John Bolton’s departure as the president’s national security adviser removes one source of American tension with the world. But it means that Donald Trump may increasingly shape US foreign policy himself.
Longtime hawk Bolton — fired by Trump citing disagreements on policy — was a key enabler for the president to take a hard line on Iran and North Korea.
Yet while Bolton is a believer in foreign policy as a tool to combat regimes he perceives as a threat to US strategic power, Trump tends to see overseas dealings through the prism of advancing US economic interests.
That increasingly put them at odds as Trump met with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, planned a meeting — later nixed — with the Taliban and now flirts with the idea of seeing Iran’s Hassan Rouhani.
Trump also has a more relaxed view of Vladimir Putin of Russia. Much now depends on who becomes the fourth national security adviser to serve Trump, and how quickly.
In the short term, Bolton’s demise may strengthen Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, a Trump loyalist, and leave rulers Bolton detests breathing easier. But it also removes a brake on Trump recalibrating foreign policy in even more disruptive ways.