APNSA John Bolton with Echo Moskvy’s Olga Bychkova
October 22, 2018
Echo Moskvy: Mr. Bolton, have you announced, have you confirmed to the Russian side the
U.S. intention to withdraw from the INF?
Ambassador John Bolton: We had a very extensive discussion today on a number of arms
control issues and the President’s remarks in Nevada on Saturday. Obviously we discussed. I
said they were a very strong, very clear, very decisive statement of his position that we would be
eager to consult with them about how this would play out. We’ll be consulting with others as
well and go from there.
Echo Moskvy: Why the discussion about the INF now, not before, not last year?
Ambassador John Bolton: Well the questions that we’ve been confronting have been
developing for quite some time. It’s been the position of the United States for approximately five
years that Russia was in violation of the INF treaty because of certain missiles that it was
developing, producing and deploying. This was the position of the Obama administration; this
has been the position of the Trump administration. And we concluded that Russia was
determined to have intermediate range capability. Given that it has been Russia’s consistent
position that they are not in violation of the arms control treaty, that you could, as some have
suggested, bring Russia back into compliance. Because if Russia says it’s not violating the INF
treaty, what are they going to do to change their behavior to comply? But there is a larger
question here – I think one that applies to both Russia and the United States – and that’s the
countries that are producing intermediate range ballistic missiles and cruise missiles right now,
specifically Iran, China and North Korea. We have this very unusual circumstance where the
United States and Russia are in a bilateral treaty, whereas other countries in the world are not
bound by it. Now some of the successor states to the Soviet Union are bound by it, but it’s really
only Russia that has the wherewithal to have this kind of program. So it has been the view of the
United States, in effect, that only two countries were bound by the INF treaty. The U.S. view, as
I say, going back to Barack Obama, was that Russia was in violation which meant there was only
one country bound by the INF treaty and that was the United States. That, in effect, is what
President Trump said in Nevada on Saturday.
Echo Moskvy: And what is the next step?
Ambassador John Bolton: Well the next step is that we’re consulting with friends in Europe
and in Asia. We’ll have further consultations with Russia. This obviously affects our
discussions on other strategic issues, and, I expect, a lot of diplomacy over the coming months.
Echo Moskvy: European nations have their objections.
Ambassador John Bolton: Well and that’s one of the reasons we will be consulting with them.
In fact, started that process in Europe and in Asia where of course many of our friends and allies
are affected by China’s IRBM capabilities. And they were very happy to hear, in fact, of the
president’s decision. So, this is something that personally I have been through before. I was here
in Moscow in 2001 as the lead U.S. negotiator in withdrawing from the ABM treaty, and we
went through many of the same kinds of reactions and consultations then.
Echo Moskvy: What does China think about it?
Ambassador John Bolton: Well, China has taken the position just in the last twenty-four hours
that it hopes the United States remains in the INF treaty. And that’s perfectly understandable. If
I were Chinese, I would say the same thing. Why not have the Americans bound, and the
Chinese not bound?
Echo Moskvy: What will happen to the START Treaty?
Ambassador John Bolton: Well the U.S. government is currently considering its position on a
new START. We have discussed in my meeting with Nikolai Patrushev today; we had a
preliminary discussion in Geneva in August. We’ve discussed various possibilities around the
new START treaty, what may happen, but the U.S. government as I say does not have a position
that we’re prepared to negotiate. So, these are hypothetical discussions and exchanges of views
so that we can understand the Russian position better and they can get some insight into our
Echo Moskvy: And that will be continued?
Ambassador John Bolton: Yes, the treaty doesn’t expire until early in 2021, so we have plenty
Echo Moskvy: Why is the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman better than Putin?
Ambassador John Bolton: I don’t know that anybody’s arguing he is better than Putin. Do you
know something I don’t know?
Echo Moskvy: Your opinion – political motives, cyberattacks, political pressure on political
opponents and so on. But on 2001, President Bush looked the man, President Putin, in the eye
and and saw his soul. Does President Trump look into bin Salman’s soul, not Putin’s soul?
Ambassador John Bolton: I think what the president has said repeatedly on the subject, to the
crown prince and to the King directly, as well as publicly, is that we need the truth on this. And
he has heard both the king and the crown prince deny that they had any involvement in this
tragedy. Secretary of State Pompeo has just come back from Saudi Arabia where he met with
both of them and is in, really, continuing discussions. We need to get to the bottom of this, and
we need to have a truthful explanation.
Echo Moskvy: Could you imagine that anything could happen anywhere without the knowledge
of the Crown Prince?
Ambassador John Bolton: Well I’d rather not speculate about it. As you know, I’m a lawyer by
training, and I like to see the evidence, I like to see all the facts. As I say both to the president
directly and in public, the crown prince and the king of denied any involvement. So we need to
let them conduct their investigation. They’ve already issued a report. Secretary of State Pompeo
has already been in contact with them, and we’re continuing to work it.
Echo Moskvy: If he’s involved, what should be done with the Saudis for the murder of Jamal
Khashoggi? What answer will be adequate?
Ambassador John Bolton: Well I’d rather not get into hypotheticals. What we have now are
flat denials by the King and the Crown Prince, and we’re looking for the facts. The facts will
determine what our reaction is.
Echo Moskvy: Sanctions?
Ambassador John Bolton: As I said, I’d rather not get into hypotheticals.
Echo Moskvy: The Justice Department just indicted a woman for Russia’s meddling in the U.S.
elections. What do you think is the most effective way to stop Russia?
Ambassador John Bolton: Well, I raised this question of meddling in U.S. elections again
today. And I understand the Russian position that Russian citizens keep getting indicted for it in
the United States, which is a judgment by the prosecutors that they can prove guilt beyond a
reasonable doubt, which is the standard we have in our judicial system. The point I made to
Russian colleagues today was that I didn’t think, whatever they had done in terms of meddling in
the 2016 election, that they had any effect on it, but what they have had an effect in the United
States is to sow enormous distrust of Russia. And it’s a major obstacle to achieving agreement
on issues where our national interest may converge, so I said, just from a very cold blooded cost
benefit ratio, that you shouldn’t meddle in our elections because you’re not advancing Russian
interest, and I hope that was persuasive to them.
Echo Moskvy: Did you discuss it today?
Ambassador John Bolton: Yes I did. I made a point I just just made.
Echo Moskvy: And what was the result?
Ambassador John Bolton: They listened very carefully, I hope.
Echo Moskvy: The United States imposed sanctions against Russia, but new sanctions on Iran,
increases oil prices. And it’s significantly helped Moscow survive the American sanctions. What
for? Why help Putin?
Ambassador John Bolton: Well, what we’re doing with respect to Iran is because we believe
that they are continuing to seek deliverable nuclear weapons. We don’t think they have ever
made a strategic decision in Tehran to give up that pursuit. We think they continue to be the world’s
central banker of international terrorism. And we’re determined through the re-imposition of American
sanctions to exert maximum pressure on the mullahs in Tehran to get them to change their behavior.
Now one of the most significant sanctions that we can impose comes back into full effect early in November.
Obviously, many major companies have anticipated this well beforehand and have shifted their
purchases of Iranian oil. There’s always concern in petroleum markets for political uncertainty,
but we’ve also made it clear that we’ve worked with other oil producers, including ourselves,
to make available additional crude oil to meet the requirements of countries that have been purchasing
Iranian oil. So nobody feels stronger than President Trump that we want the global price of oil
to come down, and we’re hoping that increased production will accomplish that. But the importance
of this major change in Tehran’s behavior has been our priority, and it’s true that Russia as an
exporter of oil has benefited from price increases – so have American producers – but our
overall objective is to put as much pressure as we can on Iran and keep global oil prices down.
Echo Moskvy: A last question: is it true that last year the U.S. administration discussed the idea of a nuclear strike on North Korea?
Ambassador John Bolton: No. Absolutely not. That has never been discussed to my
knowledge and I think President Trump has made it clear. He is determined to pursue direct
negotiations with Kim Jong Un. The President has taken the unprecedented step of meeting with
Kim Jong Un in Singapore during the summer and looks forward to seeing him again, probably
after the first of the year. He’s going to do everything he can to get North Korea to comply with
the commitment that Kim Jong Un made in Singapore to completely denuclearize North Korea.
Echo Moskvy: Thank you very much.
Ambassador John Bolton: Thank you.