ayatollahs as one of the biggest self-inflicted wounds

The Middle East is tense, with Iran considering its response to Israel’s April 1 elimination of high-ranking Quds Force officers, and a possibly decisive Israeli attack in Rafah against Hamas terrorists pending. Commentary reverberates with worries about “escalation” and “wider war”, as if Hamas’s October 7 barbarity was not escalation enough, or Iran’s mandate to Hezbollah, the Houthis, and Iraq’s Shia militias thereafter is not already a wider war. 

Tehran’s ayatollahs have two overarching objectives: hegemony in the region and hegemony within Islam. Under its publicly declared “ring of fire” strategy, the brainchild of now-deceased Quds Force leader Qasem Soleimani, Iran is now assaulting Israel. The “ring of fire” embodies Iran’s indirect efforts through belligerent terrorist proxies, combined with its own military forces, against Israel (and, not often mentioned, against Gulf Arab states). 

Israel’s pounding of Hamas means things are not going well for Iran, but the decisive strategic decisions, in both Jerusalem and Tehran, still lie ahead. 

Most likely to occur first, and strategically more important, is Iran’s answer to Israel’s strike against its Damascus embassy. Whether embassy territory is “sovereign” varies, but international conventions provide that diplomatic premises are “inviolable,” at least to the receiving state. Common sense, however, tells us that, like churches or hospitals, diplomatic premises lose any protected status if used for military purposes, and it is clear that Iran’s Damascus embassy is essentially a Quds force headquarters. 

Nonetheless, Israel has unmistakably challenged Iran, much like America’s early exit for Soleimani in 2020. The stakes for both Israel and Iran are enormous. If Tehran’s riposte to Jerusalem is perceived as weak or ineffective, it risks losing sway over its terrorist surrogates and others, dismayed by the ayatollahs’ unwillingness to risk additional harm to Iran while still leaving them in mortal peril. 

Alternatively, significant, direct Iranian retaliation could impel Israel to strike Iran itself. Or, if Iran acts indirectly through a proxy such as Hezbollah, Israel would feel justified in seeking to cripple Hezbollah, as its Gaza operation seeks to cripple Hamas. There is no doubt Hezbollah is the A-team of Iran’s terrorist proxies and the greater military threat to Israel. 

Whether Israel is prepared to fight a two-front war its government must decide, and there is no doubt that decision is now squarely presented. 

Appropriately or not, however, commentators and politicians have focused since April 1 not on Damascus, but on Israel’s mistaken attack in Gaza on a humanitarian organisation’s convoy. This emotional response has objectively benefited Hamas by again delaying Israel’s offensive against the terrorist group in Rafah; resurrecting calls for an immediate, unconditional cease-fire (ie, unlinked to releasing Israel’s Hamas-held hostages); and compounding Israel’s domestic and international political difficulties. 

The Biden administration has significantly contributed to Israel’s isolation, as its distaste for Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu becomes ever-more evident. The White House has now twisted itself into a pretzel, largely because it fears the Democratic Party’s Left-wing threat to withhold support this November in a close, hard-fought election. Sensing Biden’s political vulnerability, these progressives are amping up efforts to restrict or prohibit additional arms sales to Israel, potentially crippling Jerusalem’s ability to exercise its right of self-defence. 

For those worried about Republican isolationism threatening Ukraine aid, Democratic unwillingness to support Israel should provide no comfort about America’s role in the wider world. 

Biden’s unwillingness these past six months to recognise Iran as the central actor in the Middle East’s ongoing terrorist aggression has already materially damaged America’s support for Israel. History will record his administration’s obsessive efforts to negotiate with the ayatollahs as one of the biggest self-inflicted wounds in politico-military affairs. 

Biden is equally unable or unwilling to recognise that the real criminal in Gaza is Hamas, cynically abusing its own supporters and Gazans generally, not merely as human shields, but as cannon fodder to protect themselves, a war crime if there ever was one. 

The consequences of Biden’s weakness, and indecisiveness in Israel, are serious and lasting. Israel has for too long delayed the Rafah offensive. Further delay will only increase domestic and international complaining and second-guessing, without reaping the benefits of destroying the remainder of Hamas’s organised combat capabilities and seizing full control of Hamas’s massive tunnel system under Gaza. 

Mopping up residual Hamas guerrilla/terrorist activities will be time-consuming, but dismantling it means Israel is freer and less at risk if it must confront Hezbollah full on. Or confronting Iran and its nuclear-weapons programme now, before Iran has a reliable deliverable capacity. 

Israel should finish the job of destroying Hamas’s military and political organisations soonest. Also soonest, the United States and Europe should declare openly that Iran is the real threat to peace and security in the Middle East, and act accordingly. The fastest way to end the ongoing conflict is to defeat the aggressor.

This article was first published in The Telegraph on April 11, 2024. Click here to read the original article.

 

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Trump’s ‘Love’ Affair With Kim Looms Over U.S.-Japan Summit

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s visit to Washington this week coincides with the re-emergence of a familiar threat: North Korea. On March 28, Russia vetoed what should have been a routine U.N. Security Council reauthorization of a panel monitoring sanctions on Pyongyang. Moscow’s veto reflected both unhappiness with the panel’s recent findings and a general fraying of relations between Russia and the U.S.

While the committee’s demise is unfortunate, the veto signaled something far more important: that the strengthening China-Russia axis is firmly resolved to protect its interests and those of its outriders, North Korea and Iran. China and Russia never fully shared the U.S. desire to keep the North from acquiring nuclear weapons. Getting them to agree to incremental sanctions required endless palavering, “full and frank exchanges,” and several near-shouting matches. But even that marriage of convenience is now gone.

Mr. Kishida’s visit highlights the stakes in a presidential election year. Unfortunately, neither Joe Biden nor Donald Trump is fit to deal with Kim Jong Un’s rogue regime. Mr. Biden has followed Barack Obama’s “strategic patience” policy, increasing neither economic nor political pressure on Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear aspirations, nor otherwise seriously challenging the regime, nor even engaging in negotiations. As a result, North Korea has simply continued advancing its nuclear and ballistic-missile programs. After more than a decade of “strategic patience,” we now know what such diplomatic jargon really means: doing nothing. While Washington has played the idle bystander, Mr. Kim has profited from the growing Russia-China collaboration, strengthening his relations with Moscow and better positioning himself to secure tangible benefits from both poles of the new axis.

On North Korea, a second Trump term would be as bad as the first. Three summits between the two leaders produced nothing concrete apart from Mr. Trump’s claims that he and Mr. Kim “fell in love.” As with all nuclear proliferators, time is on the side of the rogue state. With Mr. Trump in office, Pyongyang got four years closer to being able to deliver a nuclear weapon.

Continue reading on the Wall Street Journal. 

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Ambassador John Bolton Endorses Rick Scott for Senate in Florida

Washington D.C. – Former Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, Ambassador John R. Bolton, announced the John Bolton PAC’s endorsement of Senator Rick Scott for U.S. Senate from Florida. Additionally, the John Bolton PAC will make a contribution of $10,000 to his reelection campaign.

Statement by Ambassador John Bolton:

“Rick Scott has a long and proven record as a public servant that Floridians can trust to keep them safe. During his service in the Navy, as Governor, or now, as a United States Senator, Rick Scott has put America’s security first.

After returning from Israel, Rick Scott took to X (formerly Twitter):

“What I saw this week has only reinforced the undeniable fact that the United States and Israel have a common security interest in destroying Hamas and getting hostages back home TODAY.”

Senator Scott has always led by example and knows the threats we face from the likes of Iran, China, North Korea and Russia. I’m proud to endorse Senator Rick Scott in his 2024 reelection campaign.”

About the John Bolton PAC (www.boltonpac.com): Through his PAC, SuperPAC and Foundation, Ambassador John Bolton defends America by raising the importance of national security in public discourse and supporting candidates who believe in strong national security policies. Ambassador Bolton has worked hard to restore conservative leadership, which must reverse the recent policies of drift, decline, and defeat. America must rise to the occasion and acknowledge the indispensable role we play in the world. Through 2022, Ambassador Bolton has endorsed over 250 candidates and raised nearly $30 million for his organizations.

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Ambassador John Bolton Endorses Dave McCormick for Senate in Pennsylvania

Washington D.C. – Former Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, Ambassador John R. Bolton, announced the John Bolton PAC’s endorsement of Dave McCormick for the U.S. Senate from Pennsylvania. Additionally, the John Bolton PAC will make a contribution of $10,000 to his election campaign.

Statement by Ambassador John Bolton:

“Dave McCormick is a battle-tested veteran who bravely served the United States as a paratrooper in Operation Desert Storm. It is this kind of experience and understanding of national security that is sorely needed in the U.S. Senate.

As Dave McCormick said in a December speech in Philadelphia: “To put it bluntly, China poses the greatest threat to our security and our well-being since the end of World War II, and our nation’s leaders, including career politicians like Pennsylvania’s Senator Bob Casey, have gotten China wrong for more than two decades.”

As a conservative leader who proudly stands with Israel and wants to hold China accountable, I trust Dave to make the right calls in the Senate. That’s why I’m happy to announce my endorsement of Dave McCormick today.”

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Will Biden allow Hamas a ‘terrorist veto’?

Humiliation in international affairs comes in many forms, often unexpectedly. It buried President Joe Biden on Friday, piling mortification onto his administration’s foreign policy cowardice.

First, the White House effectively abandoned Israel by sponsoring a Security Council resolution calling for an “immediate and sustained cease-fire” in Gaza. Then, unforeseen Russian and Chinese vetoes, cast almost for the fun of it, slapped America in the face. U.S. media, unfamiliar with U.N. performance art, has not fully appreciated the extent of Friday’s diplomatic reverses, although Biden added to his own problems on Monday by not vetoing yet another anti-Israel cease-fire resolution.

After weeks of negotiating one textual retreat after another, the U.S. draft resolution’s final, critical language was that the Security Council “determines the imperative of an immediate and sustained ceasefire,” and that “towards that end, unequivocally supports ongoing international diplomatic efforts to secure such a ceasefire in connection with the release of all remaining hostages.”

Previously, Washington vetoed three proposals not directly linking a cease-fire to freeing hostages and because council action could have derailed talks to reach a hostages-for-ceasefire deal. Washington had also circulated draft resolutions embodying this linkage, thus differing significantly from what Moscow and Beijing vetoed. One prior text reportedly expressed council “support for a temporary ceasefire in Gaza as soon as practical, based on the formula of all hostages being released” and also “lifting all barriers to the provision of humanitarian assistance at scale” in Gaza. Importantly, these earlier U.S. drafts had also called for a cease-fire “as soon as practical,” a far cry from “immediate,” which is now a concession almost impossible to reverse.

This time, however, the White House itself disconnected hostages from the cease-fire, albeit ambiguously, in a vain effort to bridge what is for Israel (and should have been for Biden’s negotiators) an unbridgeable gap. So clear was the priority to get agreement regardless of cost that one American diplomat conceded on Thursday that the U.S. draft was written for other countries to “read into it what they need to” to support it.

This is the kind of weakness that invites humiliation, which is precisely what happened. Ironically, it was Russian U.N. Ambassador Vasily Nabenzia who understood the domestic U.S. politics behind Washington’s motivation. He called the text “a diluted formulation” aimed to “play to voters and throw them a bone in the form of some kind of a mention of a cease-fire in Gaza.”

Europeans quickly took credit for shifting the U.S. view, foreshadowing new resolutions even more at variance with the administration’s initial post-Oct. 7 approach. Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo boasted, “gradually other countries joined our position and the fact that the U.S. have adopted [it] too played a part.” French President Emmanuel Macron was even more explicit about Washington’s shift: “What’s important to note is that the United States has changed its position, and shown its will to defend, very clearly now, a cease-fire. For a long time, the Americans were reticent. That reticence is now gone.”

Indeed, on Monday, the U.S. abstained on the latest anti-Israel resolution, thereby allowing its adoption by all 14 other Security Council members. So doing will only strain Washington-Jerusalem relations even further, to the disadvantage of both.

However, Israel’s next moves to finish off Hamas are the real issue. There, Friday brought Biden more humiliation. Meeting with Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Jerusalem, Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu unreservedly rejected postponing or canceling Israeli military action. Acknowledging Biden’s earlier support, Netanyahu declared, “but I also told him that we don’t have a way to defeat Hamas without going into Rafah, and eliminating the remaining battalions there. And I told him that I hope that we will do it with America’s support, but if we need, we will do it alone.”

The critical question is whether Biden agrees that Israel’s legitimate right of self-defense includes its clearly-stated objective of eliminating Hamas’s military and political capabilities. Fully backed by Iran, Hamas has barbarically precipitated Gaza’s humanitarian crisis. Having endangered its own civilians, Hamas hopes to save itself from destruction by persuading others to prevent an Israeli victory. If Biden’s ongoing intellectual confusion prevails, enabling Hamas to assert such a “terrorist veto” over legitimate self-defense, Israel will be permanently weakened. So too will global anti-terrorism efforts, with fatal consequences for even more innocent victims. America should flatly reject the concept of a “terrorist veto.”

Biden’s declining support for Israeli self-defense is intimately tied to his failing effort (so far) to topple Netanyahu’s government. Ironically, hoping that ousting Netanyahu will solve the Israel “problem” reveals Biden’s fundamental misreading of Israeli politics, which are always complex, especially now. Whatever Netanyahu’s personal approval ratings, his war cabinet, which includes several prominent political rivals, faces no substantial dissent from its anti-Hamas military objectives. In fact, by attacking Netanyahu, Biden has likely strengthened him through a backlash against outside interference.

Israel’s attack on Hamas in Rafah could come at any moment, and victory there could be a decisive turning point in the struggle against the ultimate aggressor: Iran. This is not the time for the United States to show weakness, especially at the U.N.

Jerusalem is following Winston Churchill’s insight, “without victory, there is no survival.” Washington should concur.

John Bolton was national security adviser to President Trump from 2018 to 2019 and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations from 2005 to 2006. He held senior State Department posts in 1981-83, 1989-93 and 2001-2005.

This article was first published in The Hill on March 26, 2024. Click here to read the original article.

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Both Biden and Trump are foreign-policy flops, argues John Bolton

SADLY, FOR America and the world, neither candidate in this November’s election is fit to be president. Polling shows voters did not want a rematch between Joe Biden and Donald Trump, but that’s what they’re getting.

A president’s most important national-security responsibility is to identify the risks and opportunities facing America, and to craft ways to thwart the threats and advance the country’s interests. Whether because of incompetence, fading mental capabilities or, worst of all, succumbing to domestic political pressures, Mr Biden and Mr Trump have repeatedly proven unable to perform this mission. For years both have fared poorly at distinguishing friend from foe, a pretty low bar even for neophytes, let alone those seeking another turn in the Oval Office.

Mr Trump’s increasingly strident threats to withdraw America from NATO, for example, came perilously close to reality at the alliance’s summit in 2018. America dodged a bullet then, and Mr Trump’s short attention span kept him from resurrecting the idea before his term ended. Subsequently, however, he has repeatedly insinuated or explicitly advocated withdrawal. Recently, he rejected protecting NATO members whose defence spending did not meet their commitments.

Mr Trump is serious, but supporters and opponents alike discount the extraordinary risk of America leaving NATO. They call his bluster “negotiating tactics” to spur defence-spending increases, or just “Trump being Trump”. This is a grave error. His complaints about NATO or allies like Japan or South Korea shirking their responsibilities are intended not to strengthen America’s alliances but to be grounds for abandoning them. Some believe his most recent comments suggest he is becoming less inclined to withdraw from NATO. Don’t bet on it.

Mr Trump’s views on NATO assisting Ukraine after Russia’s invasion are similarly dangerous. Nonsensically, Mr Trump has said he could solve the conflict in 24 hours. Even worse, just weeks ago Viktor Orban, Hungary’s prime minister and a friend of Mr Trump, said that Mr Trump “will not give a penny into the Ukraine-Russia war and therefore the war will end…[I]f the Americans do not give money the Europeans are unable to finance this war on their own.” Granted, with Mr Trump nothing is ever final until it is, and sometimes not even then, but the pattern is unmistakable.

Mr Biden is comparably flawed. In today’s Middle East conflict, he sees only a war between Israel and Hamas. He is unable or unwilling to grasp that Iran is assaulting Israel on several fronts through terrorist proxies. Despite initially embracing Israel and (literally) its prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, Mr Biden’s crabbed strategic sense now has him cowering under pressure from the Democrats’ anti-Zionist left wing. Rather than responding to Iran’s long-standing “ring of fire” squeeze against Israel, America is reducing political support for Israel, and there are threats from the White House and congressional Democrats to impose conditions on military aid that could reduce or eliminate it. Mr Biden is effectively granting moral equivalence between Hamas’s terrorist atrocities on October 7th and Israel exercising its legitimate right to self-defence.

The atrocities committed by Hamas (not to mention by Houthis, Hizbullah and Iraqi Shia militia) over decades have been unspeakable, as has Hamas’s ability to get away with inflicting suffering on its own people. Mr Biden has been duped, as have many others in the West, which is why they primarily blame Israel for civilian casualties. He fails to see that Hamas is at fault for civilian casualties through callously intermingling Gazan civilians with its own fighters and war infrastructure. Neither Hamas nor anyone else acquires a “terrorist veto” over Israel’s right to self-defence by sacrificing their own innocents.

Mr Biden, confused and beleaguered, echoed Hamas’s demands for a ceasefire, essential for Hamas to buy time to regroup, resupply and continue its war. Iran’s other terrorist proxies are preparing for a long struggle, with the Houthis, for example, now claiming to have acquired hypersonic missiles to continue trying to close the Red Sea and Suez canal passage to international commerce.

Instead of focusing on the real culprits—Iran and the terrorists—Mr Biden now criticises Israel. Releasing “intelligence” that suits his objectives, he implies that Israel’s government could fall if it doesn’t bend to his views, and that Israel’s policies will foster terrorism for a generation. Mr Biden backed Chuck Schumer’s demand for Israeli elections to oust Mr Netanyahu, saying the majority leader of America’s Senate “expressed serious concern shared not only by him, but by many Americans”.

Both candidates’ views of China offer further evidence of their foreign-policy flaws. Mr Biden spent his first term trying not to offend China, so as not to interfere with his holy grail of bilateral agreement on climate change. No deal emerged, and China wouldn’t have kept to it anyway. Meanwhile, China’s menace continued growing around its long Indo-Pacific periphery. Mr Trump’s holy grail with China was “the biggest trade deal in history”. He may still want that, but for now he blames China for covid-19 and hence for depressing his vote in 2020, thereby making it easier for Mr Biden to “steal” the election. He is instead calling for massive tariffs (his go-to answer on international problems) on Chinese goods, while misguidedly disparaging Taiwan for stealing America’s microchip industry.

Mr Biden and Mr Trump certainly both believe they will benefit politically from their respective approaches. Unfortunately, their understanding of America’s proper place in the world, and of the threats facing it and other Western democracies, is badly flawed, as are their responses. Many American voters despise both candidates, and with good reason. To the delight of America’s enemies, whichever of them wins, a long, grim four years lie ahead.

John Bolton was America’s national security adviser from 2018 to 2019 and its ambassador to the United Nations from 2005 to 2006.

This article was first published in The Economist on March 21, 2024. Click here to read the original article.

 

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Biden’s incoherent Israel approach only prolongs the conflict — and the Gaza suffering

President Biden’s dealings with Israel are increasingly incoherent.

His objectives are confused and contradictory; he ignores Iran, the region’s biggest menace; he failed to secure a pre-Ramadan cease-fire-for-hostages deal; and his efforts to increase humanitarian aid to Gaza are ill-conceived and ineffective, tragically likely to aid Hamas more than the innocent.

Biden should return to Square 1: Support Israel’s legitimate right to self-defense.

But his logic, such as it is, has more to do with domestic American politics than with the Middle East.

Ironically, therefore, he may be ensuring his own defeat this November.

Consider the administration’s efforts on humanitarian aid to Gaza civilians.

Biden had steadfastly refused to acknowledge that the central problem is not the volume of assistance available.

Instead, it is critical security concerns to (a) avoid “aid” shipments bringing in weapons, ammunition and supplies Hamas needs to continue its barbarism and (b) ensure that once legitimate supplies enter Gaza, Hamas does not hijack them for its own use.

These are not small issues.

Since the World War I origins of American international benevolence, our fundamental precepts have required aid go only to noncombatants and be delivered by neutral parties (or, at the very least, closely monitored) to avoid diversion.

Herbert Hoover’s Commission for Relief in Belgium established these conditions, which were intended to increase aid flows by giving donors confidence the aid was not misappropriated.

These are the correct humanitarian principles, but the conditions to implement them do not now exist in Gaza.

From Oct. 7 forward, there were reports of Hamas hoarding and diverting key supplies, and these incidents have only increased over time.

Biden appears not to care or understand that his approach is not more, but decidedly less, humanitarian because of its collateral effects of sustaining Hamas and prolonging the conflict.

His administration is resorting to virtue-signaling gimmicks and publicity stunts rather than focusing on pressing security issues.

Air-dropping assistance into Gaza, especially as Team Biden is implementing it, is a case in point.

By contrast, after the first Gulf War in 1991, President George H.W. Bush demonstrated the right way to air-drop supplies, rendering critical humanitarian assistance to Kurdish refugees fleeing Saddam Hussein’s vengeance.

On the ground, the Pentagon stationed drop-zone controllers to create order, ensuring the materials did not kill the intended beneficiaries when they landed, as recently happened in Gaza.

US logistical personnel, protected by security forces, also prevented the supplies from being seized on a “first-come, first-served” basis, which is also happening in Gaza.

Bush’s aid did reach its intended beneficiaries, unlike in Gaza, where we have no assurance Hamas terrorists did not expropriate the bulk of the air-dropped assistance.

Biden’s latest gambit of constructing a pier in Gaza to receive sea shipments is simply more showmanship.

The administration was quick to stress there would be no US “boots on the ground,” meaning, once again, no security forces to protect those constructing the temporary pier or those eventually off-loading supplies.

And building the pier might take as long as two months, which hardly addresses allegedly urgent needs.

Ship inspections in Cypress can partly reduce the risk of vessels transporting weapons to Hamas, but there is no guarantee those in real need will receive the aid and not Hamas.

Although unwilling to criticize its major donor, even the United Nations concedes land delivery of assistance is “more cost- and volume-effective.”

The worst part of Biden’s incoherence is its focus on the crisis’ symptoms rather than the crisis itself.

The problem is, first and foremost, Hamas.

It continues exploiting purportedly humanitarian concerns like Israeli hostages and Gaza civilians to advance its own politico-military objectives.

Only when Hamas can no longer leverage its barbaric capability to wage terrorist war, including by preventing the effective supply of humanitarian aid, will the problem disappear.

That has been Israel’s stated objective from the beginning.

Contrary to Biden’s recent comments, it is emphatically not a US “red line” for Israel to continue its efforts, in Rafah specifically, to finish the job.

Eliminating the terrorist threat is good geopolitical strategy, as well as good humanitarian logic.

And for Biden, it may be the only way to avoid further splitting the Democratic Party and becoming a one-term president.

John Bolton was national security adviser to President Donald Trump, 2018-19, and US ambassador to the United Nations, 2005-06.

This article was first published in New York Post on March 14, 2024. Click here to read the original article.

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Trump Should Lay Off NATO, Target the U.N.

By John Bolton

Donald Trump’s assault on the North Atlantic Treaty Organization began in his first term and has continued as he campaigns for a second. NATO certainly has its problems, as Henry Kissinger argued in “The Troubled Partnership: A Re-Appraisal of the Atlantic Alliance” (1965). But it serves U.S. national-security interests. Undermining U.S. strength by eroding alliances hardly amounts to an America-first agenda. Further, Mr. Trump’s focus on NATO shields from scrutiny the United Nations and other international institutions that are much more inimical to America.

Mr. Trump’s acolytes recognize that his NATO withdrawal threats have kicked up problems. Tellingly, however, their efforts to clean up after him are themselves unwise and unworkable. They unintentionally reflect the irrationality of Mr. Trump’s longstanding effort to debilitate NATO and his blunderbuss approach to world affairs generally.

One MAGA-world alternative to complete withdrawal is creating a “two-tier NATO,” in which any member not meeting the 2014 Cardiff summit commitment to spend 2% of gross domestic product on defense wouldn’t receive alliance protection. This notion is toxic to alliance solidarity and impractical. Iceland, a NATO member, has no military and therefore spends nothing on defense. I never discussed Iceland with Mr. Trump, but I expect he’d question why it was even allowed in NATO. The simple answer: Look at a map. Shall we concede Iceland to Russia or China so it can “persuade” Reykjavik to allow naval and air bases there?

Consider the vulnerability of Poland, the Baltics and others on Russia’s periphery. Because of geography, they are at risk no matter how high their defense spending—and all now exceed the Cardiff target. NATO deterrence provides their only real protection. If that deterrence recedes or fails, the Moscow-Beijing axis will seize these low-hanging fruit, notwithstanding that they satisfy Trump accounting rules.

Finally, a two-tiered NATO would be untenable in combat, logistics and communications. Imagine that Russia invades Poland. The U.S. springs to its aid, but Russia advances close to the German border. The U.S. field commander calls his Russian counterpart to say: “You can do whatever the hell you want in Germany. Please excuse us while we retreat to the next NATO country that spends 2% of its GDP on defense. We’ll see you there if you attack them after you finish Germany.” The Russians are already enjoying vodka toasts over a two-tiered NATO.

Another Trump World proposal is to impose tariffs on NATO member countries that don’t reach the 2% spending level. Presumably, this logic also applies to non-NATO allies like Japan, South Korea and Australia if Mr. Trump believes they aren’t carrying their fair share of the defense burden. This gambit is a non sequitur to everyone but Mr. Trump, for whom international problems are nails crying out for his tariff hammer. Penalizing the economies of U.S. allies to encourage them to increase defense spending sounds like “the beatings will continue until morale improves.”

More practically, on what authority could Mr. Trump draw to impose such tariffs? Even a Republican-controlled Congress, which is far from certain, is highly unlikely to give him new tariff authority. Section 301 of the 1974 Trade Act, often cited in Mr. Trump’s first term, applies when foreign actions are “unreasonable or discriminatory, and burden or restrict U.S. commerce.” That hardly covers sovereign defense-spending decisions we happen not to like.

Section 232 of the 1962 Trade Act, authorizing tariffs to protect American national security, is closer to the mark. Mr. Trump used Section 232 to impose tariffs on Canadian and European steel and aluminum imports, thereby proving, unsurprisingly to everyone but Mr. Trump, that penalizing your allies doesn’t weaken your adversaries. Obviously, the opposite is true: we should be unifying allies against China economically as well as politically, not splitting the camp of those harmed by Chinese intellectual-property piracy and harmful trade policies.

Even if all NATO members reached the Cardiff targets, the spending issue wouldn’t disappear. Facing mounting global threats, Washington’s defense budgets need to increase to Reagan-era levels, perhaps 5% to 6% of GDP from the current 3.5%. Inevitably, therefore, NATO members (and other allies globally) will have to increase to perhaps a 4% minimum. Getting to 2% is the easy part. The Trump-mitigating proposals are untenable, evanescent, and inadequate to keep NATO strong.

Besides, there are better targets for MAGA ire. Mr. Trump could usefully wreak havoc on the U.N. As I said 30 years ago, you could lose the top 10 floors of the U.N. Secretariat building and it wouldn’t make a bit of difference. Things have only gotten worse.

In 2022, Washington spent about $18.1 billion across the U.N. system, far more than any other contributor. Contributions are made via several methods in a complex, nearly incomprehensible system, most commonly through “assessed” contributions, with the U.S. generally paying 22% of agency budgets so funded. Washington has had limited success in constraining U.N. budgets, and has often itself prompted significant increases.

Assessed contributions are functionally taxes. Contrary to what some Trump supporters have said, defense expenditures aren’t. We need to spend on our defense whether we have allies or not. Allies help reduce that burden. The U.N. only makes it heavier.

One powerful reform would be shifting from assessed contributions to wholly voluntary ones. America and other members would pay only for what they want and insist they get value for money. Even if only the U.S. switched unilaterally to voluntary contributions, it would create a tsunami that could fundamentally change the entire U.N. Or not, in which case at least we wouldn’t be paying for it.

There is no chance any U.N. component will ever voluntarily adopt such a system, because the U.S. has been the U.N.’s cash cow since 1945. Instead, a President Trump could simply say we are moving to voluntary contributions whether anyone else does or not. Under Article 19 of the U.N. Charter, failure to pay assessments for two years running could cost a country its vote in the General Assembly, but that loss is insignificant. General Assembly votes are nonbinding, and the U.S. carries no more weight than Vanuatu or Eritrea.

America’s Security Council vote, and therefore its veto power, is totally secure, guaranteed by the charter’s Article 27, and the charter itself can’t be amended without consent from all permanent members, including the U.S., per Article 108.

For those U.N. specialized agencies and programs already funded voluntarily, Inauguration Day would present immediate opportunities to defund some entirely and reduce funding for others. In his first term, Mr. Trump defunded the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, a decision Joe Biden reversed. Given that some Unrwa employees joined Hamas’s Oct. 7 attacks, defunding it should be a top priority.

As Washington implemented a switch to voluntary contributions, it would face important decisions on continuing membership in several U.N. entities, decisions which would involve not merely defunding, but withdrawing from them completely. The U.S. has been in and out of the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization for decades, withdrawing first under Ronald Reagan, inexplicably rejoining under George W. Bush. Mr. Trump took us out again, and Mr. Biden again returned. A Trump win should guarantee a third withdrawal, hopefully for good. Mr. Trump also served notice of withdrawing from the Universal Postal Union but later backed down. UPU warrants another look.

Beyond massive changes in U.N. funding and membership, Mr. Trump should insist that an American become U.N. secretary-general when António Guterres’s term expires in December 2026. Although I have no prospect of and no desire for a position in Mr. Trump’s second-term administration, I would be available as our candidate for secretary-general.

The ultimate question is whether America should withdraw from the U.N. altogether. Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick was once asked that question. She paused, then answered: “No, it’s not worth the trouble.”

Although technically part of the U.N., international financial institutions such as the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank should also be carefully re-examined. On the IMF, Mr. Trump should read the seminal 1998 op-ed in these pages by George Shultz, William Simon and Walter Wriston, “Who Needs the IMF?” No one has answered the question adequately.

Not since the Reagan administration has there been a comprehensive review of multilateral foreign assistance. Proponents long argued that multilateral development banks help Washington mobilize development resources, but private capital is now far more widely available than when they were founded. Multilateral foreign aid only marginally advances U.S. national-security interests, but these banks have powerful Washington lobbies. Mr. Trump should mark them down for defunding or withdrawal. That would free up greater resources for bilateral foreign assistance, which, if implemented effectively, can advance core American interests.

Finally, a wall of pretend international courts—including the International Court of Justice, the International Criminal Court, the Law of the Sea Treaty’s tribunal and the World Trade Organization’s dispute-resolution process—are already on history’s ash heap, or on their way there. Clearing away what remains is still important work. In his first term, Mr. Trump stymied the WTO judicial mechanism, and even the Biden administration has kept it stymied so far. Mr. Trump’s focus shouldn’t be limited to international trade, but to all manifestations of emerging “global governance,” heartily encouraged under Mr. Biden and Barack Obama.

A related issue is arms control, particularly how to handle a potential renewal of the New Start Treaty. Although we persuaded Mr. Trump in 2019 to withdraw from the Intermediate Nuclear Forces and Open Skies treaties with Russia, New Start was never much of an issue. Mr. Trump’s desire to cozy up to Vladimir Putin may give Mr. Putin an opportunity to cajole Mr. Trump into negotiations to extend New Start. Mr. Trump should resist any such temptation. Moreover, any strategic weapons negotiations should include China as well as Russia, given China’s rising nuclear and ballistic-missile capabilities.

Mr. Trump rightly never expressed support for the “rules-based international order” the left loves to conjure. As Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Hamas’s barbaric attack on Israel, and countless other examples demonstrate, there is no such thing. A president who truly grasps this can reawaken Americans to the necessity of operating from positions of strength in the world, not high-minded rhetoric and virtue-signaling.

NATO and other U.S. politico-military alliances aren’t acts of charity, and they are fundamentally different from the U.N., the international financial institutions and the global-governance project. We founded and support NATO because it serves hard U.S. national-security interests, not because of warm feelings for Europeans or abstract notions of “democracy.”

Nobody is going to defend us or maintain an international system favoring America if we don’t. That requires spending the necessary resources and extending our reach through alliances like NATO. If we reduce our defense capabilities or retreat from positions of strength, others will fill the vacuum, invariably to our disadvantage.

This article was first published in The Wall Street Journal on March 8, 2024. Click here to read the original article.

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Ambassador John Bolton Endorses Don Bacon for U.S. House of Representatives in Nebraska’s Second District

Washington D.C. – Former Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs,  Ambassador John R. Bolton, announced the John Bolton PAC’s endorsement of Rep. Don Bacon for Nebraska’s Second Congressional District. Additionally, the John Bolton PAC will make a contribution of $10,000 to his reelection campaign.

Statement by Ambassador John Bolton:

“Rep. Don Bacon’s 29 years of experience serving in the United States Air Force has uniquely prepared him to take the important votes necessary to keep America secure. Once again, Congressman Bacon’s commitment to protecting our national security has earned him my unequivocal endorsement in his reelection campaign.”

Statement by Congressman Don Bacon:

“I thank John Bolton for his endorsement. We believe in the traditional values that made the GOP great. Peace through strength has been our mantra the last eight decades and it should remain that way. America is the indispensable nation for the defense of freedom, but we know we must have close allies to succeed.”

About the John Bolton PAC (www.boltonpac.com): Through his PAC, SuperPAC and Foundation, Ambassador John Bolton defends America by raising the importance of national security in public discourse and supporting candidates who believe in strong national security policies. Ambassador Bolton has worked hard to restore conservative leadership, which must reverse the recent policies of drift, decline, and defeat. America must rise to the occasion and acknowledge the indispensable role we play in the world. Through 2022, Ambassador Bolton has endorsed over 250 candidates and raised nearly $30 million for his organizations.

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Bolton: Navalny’s murder demonstrates Putin’s confidence

By John Bolton

Alexei Navalny’s death in a Russian prison camp elicited widespread condemnation, and Western leaders demanded that Russian President Vladimir Putin be held accountable. A fierce Putin critic, Navalny returned to Russia in January 2021 after recovering from a 2020 attempted assassination by poisoning that was almost certainly ordered by the Kremlin. He was immediately jailed. President Joe Biden said Friday, “Make no mistake: Putin is responsible for Navalny’s death … What has happened to Navalny is yet more proof of Putin’s brutality.”

Of course, there are always exceptions. In 2020, then-President Donald Trump declined to blame Russia’s government for the unsuccessful poisoning plot, citing insufficient information. Since Navalny’s death, Trump has said nothing.

Unfortunately, Western leaders are often quick to express outrage but not quick to do anything about it. In a 2021 meeting in Geneva, Biden warned Putin that Russia would face “devastating” consequences if Navalny died in prison. Asked Friday what those consequences would be, Biden answered lamely, “That was three years ago. In the meantime, they faced a hell of a lot of consequences. They’ve lost and/or had wounded over 350,000 Russian soldiers. They’ve made it into a position where they’ve been subjected to great sanctions across the board. And we’re contemplating what else could be done.” Obviously, however, the “consequences” Biden mentioned flowed from Russia’s unprovoked aggression against Ukraine, not Navalny’s treatment or his demise.

We may never know the actual causes of Navalny’s death. The most benign explanation is that it was hastened by the 2020 failed poisoning, compounded by years of harsh prison conditions. However, video of Navalny earlier last week showed him in apparent health and good spirits. No one really believes that “accidents” happen to high-profile prisoners in the Russian gulag. And the decision to eliminate such a prominent thorn in the Kremlin’s side would have to come from Putin himself.

But why now? Some Westerners immediately jumped to the wrong conclusion. Secretary of State Antony Blinken tweeted that Navalny’s death “underscores the weakness and rot of the system Putin has built.” In fact, killing Navalny is evidence that Putin feels back on top, confident in his rule, untroubled about either domestic or international pushback.

Putin sealed Yevgeny Prigozhin’s fate last year for the effrontery of questioning Putin’s handling of the Ukraine war. Whatever political dissent was then roiling, the massive Russian security services appears now to have dissipated. The “siloviki,” the “men of power,” are back in line. As for democratic opponents, they are either hiding or in exile. Putin is not losing sleep.

Internationally, things look brighter for Putin than they have in several years, both geo-strategically and specifically in Ukraine. Navalny’s murder signals Putin is confident that he holds the upper hand. Trump continues threatening U.S. withdrawal from NATO, adding recently “I would encourage [Russia] to do whatever the hell they want” to NATO members not meeting their commitments to spend 2 percent of GDP on defense.

Biden criticized Trump for egging on NATO’s principal adversary, but Putin is conducting his own disinformation campaign on Trump’s behalf. Asked his thoughts on Biden and Trump, Putin described Biden as “more experienced, predictable, an old-school politician.” Putin must have enjoyed this head-fake, which Trump was too foolish to leave alone, responding it was “a great compliment, actually.”

Putin also made a fool of Tucker Carlson for his recent lickspittle interview, mocking him for a “lack of sharp questions,” a rare case where Western observers would agree with Putin. Offers to negotiate on Ukraine during the interview may have been a feint, given repeated Kremlin rejections of negotiations until it achieved its objectives in Ukraine.

The tides are unfortunately flowing in Russia’s favor. Ukraine’s 2023 spring offensive gained little ground, and potentially important locations such as Avdiivka, hotly contested since the war began, are now falling to Russia. Just opening talks with Kyiv could benefit Moscow, freezing the frontlines into a new Russia-Ukraine border, giving Russia’s military much-needed time to regroup and regain what little fighting edge it initially brought to the war. A pause could also permit China to continue extending its economic and political influence over Russia, which is hardly in America’s interest.

The most immediate response to Navalny’s murder and Ukraine’s critical needs is Congress waking up to the strategic imperative of Washington aiding Kyiv. Biden has trickled aid in piecemeal, non-strategically, for two years, thereby allowing Russia to fight the war to a stalemate. Biden has been continually deterred by fears of Russia launching a “wider war,” although he has never explained where Russian capabilities to wage such a war are hidden.

U.S. politics have added to the practical difficulties of sensibly providing weapons and ammunition to Ukraine, but Navalny’s tragedy should be a wake-up call, especially for Republicans. We are not providing charity for Ukraine, but acting to protect core American interests. Paraphrasing what Donald Rumsfeld used to insist: “Don’t foul this up.”

John Bolton was national security adviser to President Trump from 2018 to 2019 and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations from 2005 to 2006. He held senior State Department posts in 1981-83, 1989-93 and 2001-2005.

This article was first published in The Hill on February 19, 2024. Click here to read the original article.

ABOUT JOHN BOLTON

Ambassador John Bolton, a diplomat and a lawyer, has spent many years in public service. He served as the U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations in 2005-2006. He was Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security from 2001 to 2005. In the Reagan Administration, he was an Assistant Attorney General.