Former national security adviser John Bolton warned Sunday the United States is "sitting still" while China and Russia bolster their relations and influence.
"We’re sitting still, and the Chinese, the Russians, Iran, North Korea, and several others, are moving to shore up their relations and threaten us in a lot of different places," Bolton, who served as former President Donald Trump's third national security adviser before a tumultuous departure from the administration, said on WABC's "Cats Roundtable," hosted by John Catsimatidis.
China recently engaged Iran to reestablish diplomatic relations with Saudi Arabia and reopen embassies after seven years of tensions. The deal was unveiled Friday after being struck in Beijing amid its ceremonial National People’s Congress, representing a major diplomatic victory for the Chinese as Gulf Arab states perceive the United States slowly withdrawing from the wider Middle East. It also comes as diplomats have been trying to end a long war in Yemen, a conflict in which both Iran and Saudi Arabia are deeply entrenched.
"Dealing for example, in Saudi Arabia, what this reflects is their fear that the U.S. administration still has given up on a nuclear deal, getting back into the nuclear deal with Iran," Bolton said Sunday. "It’s an indication that the Saudis and others are trying to hedge their bets with China and Russia because they don’t think the United States has the resolve and the fortitude necessary to do what they need to do to protect the world against Iran and its intentions, both on the terrorist front and the nuclear front."
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Earlier last week, Saudi Arabia said it deposited $5 billion into the Turkish central bank, likely helping Ankara firm up its long-weakening currency, the lira, after last month’s earthquake.
"And what the Chinese are doing is just basic blocking and tackling. They want access to as many oil reserves as they can get. They’re Iran’s biggest customer now – They’d like to have access to Saudi Arabia. They’re increasing purchases of Russian oil and gas frustrating to the U.S. and Western European sanctions," Bolton continued. "The Chinese have a strategy they’ve been following. We kind of wander around from day to day. And I think it’s becoming increasingly evident, and I hope the 2024 presidential election provides a forum to debate this, we’ve got to get our act together in the United States or this is only going to get worse."
Bolton reacted to the Biden administration's chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan, as former U.S. service members in Kabul at the time testified before Congress last week.
"It just shows how catastrophic the withdrawal was, catastrophic for American interests. And the Chinese are taking full advantage of it, so are the Russians," Bolton said. "We left a huge vacuum in Central Asia. They’re going to try to fill it if other foreign terrorists don’t fill it first. If we don’t think about these threats soon then things move faster in international affairs than people think. I mean take China’s build-up of nuclear weapons and capability to hit the United States with land-based ballistic missiles, submarine-based missiles, cruise missiles."
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"They’re moving full steam ahead and yet at the end of last week, President Biden proposed an increase in the defense budget that was less than the inflation rate," he added. "Out of a $7 trillion-plus proposed budget, defense is around $850 billion. That’s not a small amount of money, but it pales in comparison to over almost $7 trillion used on domestic expenditures. And it’s something that’s going to come back to bite us if we don’t pull our socks up."
Bolton also spoke about how China has been capitalizing on the war in Ukraine. Top U.S. officials have warned Beijing is considering providing "lethal equipment" to support Russia's offensive.
"One of the biggest winners of the war in Ukraine has been China," Bolton said. "If Russia were to win, and at the maximum retake all of Ukraine, that would be a victory for China’s ally that would strengthen China as well. But frankly, if Russia continues to get chewed up in Ukraine, that just makes Russia more dependent on China. So, China wins there as well."
"It’s exactly right to say that we’re watching Russia slip increasingly under Chinese control," he continued. "This is China’s alliance it’s putting together, and Russia is the junior partner. That’s not good for any of us. I’d like to find ways to pry Russia away from China. I think that’s impossible to do while this war is going on. And it’s really only after Ukraine regains its territory – and maybe we see some changes in Russia – that we’re going to get that chance."
"I would never bet against the United States, but I think as we enter this election season, and we’re already in the 2024 campaign, Americans have got to say to prospective presidential candidates ‘What’s your national security policy? What are you going to do to keep the country strong and safe from all of these external threats?’" Bolton said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.