Former Trump national security adviser John Bolton said he believes Russian president Vladimir Putin was waiting for Trump to withdraw the US from NATO if he had won reelection in 2020.
During a virtual chat on Friday John Bolton told The Washington Post that Putin, who is currently leading an invasion of Ukraine, was hoping for vocal NATO critic president Trump to pull out of the alliance.
‘In a second Trump term, I think he may well have withdrawn from NATO,’ Bolton said. ‘And I think Putin was waiting for that.’
Former Trump national security adviser John Bolton (pictured) said that Putin was hoping for vocal NATO critic president Trump to pull out of the alliance
Trump’s feelings towards NATO made him an ally to Vladimir Putin, who has been open about his efforts to restore lost Soviet influence to Russia
In his 2020 memoir, Bolton wrote that he had to convince Trump not to quit NATO in the middle of a 2018 summit, during which he said on Friday he ‘had (his) heart in (his) throat.’
‘I didn’t know what the president would do,’ Bolton told the Post. ‘He called me up to his seat seconds before he gave the speech. And I said, look, go right up to the line, but don’t go over it. I sat back down. I had no idea what he’d do.’
White House press secretary Jen Psaki responded to Bolton’s comments, saying it is ‘another reason the American people are grateful — the majority of the American people — that President Biden has not taken a page out of his predecessor’s playbook as it relates to global engagement and global leadership, because certainly we could be in a different place.’
‘I mean, there’s no question that the strength and unity of NATO has been a powerful force in this moment,’ Psaki added.
During his presidency Trump had reportedly said multiple times that he wanted to pull the United States out of NATO, a move that aides scrambled to counter.
In 2018 Trump told top national security officials that he didn’t see the point of the international alliance, the New York Times reported.
His discontent was especially high during the organization’s 2018 Brussels meeting.
During his presidency Trump had reportedly said multiple times that he wanted to pull the United States out of NATO, a move that aides scrambled to counter (pictured at a 2019 NATO summit in London)
In 2018 Trump told top national security officials that he didn’t see the point of the international alliance (pictured during Brussels NATO Summit)
Forged after the allied victory in World War II, security experts credit NATO with helping preserve peace in Europe for decades while countering the Soviet threat.
Trump’s feelings towards NATO made him an ally to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has been open about his efforts to restore lost Soviet influence to Russia and eager to see splits in the alliance that for years countered Warsaw Pact nations.
Putin blames Nato’s militarization of former Soviet states, such as Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, since the end of the Cold War for the current crisis.
Trump praised Putin throughout his time in the White House and sided with the Russian leader over American intelligence agencies during the July 2018 Helsinki Summit on Russian election meddling during the 2016 campaign.
In the run-up to the invasion, Trump called Putin ‘genius’ and ‘smart’ for the moves he made against Ukraine.
At CPAC Trump leaned into those comments telling the friendly crowd, ‘The problem is not that Putin is smart, of course he’s smart, but the real problem is that our leaders are dumb.’
He argued, ‘The world is always safer when America has a strong president. The world is always in danger with a weak American president.’
Trump said he was ‘praying for the proud people of Ukraine’ and expressed admiration for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, calling him a ‘brave man.’
‘God bless them, they are indeed brave, as everyone understand this horrific disaster would never have happened if our election was not rigged and if I was president,’ he said.
Trump said he liked Zelensky ‘because during that ridiculous impeachment waste of time the president of Ukraine said, “He did nothing wrong.”‘
‘He didn’t have to do it,’ Trump said of Zelensky’s comments.
Trump’s first impeachment involved a call the ex-president made to the Ukrainian leader in July 2019. The president was accused of holding up military aid to Ukraine to push Zelensky to announce investigations into Joe and Hunter Biden.
‘I was with Putin a lot, I spent a lot of time with him, I got along with him,’ Trump also offered. ‘It’s a good thing to get along with people, it’s not a bad thing,’ the ex-president protested.
‘It would have been so easy for me to stop this travesty from happening,’ Trump continued. ‘He understood me, he understood I didn’t play games.’
Much of Trump’s one term in office was consumed by the FBI’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2020 election – and whether there was coordination with the Trump campaign.
A member of the Territorial Defense Forces stands guard at a checkpoint in the eastern frontline of Kyiv on Saturday
A devastated civilian area in Kharkiv is pictured Friday after Russian forces stepped up their assault on major Ukrainian population centers
Local resident walks through the rubble as a result of shelling in Markhalivka, March 5, 2022
People cross an bridge intentionally destroyed to slow the Russian advance as they try to leave the city of Irpin on Saturday
The ex-president knocked Biden for being ‘grossly incompetent’ and poked fun at Biden’s threat of sanctions, saying Putin’s been getting sanctioned for the past 25 years.
‘The world hasn’t been this chaotic since World War II,’ Trump said.
On Saturday Putin escalated his rhetoric in his confrontation with the West, saying that sanctions against Russia are tantamount to a declaration of war and threatening to treat any country that declares a no-fly zone over Ukraine as part of the conflict.
The threats came as Moscow’s brutal assault on Ukraine saw a mass civilian evacuation from the city of Mariupol derailed when Russian forces ignored a promised humanitarian ceasefire and continued shelling the southern city.
Russian troops continued to bombard encircled cities and the number of Ukrainians forced from their country grew to 1.4 million. The UN says more than 350 civilians have been killed since Russia’s invasion last week.
On Saturday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky repeated his plea for NATO to establish a no-fly zone in a meeting with the US Congress — but the idea faces strong bipartisan opposition in America, and NATO leaders have rejected it, pointing out that it would draw the alliance into direct military confrontations with nuclear-armed Russia.
A no-fly zone could only be enforced by shooting down Russian aircraft, and Putin on Saturday made clear that he would view such a move as joining the conflict.
‘We’ll instantly view them as participants in a military conflict,’ the Russian leader told a group of female employees of Russian airlines, according to Russian state media. ‘We’ll view any movement in this direction as involvement in an armed conflict by the country from whose territory threats to our military service members are posed.’
Russian forces are now attempting to encircle Kyiv and pressing forward in the northeast and southeast
A view of destroyed settlements after recent shellings in the city of Irpin, northwest of Kyiv on Saturday
Ukrainian soldiers with shoulder-fired missiles look on people evacuate the city of Irpin, northwest of Kyiv, on Saturday
At the same meeting, Putin issued bellicose threats in response to the punishing economic sanctions leveled against his country by the US and Europe.
‘These sanctions that are being imposed are like the declaration of war,’ said Putin. ‘A lot of what is happening now, of what we now see and what we face is undoubtedly a means of fighting against Russia.’
Despite Putin’s saber-rattling, bipartisan members of Congress expressed support for ratcheting up sanctions and increasing lethal military aid to Ukraine after speaking with Zelensky on Saturday morning.
In his Zoom meeting with Congress, Zelensky repeated his plea for NATO to impose a no-fly zone over his country to blunt Russian air superiority, according to sources familiar with the matter.
However, the Biden administration and lawmakers from both parties have expressed strong opposition to the idea of a no-fly zone, because enforcing it would require shooting down Russian planes, drawing NATO into direct conflict with Russia.
In Saturday’s meeting, Zelensky also asked for tougher sanctions on Russia, including a ban on oil and gas exports, an option the White House is currently weighing.
Cutting off Russian oil would be costly for the US, where it accounts for 7 percent of imports, but not insurmountable. The issue is more delicate in Germany, which is pitifully dependent on Russian natural gas.
Zelensky also requested the transfer of Soviet-era fighter jets currently stationed in Eastern Europe to his own air force to use in the fight against Russia, according to sources familiar with the matter.
Rep. Lloyd Doggett, a Texas Democrat, said on Twitter after the Zoom meeting that he supported transferring fighter jets to Ukraine from NATO allies in Eastern Europe.
‘Without engaging U.S. pilots in direct conflict with Russians, we can facilitate Ukrainian access to aircraft with which Ukrainian pilots are already trained and which are held in other Eastern European countries,’ he wrote.
‘I support getting Ukraine access to the fighter jets needed to confront Putin in the skies,’ added Doggett.
Ukrainian officials on Saturday blamed Russian shelling for breaching a ceasefire arranged in two cities in the country’s south to evacuate more than 200,000 civilians.
The struggle to enforce the ceasefire in the strategic port city Mariupol and Volnovakha showed the fragility of efforts to stop fighting across Ukraine, as the number of people fleeing the country reached 1.4million just 10 days after Russian forces invaded.
Putin accused Ukraine of sabotaging the evacuation and even claimed Ukraine’s leadership was calling into question the future of the country’s statehood, saying that ‘if this happens, it will be entirely on their conscience’.
Ukraine’s military claims that it has killed around 10,000 Russian troops since the invasion on February 24 – far beyond the 498 claimed by Moscow. Kyiv estimates that Russian losses also include 269 tanks, 105 artillery systems, 39 aircraft, 40 helicopters and 409 vehicles.
The Russian defence ministry said on Saturday that its units had opened humanitarian corridors near the two cities encircled by its troops for five hours between 12pm and 5pm Moscow time, Russia’s RIA news agency reported.
In Mariupol, citizens would be allowed to leave during a five-hour window, it quoted the city’s officials as saying. The Russian defence ministry said a broad offensive would then continue in Ukraine, RIA said.
The Ukrainian government said the plan was to evacuate around 200,000 people from Mariupol and 15,000 from Volnovakha, and the Red Cross would be the ceasefire’s guarantor.
The evacuation would have been seen as a prelude to a final assault that, if successful, would see the Russian army push north from occupied Crimea and link up with their forces from the east and take control of Ukraine’s coast on the Sea of Azov.
Since Russia invaded on February 24, Moscow has pummelled Ukrainian cities, with officials reporting hundreds of civilians killed. Europe’s largest atomic power plant has even come under attack sparking fears of a catastrophic nuclear accident. But Russia has so far only seized two key cities, Berdiansk and Kherson on Ukraine’s southern Black Sea coast.
Capturing Mariupol represents a bigger prize for Russian forces as it would deal a severe blow to Ukraine’s maritime access and connect with troops coming from annexed Crimea and the Donbas.
In comments carried on Ukrainian television, Mariupol mayor Vadym Boychenko said thousands of people had gathered for safe passage out of the city and buses were departing when shelling began.
‘We value the life of every inhabitant of Mariupol and we cannot risk it, so we stopped the evacuation,’ he said.
Before Russia announced the ceasefire, Ukraine had urged Moscow to create humanitarian corridors to allow children, women and the older adults to flee the fighting, calling them ‘question number one’.