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National Security Advisor John Bolton outside the Pentagon on March 29, 2018. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

Today John Bolton starts as President Trump’s new national security adviser — his third in thirteen months — and may well become Trump‘s most influential and ideological foreign policy adviser.

What’s Next: It's too soon to tell how Bolton will interact, cooperate and compete as a member of Trump's foreign policy team. He has a reputation as a skilled bureaucratic maneuverer and infighter, though his biggest challenge may not be the bureaucracy but the all-important presidential constituency of one.

Although Bolton doesn't yet enjoy the trust Trump has in Secretary of Defense Mattis or the personal chemistry he has with Secretary of State designate Mike Pompeo, he will have several advantages. Pompeo, for example, will be on the road often, without the same day-to-day proximity to Trump, and also heads a department of diplomats Trump dislikes and dismisses.

Bolton will be charged with developing options on two critical issues — a planned US-North Korean summit and the status of the Iran nuclear accord — and planning for a third, how to respond to the Assad regime’s latest use of chemical weapons. He seems to share the president’s desire to withdraw from the Iran deal, but on North Korea where he has advocated a military option, he may face a president who wants a deal if he can get one.

Trump has called for bringing U.S. troops home from Syria. Given his hawkish stance on Iran, Bolton — though no proponent of intervening in that civil war —may prefer to keep them on the ground to counter Tehran. If he is able to help Trump through the present Syrian crisis, that could cement his credentials with the president on other issues.

The bottom line: Bolton will face a challenge in creating and sustaining a functional relationship with a president who's even even more combustible and unpredictable than he is. He may struggle to reconcile tough and ideological foreign policy views with Trump's more pragmatic and risk-averse approach, especially around the use of military force. The real question is whether he has the personal skills and emotional intelligence to handle the president.

Aaron David Miller is vice president for new initiatives and director of the Middle East Program at the Wilson Center.

Go deeper

7 mins ago - World

Biden to warn Putin U.S. will add troops in Eastern Europe if Russia invades Ukraine

Putin meets Biden in Geneva. Photo: Peter Klaunzer - Pool/Keystone via Getty

President Biden will warn Russian President Vladimir Putin when they speak on Tuesday that if Russia invades Ukraine, the U.S. is prepared to increase its troop presence, capabilities and military exercises on NATO's "eastern flank," a senior administration official told reporters.

Why it matters: The administration believes it's increasingly likely that Putin will order an invasion.

40 mins ago - World

U.S. announces diplomatic boycott of Beijing Winter Olympics

An Olympic-themed sculpture in Beijing on Dec. 1. Photo: Hou Yu/China News Service via Getty Images

The U.S. announced Monday that it will not send officials to the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics in protest of human rights abuses committed by the Chinese Communist Party.

Why it matters: The diplomatic boycott — which won't prevent American athletes from competing — marks a major escalation between the U.S. and China amid already heightened tensions over the CCP's treatment of Muslim minorities, military threats to Taiwan and economic tariffs.

Stuck jet stream brings blowtorch December in Lower 48, frigid Alaska

Short-term climate outlook for Dec. 13-19, 2021, from the Climate Prediction Center at NOAA. (NOAA/CPC)

The Lower 48 states have seen record-shattering warmth so far this December, with temperatures running as high as 35°F above average for this time of year. The warmth has been so pronounced that during the weekend, brush fires broke out in a snowless, unusually mild Denver metro area.

The big picture: The jet stream, which is a river of air that rides at about 30,000 feet along the temperature contrast between air masses, steering storms as it goes, has been stuck in a position well north of the continental U.S., keeping storms and cold weather at bay.