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Former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton fears America's 'decline in the world'

| Friday, May 18, 2012, 7:03 p.m.
Janet Kirk, a financial adviser with Morgan Stanley, greets Ambassador John Bolton at The Center for Political and Economic Thought and the America's Future Foundation luncheon at the Duquesne Club Friday, May 18, 2012. In rear is Brad Watson, a professor and co-director of the center at St. Vincent College. Heidi Murrin | Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Warning of danger lurking in nearly every corner of the world, former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton offered a grim view on Friday of foreign relations in a speech at the Duquesne Club, Downtown.

An increasingly "belligerent" China, the authoritarian Vladimir Putin in Russia, a stumbling ballistic missile program in North Korea and an Iranian nuclear program threaten U.S. interests, Bolton told about 90 people attending the $50-a-plate luncheon in the Walnut Room sponsored by St. Vincent College and the America's Future Foundation, a conservative/libertarian advocacy group.

As China builds a deep-water navy and anti-ship ballistic missiles to increase its reach in Southeast Asia, "our response over the last eight years has been to say to China: 'Won't you please allow your currency to appreciate,' " Bolton said. Trade experts agree that China keeps its currency artificially low, which makes its exports cheaper and undercuts other countries' industries.

Bolton said upcoming negotiations over Iran's nuclear program aren't likely to do any good. The talks scheduled to begin on Wednesday in Baghdad will include Iran, and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council -- the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China -- plus Germany.

Bolton told the Tribune-Review on Monday that he would prefer going to war with Iran, which he considers the only way to prevent Tehran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. If Iran gets nuclear weapons even though the past two American presidents vowed to prevent it, anti-American groups in the region will see it as the United States being "either unable or unwilling to stop it."

Bolton, a foreign policy advisor to presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, criticized President Obama for withdrawing combat troops from Iraq at the end of 2011, though the withdrawal timeline was negotiated with the Iraqi government in 2008, and agreed to by Bolton's former boss, President George W. Bush.

The agreement required U.S. combat troops to leave the country by Dec. 31. The last troops left two weeks earlier.

"It is a picture of American decline in the world," Bolton said.

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