Inside the Administration, Trump’s ambassador to Moscow, the former Utah governor Jon Huntsman, was recently back in Washington to plan for the possible talks, and the senior Administration official told me that Huntsman, the national-security adviser, John Bolton, and the Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, have accepted the idea that Trump will insist upon a meeting. Those advisers are all well-known Russia skeptics who’ve spent years advocating for hawkish policies to counter threats from an increasingly aggressive Putin and will want to push Putin to cease hostilities in eastern Ukraine, but, as Trump showed with North Korea, that may matter little to the President.
Consider the example of Bolton, who for years has ridiculed the idea that the North Koreans could be counted on to abide by any negotiated deal with the United States. A hawk who demeaned the Bush Administration’s negotiations with North Korea even while serving in it, Bolton once said that being called “human scum” by the North Koreans was “the highest accolade I received during all my service in the Bush years.” Barely a month before his appointment as Trump’s national-security adviser, Bolton published an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, headlined “The Legal Case for Striking North Korea First.” And yet there he was in Singapore on Tuesday, shaking Kim Jong Un’s hand and watching the President of the United States shower the dictator with praise. “He’s the national-security adviser,” Nicholas Eberstadt, a close observer of North Korea and and a longtime colleague of Bolton’s at the American Enterprise Institute, the conservative think tank, said. “He’s not the national-security decider.”