Ambassador John Bolton, the former US National Security Adviser to President Donald Trump, held an exclusive interview with Al-Masry Al-Youm, discussing a variety of topics from the Russian-Ukraine crisis, Iran’s new nuclear deal, and the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam dispute.
Ambassador Bolton said that Europe is facing its biggest war since World War II.
He explained that he believes China may help Russia in the war in Ukraine because they will expect Russia to help them and conflicts they may provoke in the Indo-Pacific.
The ambassador also revealed that the US administration, during his service at the White House saw the threats facing the water supplies to Egypt and Sudan due to the Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, noting that it is in the interest of the US and everyone’s interest to work without delay to resolve this problem.
“During my service at the White House we saw the threat to Egypt’s water supply and Sudan’s that’s very serious and I don’t think it’s in anybody’s interest to see this delayed or postponed to work to resolve this uncertainty,” he said.
Regarding the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Ambassador Bolton, who also previously served as the US ambassador to the United Nations, indicated that the nuclear threat previously announced by Russian President Vladimir Putin was closer to a bluff, as it was not the Russian announcement of raising the degree of nuclear readiness accompanied by any operational changes in the Russian nuclear forces.
However, he warned it is foolish to rule out any possibility that the Russians might resort to saving their military reputation in the Ukrainian quagmire.
Ambassador Bolton also expressed his pessimism about the nuclear deal with Iran, which is expected to be announced soon as White House officials had previously announced, stressing that the new nuclear deal with Iran might be worse than the original one.
On the Russian invasion of Ukraine:
Al-Masry Al-Youm (AMAY): The fluctuations in the international scene make it difficult to predict the next step for all parties. Is the world facing a new cold war or the beginning of world war III?
Ambassador Bolton: Well, first of all, I don’t think it’s the beginning of World War III in the sense that the conflict will widen. I think the Russians will try to confine the conflict to Ukraine. It is true that Moscow waged an actual war against the whole West, by invading Ukraine. It is also true that Ukraine is not a member of NATO, but the security of Ukraine is critical to the security of Europe and to the many members of NATO that are very close geographically. Therefore, the Russian invasion of Ukraine was a very dangerous event and a revealing moment not only for the US but for the future of NATO as well.
It is clear that the decision to invade Ukraine focuses attention on the future of the entire NATO alliance, as it will have significant global repercussions, given the recent Russian aspirations to re-expand its influence across the countries of the Middle East, as well as the developing relationship between Russia and China, where China may help Russia Indirectly behind the scenes of the conflict in Ukraine, I think they expect Russia to help them in the conflicts they might provoke in the Indo-Pacific.
In general, I think that the Russian invasion of Ukraine is a manifestation of a general reorganization of power at the international and global levels.
AMAY: US State Department officials said recently that the doors of diplomacy are still open to solve the Ukrainian crisis. How do you see that?
Bolton: I really don’t see where diplomacy will go at the moment. British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said a few days ago that she was skeptical of diplomacy and I must say I am too.
As we speak, it has been more than three weeks since the war and they are bogged down in the quagmire.
Their advance toward the capital, Kyiv, has stalled, and their gains are limited. I wouldn’t be much surprised if Putin agreed to negotiate now without being able to declare some kind of victory that would help restore the Russian army’s badly damaged reputation. I don’t rule out a ceasefire, or any Russian advance in the territories. Ukrainian needs resupply and regrouping of Russian forces.
The impressive Ukrainian resistance not only demonstrated the expected Russian failure to achieve the objectives of Moscow’s operations in Ukraine, but Russia suffered a setback at the military level that was certainly not expected even in the US. Russia’s military invasion of Ukraine revealed real weaknesses in Russia’s military capabilities.
AMAY: Putin has ordered Russia’s strategic nuclear forces to raise their alert status, and the talking about Ukrainian chemical weapons indicates that Moscow setting the stage to use chemical weapons in Ukraine. In your opinion, How far will Moscow go in Ukraine?
Bolton: Well, I think with so much at stake, it would be foolish to rule any possibility out of what the Russians might do.
And it’s obviously these would be very significant, but very dangerous consequences. But I also think it’s important to be clear-eyed and clear-headed about what’s a Russian threat? What’s a bluff and what’s, what’s a real possibility. And I have to say right now, for example, when Putin said he was going to raise the alert status of Russia’s nuclear forces It proved it produced a reaction in the west of many people were very afraid. But at the heads of US intelligence agencies testified before Congress last week that they saw no evidence of any operational change in Russia’s nuclear forces, meaning it was a bluff.
So that’s it’s not in any way to understate the gravity of a real threat. But it is to say you can’t take everything that Putin says or anybody else for that matter. Simply at face value. You have to evaluate the facts that you have in front of us.
AMAY: Back to the Middle East, you know, some experts said that the US will abandon its friends and allies like what happened before, in Afghanistan and is happening now in Ukraine. How do you see the US commitments in the Middle East?
Bolton: Well, look, there’s obviously disagreement within the US about what is the best policy to pursue our own peace and security and that of our allies as well. And I make no disguise about the fact that I think the decision to withdraw from Afghanistan by the US and NATO was a catastrophic strategic mistake and I think that those who say that the Middle East is no longer of vital importance to the US make a similar mistake. Just like I think those who say that Ukraine is not in US national interest or making mistakes.
So I can’t, I can’t say what the Biden administration is going to do with respect to the Middle East, I fear, for example, in just days, perhaps they’re going to try and re-enter the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which I thought was a bad agreement at the time. And work when I was in the Trump administration to withdraw from the deal. And I think re-entry is a bad idea. But I think there are many, many people and I think a real majority in the US that think that our interest in the Middle East is even greater than before. Because of these threats from Russia and China.
The nuclear deal with Iran:
AMAY: Ambassador Bolton, given that you were the US President’s national security advisor during the withdrawal from the first nuclear deal with Iran, and last week the White House mentioned that the new agreement with Iran is very close. Why do you think that the deal with Iran will have negative results?
Bolton: The original deal was flawed from the beginning. I’m not even going to address the question of Iranian violations of the deal of which there were many. We did not have adequate verification there are probably a lot more things that Iran has done since the deal and since the withdrawal from the deal than we know about, but it’s the central element of the deal itself. That’s the original sin. And that is permitting the government of Iran to enrich uranium even to reactor-grade levels.
This is hard for many people to understand, but it’s a basic matter of physics, that when you allow the enrichment of uranium to reactor-grade levels, you have done 70 percent of the enrichment work to get to weapons-grade enriched uranium. So that’s why when the US licenses nuclear technology, even to friends and allies for use in peaceful nuclear reactors, we insist that the country give up any possibility of enriching uranium or reprocessing plutonium.
These are conditions we impose on our best trends. So to allow Iran to have this capability means the whole deal essentially allows them to get very, very close to weapons capability, even assuming we know everything that they’re doing. And history has recently proved we don’t know everything that other countries are doing or where they’re doing. So I consider the original deal fatally flawed.
I consider this deal even worse, but still fatally flawed for exactly the same reason.
You have to remember a statement attributed to Winston Churchill and he may have said it, maybe not but he once said “You can always count on the Americans to do the right thing. Usually after they’ve tried everything else”.
So the Biden administration has to be understood as trying everything else, period. But I remain confident that the country as a whole understands the importance of a consistent and strong US policy in its own interest – and in the interests of its friends and allies.
AMAY: But some experts said Washington was actually rushing toward this agreement in hope that Iranian oil will hit the market and lowers prices. How do you respond?
Bolton: Well, I have heard those same stories. I believe they are true. I think the Biden administration representatives have talked to Iran about purchases in the range of 10 million barrels per day, which I don’t think Iran is capable of producing at the present time, but that’s what they’ve talked about.
And it’s borne out by water-confirmed efforts to talk to the Maduro regime in Venezuela, which is still at least nominally US policy to overthrow so that the people of Venezuela cells can elect their own government, but the Maduro regime was approached for the same reason to see if something could be done to allow the Biden administration to lift the sanctions.
In the midst of this, trying to respond to this unprovoked aggression by Russia, by sanctioning Russia’s energy sector, which is exactly the right thing to do, our government would look at the answer to the client’s supply of oil by calling to Iran and Venezuela.
I think we haven’t seen this play out in Washington yet, but I think the overall reaction was negative. That certainly on the Venezuela side, the White House has backed away and said no, no, we’re not going to change anything but Venezuela, if this deal with Iran is announced and I expect really a very, very strong negative reaction. I think the political consequences for the Biden White House are going to be very, very dramatic.
The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam:
AMAY: Ambassador Bolton, as you know Egypt has a water problem, not only because of the Ethiopian dam, which may endanger the Nile River supplies to Egypt but also because of climate change and population growth. How do you see the position of the Biden administration in this crisis between Egypt And Ethiopia?
Bolton: Well, you know, this is something that came up during my service at the White House in the Trump administration. And I think the threat to Egypt’s water supply and Sudan is very serious.
The Horn of Africa has not received enough attention for a long time, this crisis must be dealt with in an equitable way for each party in the Nile River Basin.
I think that the Biden administration knows very well that the Nile River resource is a very important resource for the economies of the Nile Basin countries, so I think it is important for the US here with our strong friendship with Egypt to work with Cairo and make sure that this issue is resolved satisfactorily for all parties, as soon as possible.
I don’t think it’s in anybody’s interest to see this delayed or postponed. I think helping to establish a good economic environment in all the countries affected means resolving this uncertainty as soon as possible.