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Donald Trump replaces HR McMaster with John Bolton as national security adviser

Bolton served as US ambassador to the UN from 2005 to 2006 and under secretary of state for arms control and international security from 2001 to 2005 -- both stints under President George W Bush.

world Updated: Mar 23, 2018 17:32 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Washington, Hindustan Times
National Security Adviser,Donald Trump,US president
Combination of photos of former US ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton (L) and former White House National Security Advisor HR McMaster. (Reuters file photo)

US president Donald Trump announced on Thursday that John Bolton, a hawkish former US ambassador to the United Nations, will replace HR McMaster, a serving general who will leave office mid-April, as his next National Security Adviser (NSA).

Bolton will be Trump’s third NSA during his 15 months in office. The first was retired general Michael Flynn, who was fired after three weeks on the job for lying about his contacts with Russian officials.

Bolton served as US ambassador to the UN from 2005 to 2006 and under secretary of state for arms control and international security from 2001 to 2005 -- both stints under President George W Bush, the last Republican in the White House before Trump. He has since been a prolific columnist and TV pundit.

“I am pleased to announce that, effective 4/9/18 (April 8), @AmbJohnBolton will be my new National Security Advisor,” Trump announced on Twitter. “I am very thankful for the service of General H.R. McMaster who has done an outstanding job & will always remain my friend.”

In a statement, Trump said about McMaster: “He helped develop our America First National Security Strategy, revitalise our alliances in the Middle East, smash ISIS, bring North Korea to the table, and strengthen our nation’s prosperity.”

The two men never got long though, according to reports. Trump found McMaster “too stiff” and his briefings too long.

General McMaster, in a statement provided by the White House, said he was “requesting retirement from the US army” and that he was “thankful” to the president for giving him the opportunity to serve as the NSA. He added that he worked with his team “to provide the president with the best options to protect and advance our national interests”.

McMaster’s departure came after days of unrelenting speculation punctuated by pro forma denials and assurances of the president’s continued trust and fait, as has become the pattern for senior-level exits from the White House.

From India’s perspective, McMaster and his team at the National Security Council had been unrelenting in pressing Pakistan to do more to combat terrorism and terrorist outfits taking shelter on its soil, personally delivering the Trump administration’s tough new approach in a visit to Islamabad.

Bolton, who was part of President George W Bush’s administration that had pitched for closer ties with India, is not a friend of Pakistan but has pushed for a different approach. He counselled caution in pressing Pakistan beyond a point, departing from President Trump’s position.

“He is one of those who would like to give Pakistan time to change,” said Aparna Pande, a South Asia expert with Hudson Institute, a leading US think-tank.

In an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal in August 2017, just a week after President Trump had unveiled a tough approach towards Pakistan as part of his new South Asia strategy, Bolton had called for caution. “Putting too much pressure on Pakistan risks further destabilising the already volatile country, tipping it into the hands of domestic radical Islamicists, who grow stronger by the day.”

Bolton had gone on to suggest that the Trump administration should hold China accountable for Pakistan’s nuclear weapons and for turning a blind eye to its flagrant support of terrorism, including in Kashmir, and “induce (it) to join the world in telling Pakistan it must sever ties with terrorists and close their sanctuaries”.

China has done just the opposite so far and has, for instance, shielded Pakistan-based Masood Azhar from UN designation as a terrorist sought by the US and other western powers and India.

Bolton might change his views once in office, as he might have to on other issues on which he has differed with the president openly, such as North Korea. Bolton doesn’t believe talks would work, and has long supported a military solution. Trump wants to talk, and recently accepted an invitation from Kim Jong-un to a meeting.

Bolton also supported US invasion of Iraq 2003, and still does. President Trump, who had once supported it, has since insisted he was one of its earliest critics. And has called the war “the single worst decision ever made”.

They agree on Iran, on the other hand, and both believe the Iran deal is bad. Bolton has the agreement “the diplomatic Waterloo Mr Obama negotiated”, and has called for the United States to pull out if it.

First Published: Mar 23, 2018 08:16 IST