‘Good luck with that’ EU incapable of standing up to Russia, warns ex-Trump adviser Bolton

Nord Stream 2 should be 'cut off' says John Bolton

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Mr Bolton, who was appointed by ex-President Donald Trump in 2018, leaving his post 16 months later, also suggested French President Emmanuel Macron, who spoke with the Russian President on Monday, was motivated by his quest to be re-elected. Tensions in Europe are spiking as a result of Russia’s military build-up along the border with Ukraine, with many analysts and politicians now believing an invasion is inevitable.

Mr Bolton, speaking at a webinar organised by the Foreign Press Association, said: “I thought for a long time he wanted to re-establish Russian hegemony in the space of the former Soviet Union.

“I think now, that remains his objective but I think he may have expanded it to include sovereignty over a good bit of that territory, not simply hegemony.

“But he’s also, and really I think this is his biggest immediate strategic objective, trying to find ways to weaken and split the NATO alliance – in Putin’s view, a weaker NATO is a stronger Russia.”

Despite the “rhetoric” coming out of the White House, it was far from certain NATO was united in terms of its policy toward Ukraine, Mr Bolton said, not least in terms of what the response would be if Mr Putin did green-light military action.

He explained: “We don’t know how strong the sanctions will be if Russia invades Ukraine, how uniform they will be.

“For example, one of the sanctions that that the administration is talking about is forbidding American banks to engage in clearing transactions involving foreign exchange between Russian rubles and American dollars.

“It would be worldwide, because American banks would also be forbidden from dealing with foreign banks that allowed clearing ruble-dollar transaction.”

In theory therefore, the choice for large European or Asian banks would be trading with Russia or the United States.

In theory therefore, the choice for large European or Asian banks would be trading with Russia or the United States.

However, referring to Germany’s Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Mr Bolton said: “If the European Union doesn’t go along and have a similar prohibition on banks clearing Euro-ruble transactions, then Putin still got access to a major international currency.

“And Chancellor Scholz has said really nothing on that subject. They’ve been very vague.

“So I’m quite worried about the how unified NATO will be or how unified it will be on strong sanctions as opposed to rhetoric.“

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If Europeans of any nationality, think that the European Union is going to protect them from an aggressive Russia, good luck with that

John Bolton

On the subject of France’s President, Mr Bolton said: “Macron has all been said he’d rather have the European Union be the principal interlocutor with the Russians because he thinks France would play a larger role there.

“All I can say is, if Europeans of any nationality, think that the European Union is going to protect them from an aggressive Russia, good luck with that.”

Mr Macron visited Moscow and Kiev earlier this week, subsequently claiming he had received assurances from Mr Putin that there were no imminent plans to invade Ukraine.

However, Mr Bolton was highly sceptical, adding: “I think he was trying to enhance his prospects in France’s upcoming presidential election, and I think Putin can see these splits.

“He knows the economic pressure that he can bring to bear on Western Europe through gas natural gas supplies the issue of the Nord Stream two pipeline.

“And I think Putin in his dreams would like to play for the highest stakes here and find a way to fundamentally weaken NATO.”

Speaking on Friday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said a Russian invasion of Ukraine could come “at any time”.

Mr Blinken said Washington was continuing to “draw down” its embassy in Ukraine and repeated a State Department call to American citizens in Ukraine to leave the country immediately.

Speaking at a news conference in Melbourne, Australia, where he is on an official visit, he added: “Simply put, we continue to see very troubling signs of Russian escalation, including new forces arriving at the Ukrainian border.

”As we’ve said before, we’re in a window when an invasion could begin at any time, and to be clear, that includes during the Olympics.”

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