Natl Security Adviser Bolton on Administration Strategy CSPAN November 14, 2018 10:42pm-11:36pm EST
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book tv. next national security advisor on the trump administration strategy on iran, north korea china and russia. from the alexander hamilton institute in washington, this is about 50 minutes. good afternoon. glad to be here. happy halloween. i see most important you kept your mustache despite the unrelenting pressure on you. it shows a lot about your spine . >> it turned white a long time ago. >> i thought we would start off , we have so many students here and aspiring foreign policy.
what you think has fundamentally changed now and what are some of the promises for some of our students and challenges that you didn't -- that you face. >> i started off as a lawyer. there's no better way to get into foreign policy than to do something else for a long time. for those that are interested in international affairs, this is a better time than there has ever been before. there didn't used to be too much alternative between joining the foreign service at the state department are joining the military and serving in post-overseas, but now i think an american business is so international that you have a much better opportunity to have a variety of career choices. i think where the government still fails however is in not encouraging and allowing movement back and forth between the government and the private sector.
i think that this would enhance both the government and the private sector if there was more movement back and forth. it is a very hard culture to overcome and not one you can reverse overnight. from the perspective of dealing with all kinds of international issues, the opportunities today are much broader for younger people. >> in terms of government service, a lot of people don't know this about you, the breath of government experience you have had being a lawyer in the justice department to being involved with the first goal for and writing the cease-fire solution and moving on to the administration as under secretary of state endowed national pfizer, what has changed? -- national security advisor, what has changed?
is really depressing to see the difficulty we have in making decisions, even complex decisions. it seemed to me in days gone by we are more decided rapidly. the number of things that require coordination that prevent rapid effective decision-making has become more and more difficult. another related issue is how hard it is for people from the outside to come in to the government. the excessive nature of the ethics checks, the kind of investigations people have to go through. if you were designing a system to discourage people from coming into the government, you would do exactly this way. and that risks building up a priestly class of people who only serve in the government, particularly when it comes to
policy. i believe that the virtue of american society historically has been fluidity, flexibility and the ability to move geographically in between jobs. to the extent you ward government off from the rest of the excited, i think you make a big mistake. >> are there any fixes for this? >> i think part of what needs to happen is a congress that is more willing to allow for the executive branch to make decisions that increase flexibility and reduce bureaucracy. that give the president greater authority to move budget levels around within departments and even between departments. i don't think that is very likely to happen. but if you recall in federalist number 70, alexander hamilton said the characteristic of the executive branch was decision, activity, secrecy and dispatch.
it doesn't sound like congress, this is a real problem. it is a problem internationally, and a problem domestically as well. >> moving on to the national security strategy and your role. i think one of the great innovations or transformations in the national security strategy was to name china and russia as revisionist powers and say we are in an era of great power competition and we are going to compete more vigorously. and i ran was mentioned -- i ron -- iran was mentioned. what would you do to carry that competition more vigorously forward? >> north korea is a threatening regional power as well. the most important thing is to
think strategically to begin with. to understand other powers in the world have their own plans and their own interests and are implementing them. we are not simply observing something and occasionally running into a problem. there are countries that have interest that are fundamentally adverse towers that we have to deal with. that is not to say that you don't see areas for cooperation. no one is looking for ceaseless competition. but to believe that history has ended as people said about 30 years ago, the geopolitical conflict has disappeared, that we are purely in an era of economics is fundamentally wrong. i don't want to say that we are back in the 19th century, we may be back in some century before that with far more lethal weapons available to the parties involved.
unless you are prepared to protect the united states interest by having our own strategy to deal with countries whose adverse interest becomes more apparent, we will suffer the question of china and russia getting too close or casting them as they both are strategic competitors, i think it's the fact that you mentioned to the russians that perhaps we should talk about china, i believe, that's what was reported . occasionally, press reports are correct. >>, informing them on the
treaty we should talk about the china threat. >> if you look at the geography and demography of east asia and in the case of russia you have a country with a huge landmass and substantial mineral resources and a small population. to itself is a country with constrained landmass, short on resources and a large population . >> so, one has to ask the russians, how long the situation will exist without them being in a potentially difficult position. so, i think the question looking, for example in the case of the intermediate range nuclear capable ballistic missiles, our estimate is
somewhere between 33 and 50% of china's missiles follow -- fall into that category but none of them can reach the united states. we all have our issues with countries on our southern border and russia's issues are more acute than ours are. so, i think this is a matter for russia to take seriously, i think it's something we should take seriously also. >> do you see evidence of the two great powers what rating much? >> i wouldn't exaggerate, and many respects there on the other side of some of the most important transactions, which necessarily means that while there interests appear to coincide but in fundamental terms they don't russia is an exporter of hydrocarbons and china is a major importer, russia sells advanced weapon systems and so far china buys
advanced weapon systems although i have complete confidence that they are doing to the russians the same thing they do too many american products and businesses, sealing their intellectual property, copying it, duplicating it and pretty soon they will sell the same weapon systems at prices lower than the russians well. >> on terms of true innovation, the other danger is if china and russia and iran, they do obviously cooperate but if three of those powers ever start to operate more, you don't see too much of it but is it a concern? >> i think one of the linkages between the strategic competitors of russia and china and the issues of iran and north korea, really do coincide in many respects and it's so important in dealing with north korea and dealing with iran is
that although the proliferation threats are more important, they have significant ties to the strategic threats as well. one day, history will tell us exactly how much of a contribution china and russia made respectively to the north korean and iranian nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs. we had a certain amount of evidence that we can speculate on, but a lot of these problems of proliferation derive initially from great power competition, the nuclear capabilities with india and pakistan going back to cold war days stemming in part from russia and chinese rivalry, and in the case in pakistan, we know from what we learned from the libya nuclear weapons program that the weapons design sold had chinese markings under it.
>> it's an important point. use the -- you see so many talks dealing with strategic forces and threats against south korea but that the reparation threat has not gone away imagine. generally speaking, in terms of global pleura for asian, how much difference do you see now from when you were in charge of those issues? >> i think the risk of proliferation and proliferation markets remains high. it's endemic that each new power its nuclear capabilities, the incentive of neighboring powers or others who have hostile interest rose mathematically.
the effort to stop proliferation and stop north korea's nuclear program is not just to deal with the threat of north korea the possibility of the onward transfer of both nuclear technology and nuclear weapons, and to stop iran before it gets to that point with implications in the middle east and with iran's capabilities but the risk they were also transferred in the future. >> the national defense strategy which was a support, really prioritized and secretary matta said china is near and away the competitor shaping the military to face and compete to stop them from doing things they don't like. how do you think about that? >> because you need to look
primarily at the strategic level , the importance of all of these things, before i joan the government because they were well done, is to be able to plan over a longer period of time, too often in the government, one problem as the clichi goes is what the crowds have important. it's not that the terrorists have ceased to exist but there's a lot of reason to believe in many respects it's become more difficult to find that the dangers are continuing to grow and in the perfect storm where they have weapons of mass destruction, the threat remains. if anything, i think what were saying is a spectrum of threats has grown and today we can say there are no threats from other great powers that existed for a short time in the 1990s after
communism collapsed, it was not true then, although didn't -- people didn't perceive it, but it's not true now. you have a range of threats from the terroristic threat up the great power competition and everything in between. that's why there's such a strain on resources and budget, to correct for eight years of under spending, dramatic under spending under obama, it's still very difficult to do even for an administration that's determined to try to make the military whole again. specs on the topic of the military budget, there certainly was a plus that for the coming fiscal year when others talk about going down after that and how seriously should we take that talk are you satisfied for where their military budget is headed . everyone will to 5% for the aggregate , will be 5% and some
of the house of outrage are coming from various parts of the government it is a fact that when your national debt gets to the level ours is that constitutes an economic threat to the society, and that kind of threat has a national security consequence for it, it just has to be that we can constrain government spending in ways that allow us to and on the priorities we need to. so, i think in the budget crafting now, you will see significant spending cuts but in the near-term the budget problem is in discretionary spending. entitlements come in a few years and the problem will have to be addressed but right now you can have significant impact on both the deficit and the national death by cutting government spending on
discretionary programs expect what you think that will do to the defense budget? >> in the near term it will flatten out and there's not much question about that. think a lot of emphasis is put on things like procurement reforms and finding ways to reduce costs across areas. i think in the reagan years when there was a big defense buildup, there was perhaps not so much emphasis on cost-cutting but that's the difference here. hopefully, although the budget may not be in an upward curve, the effect of spending money will increase . with switch gears but imagine one of the biggest changes you have to address in the cyber world and you've said some things and have a new strategy up, about a new approach to cyber and feeling
like the last administration will be too defensive in your approach. how do we deter -- how do we think about deterrence in the cyber world. >> we've recently published the first comprehensive federal government cyber strategy, >> this will reverse the obama administration on offensive cyber operations. this was a case of producing the procedural restrictions on undertaking offensive cyber operations. it doesn't mean that there's no holds barred environment, there are decision-making channels we go through and i think very
carefully protected channels but, the gridlock, the inability to do anything effectively has been eliminated and i think that's critical because i think if the adversaries can take steps and feel no consequences or pain and bear no cost, they have no incentives to to stop attacking us in cyberspace. the objectives is create structures of the term to make ever sizes -- make adversaries understand when they engage in activities themselves they were very disproportionate cost. they will think a lot harder before they launch a cyber operation. that's what we want to do. number two, i think we have to think of it in asymmetric terms.
they look at us and they don't say, well here is the cyber space over here and here's everything else over there. we can respond to a cyber attack with a non-cyber retaliation, they need to understand that to. the point we want to make publicly and what we can talk about is that we are prepared to undertake and we are right now undertaking offensive cyber operations with our electoral process and defending the overall integrity of information technology systems 50 adversaries better know that and understand it . just highlighting the good parts. do you see any reaction so far . it's too soon to tell. part of this is getting the word out that this is not the obama administration, although you might think they would have figured that out by now it never hurts to stress your brad and every once in a while, when someone notices that
something's gone wrong, they say the good old days are gone, they. >> the final question is to the executive director mentioned religious liberty, and the laying of the wreath, what is the role of human rights both as a tool of great power competition but also the intrinsic good for our national security policy . it's obviously a critical element that's why it's in the strategy. i was one of the original members of the commission on international religious freedom , what was established back in 2000, so, to me it's always been an important part of the policy. i think you have to look at it as part of the objectives that america seeks. we don't disguise and we shouldn't disguise and we shouldn't apologize for what our system does for freedom around the world. we have a lot of allies that
are not in the same position we are, it's not a value judgment it's a question of their own development and choice and we've got to keep the real objective in mind which is to protect american interests and those of our friends and allies around the world. >> in the great power competition your son should reaganite u.s. information agency and strategic operations were key. we don't really have that capacity anymore. i do believe there is a need for something like that, not to suggest new bureaucracy but some kind of capacity that can go at a diplomatic rather than
tactical level . it's critical. it's a sad commentary on the last two administrations, how much our capabilities have atrophied and i think we have to think long and hard on how to restore that. in terms of where it should be, i've been in the agency for international development and the state department in the arms control and disarmament agency, i would put it in the state department, i think that's where it should be but, this is a case where congress needs to work with the administration to make fundamental changes in the structures we have now . we will open us up to a few questions, there's a big crowd out here so we will keep the press for last. it's been a while, if you could ask a question quickly to save who you are and just ask your question so we can get everyone's questions in.
>> thank you for being here . do you think this is an issue and does the administration have plans to fix this problem by a successful use of force to demonstrate their willingness and chains of course, are we going to war anytime soon? >> no. if i were back in the think tank environment, i would be happy to have a discussion on that. if i tried to respond to your question in a serious way, the
press in this room would be writing stories that began with war. [ laughter ] someone else will ask another question. but, the point of the peace through strength approaches to avoid getting into a hostile confrontation, it's one reason you have a strong military and you need budget increases as the president has proposed. it's also to do with diplomatic posture and what you inspect -- expect and insist on and i think, for far too long we have encouraged the possibility of military action by our adversaries and their surrogates because of our military weakness and diplomatic weakness. let me give you a case study,
it is beyond question, a view shared by every nato ally that russia is in breach of the treaty. they've been in breach for six years if not more. >> the response of the obama administration, the palpable violations of the treaty was simply to keep talking. we are at a point in terms of russian violations, where the president has decided we will get out of the treaty. people have said, my goodness, can't you bring the russians back in compliance? let's review the bidding. the american position is the
russians are in violation of the treaty. the russian position is they are not in violation of the treaty. how do you bring the russians back into compliance when they don't think they're out of compliance to begin with? that's the reason the president made it clear 10 days ago that we would withdraw from the treaty, i think that would be justifiable if i didn't have to mention china. i could also mention words like i won in north korea. the reason is, leaving aside some of the successor states of the soviet union, the only two states banned by the inf treaty are russia and the united states. it's our view that, the russians have violated and withdrawn from the treaty. so, that leaves one country bound by the inf treaty and we are sitting in it. think about that.
if we had successfully launched an effort, 10 or 12 years ago to bring china into the inf treaty, to universalize it, we might be in a different circumstance. is there a person in the room who thinks china will destroy half of their ballistic missile capability to come into a universalize inf treaty? the diplomatic response to repeated treaty violation, the diplomatic response to other countries taking advantage of not being bound by the treaties operation, response by the obama administration was zero, what encouragement does that give to adversaries that says, cheat and succeed. don't enter into treaties with the united states and succeed. what we will say is if you're in a treaty with the united states we will abide by and have more lawyers per capita than any other defense in history of the world and we couldn't violate a treaty if we wanted to.
anyone else who wants to sign a treaty with the united states will adhere to it or there will be consequences. >> on the inf, how soon would we be able to build our own cruise missiles? spase this is one of the reasons the inf treaty is a relic of the cold war, because air or sea launched cruise missiles are not in violation of the treaty but if you put them on the ground in europe, they are in violation of the treaty. it really wouldn't take much in terms of research and development. this is permitted under the treaty. at some point we give formal notice of with draw and material breach and then we are in a position not to comply with the treaty, but that will follow here in due course. >> this will hurt a lot of feelings. >> how closely intertwined is
the national defense strategy as it concerns china along with the economic strategy because right now the leaderships are focused on the plan that's more about the economic side and how much of an alliance approach are we using because it seems on the economic side of the anti-china treaty, we've left our allies out of the picture, how will that be done . on tpp, let's be clear, hillary clinton said she would get out of the tpp again. the two major contenders, neither one of them believe the tpp . hillary may not have been telling the troth -- the truth, she would have withdrawn as well i think. >> i think that the tariffs
that the trump administration has imposed are really an economic version imposed on china. and economic version of what we've done the inf treaty. i remember vividly the arguments made when china came in by bringing it into the wto, international norms would pressure chinese behavior, things would change, they would become a more market oriented rules based society and instead for nearly 20 years, they've continued to steal her international property, engaged in force technology transfers, discriminated against foreign trade and investment and judicial decisions and donald trump called them on and said, you're not going to get away with it anymore. for all the other disagreements on economic issues, they feel the same pain from chinese behavior in it and technology
transfer and, i would say, the assessment is that china is amazed at what the trump administration sent. what are these people doing? they are getting away with it it's not in the game plan. the not supposed to do this. they're supposed to sit back and take it. i think it's caused a lot of hurt feelings that we are not a well bred doormat and i think it will produce some changes in behavior. >> i am a free trader like alexander hamilton. >> back in february you wrote in wall street journal about
the first strike and justification, i'm wondering if your thinking has changed, especially if negotiations are no longer ongoing, what do you think about military options? >> i've written, instead, a lot of things over the years and i still believe everyone of them but, i don't compare what i said back when i was a free spirit with what i say now is a national security advisor because i'm in a different place. i give my advice to the president and he decides what he's gonna do. i like to say on the national security advisor that we are launched on a course with north korea to the president is determined and optimistic in mike pompeo has been working as hard as anybody i know can work on this and continues to do so and that is the course we are on. if we could get north korea to
denuclearize, in a serious and permanent way, it would be a huge achievement and would warrant donald trump getting the nobel peace prize . if you were a think tank or -- [ laughter ] what would you be writing about right now i won't do that. >> openness set to josh roe but. >> thank you very much. next week the trump administration will impose new sanctions countries that refused to reduce the influence of oil. the two top countries, china and india said they clearly would not do that, are you going to sanction them or give them waivers and either way, how do you presume to get a back to the table to get a better deal than obama got if
the pressure is less than what obama was able to achieve? >> i think the pressure that's been exerted by the sanctions already in place and by the threat of these sanctions coming back into play has already had a greater effect on iran even in the sanctions with europe under the security council resolutions. i think because sanctions were imposed over a period of years and a gradual fashion, the regime was able to react to sanctions, mitigate the effects and hunker down and work their way through it. when the nuclear deal took effect in 2015, i think the sanctions came off and they said it's a new era and forgot all their mitigation techniques and were hunker down, so when we reimpose the sanctions they were ready i don't think they are ready for it now. i think you can see the consequences and continuing collapse of the currency and the demonstrations that began before we left the deal in
december last year but continuing all around the country. i think it's really a very different environment than before. in terms of how we deal with the specific imposition of sanctions coming next week the president said unmistakably the goal is maximum pressure and that it would be to drive oil exports to zero. we understand a number of countries immediately surrounding and others purchasing oil. you may not be able to go all the way to zero immediately but we want to achieve maximum pressure and we are working our way through that. i think it's important that we not relax in the effort and i think are already you see reduction in purchases in countries like china that you would not have expected a country still in the nuclear
deal. we've also seen chinese financial institutions with drawing from transactions with iran and european businesses are fleeing the market most of the big ones are out. i think the consequences continue and if you just look at the behavior in a nonnuclear area, you saw the conspiracy to attack the rally in paris, resulting in the arrest of several diplomats indictments against the agent scooping out israeli targets and jewish targets in america, just yesterday we saw the danish government announced the arrest of more iranian intelligence officials planning an assassination in denmark so, i think the awareness that this regime was not fundamentally
changed by the 2015 nuclear deal, it failed in its foundational premise, if you could only solve the new year issue everything else would be resolved, i think the pressure is growing and people understand there has to be fundamental change in the behavior to get them to come back to the table and that's what they're after. just to be clear, when the president says maximum pressure, i read maximum pressure to mean maximum pressure. >> we have a question over here . my name is aaron o'malley with fox news. i'm wondering if you could say one thing, what is the top item on the agenda for the presidents meeting with putin next weekend? >> i think it will be brief, it looks like there will be other opportunities but, the reason
that he has sent me twice to moscow and to meet with my counterpart on other occasions, is that he thinks despite all the political dust in this country about interference and collusion and so on, that it's important to have sustained diplomatic engagement with them. that's the reason he went to helsinki and the reason we still talk about it and there are lots of issues to discuss the inf treaty is one of them and we have other arms-control issues but we have their behavior in the middle east and a whole range of other areas and it's important we continue conversations. >> just a follow-up, not to obsess about china but that's what i do for a living, did putin or anyone else you talk to in russia have any reactions to your suggestion there should be more talks about a common approach on some strategic issues related to china .
it was to talk about what it means to see china in its current -- pursuing current policies which in the south china sea are near belligerent but in the east china sea, engaged in behavior that's very troubling to japan, taiwan and others, traveling to india in their part of asia, troubling to the central asian republic. so, i think it's important to have the conversation, if you're not speaking with the russians at a senior level, you can't really do that. >> this gentleman was very patient. [indiscernible - low volume] >> that's why he kept it [ laughter ] there was a big
market change in the oil business and the prices, how much does this play a role to establish the market and for the danish operation that was countered by the swedish and the danish intelligence, do you think that will help you to convince your counterparties in europe, to take a better approach her pro-american approach -- or a pro-american approach? back one of the things the administration has done that obama did not do was attempt to encourage other producers to alter their production to make up for drops in output from moran. there are chemical differences in oil and refineries have different capabilities so it's been an interesting. to be able
to engage, we look for others and we think we have more success, and that stabilizes the international price of oil and eliminates the need for countries to rely on are on -- on iran. the terrorist behavior, ronald reagan designated iran as the first state to sponsor terrorism and what they are engaged in now is out right terrorism as a state itself. they aren't sponsoring terrorism, these are terrorist acts they're planning. i think the friend in europe take a look at this and i think it makes unfortunately persuasive evidence that it's not just the nuclear threat of iran that one of the mistakes of the nuclear deal is that it didn't address the other aspects of the maligned behavior .
>> quickly on that point. no one has asked about saudi arabia . so the question about iran and saudi arabia, we have clear national security interest in keeping saudi arabia on our side in the iran coalition in the gulf but we also have human right's concerns how do you see the balance playing out in real time . we said unmistakably the president and secretary pompeo has an i have and others have, that we expect them to get to the bottom of this and expect accountability for what happened , which is criminal without any question. they have promised to do that. they have gone a long way already and we will see what the next steps are. but, as the president said, this is an important relationship goes back to
franklin roosevelt and has significance, not just in the issue of iran but in a wide variety of other ways as well. >> thank you for your remark's. if i could follow up on saudi arabia. obviously, the murder of jamaal to go see -- jamaal to kosi has brought up the issue of human rights and the situation with cutter. i'm wondering in light of that is there a larger discussion with saudi arabia right now about the whole actions of saudi arabia and how that relationship will go forward, as you said there's are a lot of strategic interest involved but there's also a lot of concern that haven't been addressed and now might be the opportunity for a wider discussion . you mentioned yemen and i
think secretary pompeo put statements out on that yesterday and i think there is a whole range of issues that we do discuss, i also think it's important to look at the records of other countries in the region which are not filled with jeffersonian democrats. so you can be upset about the human rights record of an american friend, but that doesn't mean that the adversaries human rights record is any better and just to recall what dean kilpatrick said about that in her famous article and commentary that the possibility of change in the right direction is far more present in our allies than in some of our adversaries. >> we are running out of time or we are about to, about two years left or 2 1/2 years for
this term and, what would you say looking back after a few years if you could achieve three things, what would they be and what would you call them? to win a successful term . >> getting out of the iran nuclear deal, out of the inf treaty, number three to be determined . >> thank you so much. >> glad to be here . this was a great thing for our students and for the alexander hamilton site in general and we enjoyed you coming by and speaking with us . it's my pleasure. good luck to the society. it's a great organization. [ applause ]. >> thank you.
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