The sudden ouster of John Bolton as Donald Trump’s national security adviser has been met with varying reactions from leaders around the world. Notably hawkish on Iran, Bolton had been a key opponent of holding talks with leaders in Tehran.
Trump and Bolton, known for his hawkish views, had disagreed on key foreign policy challenges including Russia, North Korea, Iran and Afghanistan. Last year Bolton masterminded a quiet campaign inside the administration – and with allies abroad – to persuade Trump to keep US forces in Syria to counter the remnants of the Islamic State group and Iranian influence in the region.
According to US media reports, the president’s extraordinary, failed bid to fly Taliban leaders to the presidential retreat at Camp David last weekend sparked a major and final row.
But Secretary of State Mike Pompeo cautioned that Bolton’s exit should not be interpreted as heralding a change in strategy.
“I don’t think any leader around the world should make any assumption that because someone of us departs that President Trump’s foreign policy will change in a material way,” Pompeo told reporters.
A replacement – the White House’s fourth national security chief in less than three years – would be named next week, Trump said.
Officials in several countries welcomed Bolton’s departure while others played down its importance.
Iranian government spokesman Ali Rabiei responded to the news with a tweet: “John Bolton had promised months ago that Iran would last for another three months. We are still standing and he is gone. With the expulsion of the biggest proponent of war and economic terrorism, the White House will face fewer obstacles in understanding Iran’s realities.” He later called Bolton “the symbol of America’s hawkish policies and its animosity toward Iran”.
As a private citizen Bolton had gone as far as to advocate military action to destroy Iran’s nuclear programme. In 2015 he wrote an opinion piece in The New York Times bluntly headlined, “To Stop Iran’s Bomb, Bomb Iran.” He has also argued for driving Iranian oil exports to zero and was strongly against Trump’s recent offer to meet Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.
Bolton’s departure from the White House removes an obstacle to the possibility of US-Iranian nuclear talks, but the odds of such a dialogue leading anywhere concrete remain low.
Rouhani, for his part, signaled his approval of the firing by urging the US to “put warmongers aside”.
So far European leaders have remained largely circumspect about how Bolton’s departure might affect relations with the bloc. But Norbert Roettgen, chairman of the foreign policy commission of the German parliament and a senior lawmaker from Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union party, cautiously welcomed the move, telling Reuters: “It is an opportunity, not least for the trans-Atlantic relationship.”
Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said he had “no expectation” that relations with the US would improve anytime soon.
“We have observed several times in the past that changes in the US administration bring no improvement,” he told the Novosti news agency. “We judge on acts, not declarations or intentions. When we see progress, then we can say that something has changed.”
Bolton has championed one of Trump’s biggest foreign policy pushes, seeking to topple Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, a leftist who presides over a crumbling economy.
Officials in Venezuela, some of whom had personal beefs with Bolton, greeted the news with unfettered joy. “The historical truth has vanquished the demons of war!” Minister of Industry Tareck El Aissami, who had been singled out by Bolton for his alleged involvement in drug trafficking, crowed on Twitter.
In November, Bolton undiplomatically said during an address to veterans of the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba that Venezuela was now part of a “troika of tyranny” along with Cuba and Nicaragua.
“On days like this, the Comandate would treat himself to some sweet papaya,” said another senior official, referring to the late President Hugo Chavez’s love for a traditional Venezuelan dessert and suggesting celebrations were in order.
While North Korea has thus far refrained from issuing an official response, officials have made their feelings about Bolton clear in the past, having denounced him as a “war maniac” and as “human scum”.
His own criticism of the totalitarian state goes far back. In 2003 Bolton, then a State Department official, called then leader Kim Jong Il a “tyrannical dictator”.
Trump ‘frustrated and angry’ that Americans care more about COVID-19 than his Biden smears: White House reporter
President Donald Trump sees himself as the real victim of the coronavirus pandemic, and a White House correspondent says that's why he can't show sympathy for the 100,000 dead.
The president just can't bring himself to act as "consoler-in-chief," Associated Press reporter Jonathan Lemire told MSNBC's "Morning Joe," because he's frustrated over COVID-19's damage to his re-election campaign strategy.
"This is a president who has been from the very beginning of this crisis has been frustrated and angry this has happened to him, and ill-prepared," Lemire said. "He was going into this year expecting to run for re-election on the back of a strong economy against what he thought would be a weak Democratic foe, and that all went away."
Brazil leads daily virus deaths for fifth straight day
Brazil reported the highest daily COVID-19 death toll in the world Tuesday with 1,039 people killed, the fifth straight day the country has topped the list.
Latin America's largest country, which has emerged as a new epicenter in the coronavirus pandemic, has seen its daily death toll surge past that of the United States, the hardest-hit country so far.
The US recorded a death toll of 657 in the past 24 hours, said the Johns Hopkins University tracker. That was the third day in a row it had come in under 700, bringing the country's overall toll to 98,875 deaths.
Meanwhile, Brazil's daily death toll has passed 1,000 four times since the pandemic accelerated in the country a week ago.
Virus takes toll on mental health of Europe’s medics
Steve, a paramedic in northeast England, contracted the coronavirus two months ago. Then his wife fell ill. Both recovered but throughout they were concerned about passing it on to their two young sons.
"On my return to work, I couldn't sleep properly, as I was worried that I could still bring the virus home and that I could still get it again," the 46-year-old told AFP.
"I never thought I would ever have to work on the front line in a pandemic. I do wish it was just a dream and when I wake up the world will be back to how it was."