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Three major issues Bolton will have to tackle as national security advisor


WASHINGTON, DC (Circa) - It was not an easy first day for the newly minted national security advisor John Bolton on Monday, as he entered office coming off a weekend of death and destruction in Syria.

It's one of several key national security issues Bolton will have to tackle from day one. Here are three that he will likely confront immediately.


Last week, Trump signaled his desire to get U.S. forces out of Syria, but his rhetoric went in a different direction after civilians were killed by yet another chemical weapons attack. An air strike on airbase belonging to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad followed, yet the Department of Defense has insisted it was not responsible.

"At this time, the Department of Defense is not conducting air strikes in Syria," said Pentagon spokesman Christopher Sherwood in a statement Sunday. "However, we continue to closely watch the situation and support the ongoing diplomatic efforts to hold those who use chemical weapons, in Syria and otherwise, accountable."

Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Trump himself echoed these sentiments on Monday, noting that nothing is off the table when it comes to Syria.

"The first thing we have to look at is why are chemical weapons still being used at all when Russia was the framework guarantor of removing all the chemical weapons, and so working with our allies and partners from NATO to Qatar and elsewhere we are going to address this issue," said Mattis.

The Obama administration pushed an agreement that was supposed to rid Assad of his declared chemical weapons in 2014, which ultimately failed to prevent several attacks later.

Bolton, a known foreign policy hawk, has previously advocated for Assad's toppling, but he has yet to make his feelings on the issue known as of the time of this piece's publication.


Tensions between the U.S. and Russia have escalated drastically during Trump's short tenure, and they are unlikely to taper off any time soon. Not only does Russia actively support the Assad regime in Syria, it has also spent the better part of the last decade testing the U.S. in Eastern Europe, reigniting a rivalry not seen since the Cold War.

The Trump administration recently hit Russia with a new round of sanctions, which former Obama administration sanctions official Elizabeth Rosenberg described as "fairly muscular." This latest round targets Russian companies and oligarchs close to the Kremlin and Russian President Vladimir Putin, and more could be on the way.

Bolton is not only a believer in the Russian threat, he has actively called for a "disproportionate" response to the Kremlin's meddling in the 2016 election.

"Whether you think [the Russians] were trying to collude with the Trump campaign or trying to collude with the Clinton campaign, their interference is unacceptable," said Bolton during a speech in February. "It's really an attack on the American Constitution."

Bolton's does not appear to share Trump's vision of one day patching things up with Putin, noting that Russia's partnerships with Iran and China makes the Kremlin part of a network of U.S. adversaries actively undermining American policy.

North Korea

Trump made North Korea a prime target from the earliest days of his administration, engaging in a war of words with dictator Kim Jong Un. Of course, North Korea's provocative missile and nuclear tests have helped it earn the administration's attention.

Trump warned the Kim regime last year that it would be met with "fire and fury" if it kept up its antics, but Bolton went a step further in February laying out the case for first strike against North Korea.

The administration has taken a more diplomatic viewpoint on the North Korean situation in recent weeks. According to Trump, a meeting with the Kim regime is in the works for May or early June, during which he hopes to convince the regime to give up its nuclear program. But as Bolton noted in his argument for a strike, Trump has also noted he has a "Phase Two" for action against North Korea, which he said "may be a very rough thing."

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