Putin sat down with Tucker Carlson and lectured him about the Ukraine war

When Tucker Carlson sat down with Russian President Vladimir Putin for a more than two-hour interview in the Kremlin this week, both men had something to gain from the rare and highly publicized exchange.

For the Russian president, mired in war, this was an opportunity to speak at length and present the “world according to Putin” narrative to a Western audience.

For Carlson, who is trying to rebuild his personal brand after… Deposed From Fox News last year, it was a high-profile hit and a chance to point the Russian leader toward some of his own talking points, which resonate with his mostly conservative viewers.

In the interview, which aired early this morning in Russia, there was talk about a US government cover-up and what it means to be a Christian and world leader who is sometimes asked to use lethal force. But what Putin really wanted to talk about was Ukraine — why he believes Russia has a right to the region and why his country should not be blamed for waging war.

During the interview, which lasted more than two hours, Russian President Vladimir Putin repeated his claims about why he launched the so-called special military operation in the country." On February 24, 2022.
During the interview that lasted more than two hours, Russian President Vladimir Putin repeated his claims about why he would launch what he calls Russia’s “special military operation” in Ukraine in 2022. (via Reuters)

Carlson did not press Putin on the fact that he is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes in Ukraine, or that he has tried to silence his critics at home by imprisoning them or threatening to do so.

“It doesn’t really feel like an interview. It’s more like a freshman lecture,” said Sergei Sanovich, a fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University in California, where part of his research focuses on disinformation and censorship. “(Putin) is a skilled propagandist.”

Rare opportunity

The interview comes nearly two years after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, as the Kremlin seeks to take advantage of Washington’s wavering military support and Ukraine’s need to reset and reorganize its ranks on the battlefield.

It also comes a month before the Russian elections, where Putin is scheduled to be voted in, but he still wants to remind the public of his oft-repeated claim – that he is defending Russia’s interests against Ukraine and the West.

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The Russian Defense Ministry accused Ukraine of shooting down a military transport plane loaded with Ukrainian prisoners of war that was bound for a prisoner exchange. Ukraine, which did not bear responsibility, said that Russia deliberately endangered the lives of prisoners of war.

This comes nine months before the US presidential elections, where Donald Trump leads the list of candidates for the Republican Party nomination. Trump criticized the tens of billions of dollars the United States is spending on the war in Ukraine, and bragged during an interview on CNN last spring that if he had become president, he would have “resolved that war” within 24 hours.

When Carlson asked whether his relationship with the US President would be better if there was “a new administration after Joe Biden,” Putin did not answer directly, but said that he had good personal relations with both George W. Bush and Trump.

“Carlson’s motive is clear,” Sanovich said.

He added, “It is clear preparation for what I am sure (Carlson) is looking forward to… the success of Trump’s (presidential) bid and his return to the White House.”

The Kremlin said Carlson was given the opportunity to be the first American journalist to interview Putin since the beginning of the Ukrainian war because his reporting was not “one-sided,” like many other Western reporters whose interview requests were rejected.

After the interview was published online on Friday, Putin’s spokesman said that Carlson had not answered questions with the Kremlin ahead of time, and that it was important for as many people as possible in the West to follow the interview.

Tucker’s track record at Fox

Throughout his time hosting his popular and controversial late-night show on Fox, Carlson has expressed sympathy for Russia, accusing the Biden administration of “Effective encouragement” Invading Russia and then prolonging it by supplying Ukraine with weapons and ammunition.

For years, Carlson has been critical of US foreign policy, which he said has portrayed Putin as a “boogeyman,” and once asked: “Why am I not rooting for Russia? And I am.”

Carlson’s critics accuse him of promoting conspiracy theories and promoting far-right ideas, including regarding Covid-19 vaccines and immigration.

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Carlson, who was let go from Fox just days after the cable network hit the ground running 787.5 million US dollars Colony Due to a run-in with Dominion Voting Systems, he now produces his own radio shows, which are broadcast on his website and also occasionally on X (formerly known as Twitter).

In the United States, Carlson tries to present himself as a maverick who takes care of middle-class Americans. In Russia, state media welcomed him as a truth teller.

State media agency RIA Novosti said on Friday that “no event in the media sphere around the world” had received such anticipation as Carlson’s interview with Putin, which they also called a “weapon of mass education.”

A Russian state TV channel has published a countdown to the broadcast of Tucker Carlson's interview with Vladimir Putin, which was widely covered by the country's state media.
A Russian TV channel posted a countdown to the broadcast of Carlson’s interview with Putin, which was widely covered by the country’s state media. (Corinne Siminoff/CBC)

Throughout the week, Carlson’s movements were posted around Moscow via social media. Clips have emerged showing him at the famous Bolshoi Theater and tasting food at Vkusno i Tochka, Russia’s rebranded version of McDonald’s, which withdrew from the country after the start of the invasion of Ukraine.

Platform for Putin

During the interview there were smiles and jokes. As Putin began a 30-minute explanation about his belief that history justifies Ukraine becoming part of Russia, Carlson seemed unsure how to answer another question, which he ultimately did by focusing on NATO, Nazism, the threat of world war and the United States. Relations with Russia.

“The whole interview was one way… (Carlson) gave Putin a topic and let Putin talk about the topic,” said Ian Garner, an assistant professor in the Department of Political Studies at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario.

Garner, whose research focuses on Russian culture and war propaganda, said Carlson did not challenge Putin with follow-up questions.

For example, he did not intervene when Putin claimed that the Ukrainian army had begun attacking the Donbass region in 2014, thus creating a threat that would require Russia to seize Crimea under its “protection.”

At one point during the interview, American broadcaster Tucker Carlson asked Russian President Vladimir Putin who blew up the Nord Stream pipeline.  Putin joked that Tucker might have been responsible before suggesting that the United States was responsible.
At one point during the interview, Carlson asked Putin who blew up the Nord Stream pipeline in September 2022. Putin joked that Tucker might have been responsible, before suggesting that he believed the United States was responsible. (via Reuters)

Garner said the only time Carlson pressured the Russian leader was when he pleaded with him to release him Ivan Gershkovich, a Wall Street Journal reporter who has been imprisoned in Russia for nearly a year on espionage charges. Putin said a prisoner exchange might be possible and noted that Moscow wants Germany to release Vadim Krasikov, who was convicted of killing a Chechen opposition figure in Berlin in 2019.

When Carlson asked Putin who was responsible for blowing up the plane Nord Stream gas pipeline. In September 2022, Putin hinted that the United States likely played a role. When Carlson asked him why Russia was not publishing the evidence proving this publicly, Putin replied that it would be useless, because the United States controls the global media.

Carlson essentially agreed that the United States was responsible when he said: “The Germans clearly know that their NATO partner did this.”

Garner believes Carlson has opened the door to one of his favorite talking points, the deep state — a conspiracy theory based on the idea that unelected officials control the actions of the U.S. government.

At one point, Putin claimed to have had promising talks with former US presidents about greater cooperation, but those ideas were sidelined by other government officials.

“It sounds like you’re describing a system that’s not run by elected people,” Carlson said.

Ukraine messages

Putin urged the United States to stop supplying weapons to Ukraine, saying that if the support stopped, the war would end within weeks.

When Carlson asked him about additional American support for Ukraine – including the possibility of deploying American forces in Europe if the war expands – Putin asked him if there were other matters that the United States should be concerned with.

“You have problems at the border. Immigration problems, problems with the national debt,” he said. “So you should fight in Ukraine? Wouldn’t it be better to negotiate with Russia?”

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Garner believes this narrative resonates with Trump supporters, who have criticized the US government for wasting money on Ukraine. In recent weeks, there have been many stories about how U.S. support for Ukraine has been wavering — especially among Republicans — that the country itself is on the defensive on the battlefield and that its military leadership is in turmoil.

Just hours before the interview was published, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said He dismissed his top generalsValery Zalozny.

“This is the time for Putin to simply spread this story…that Ukraine’s fate is inevitable,” he added,Garner said.

Garner does not believe the interview marks any significant turning point — neither in the United States, nor in Russia, where Putin is almost certain to be re-elected in March.

But he said it gave him an opportunity to bolster his story.

“It comes at a very bad time for Ukraine, and it is smart policy for Putin and his team.”

(Tags for translation)War

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