I don’t think Tucker Carlson got what he bargained for in this interview. The interview ran about two hours but most of that was made up of Putin’s rambling answers that sometimes went on for 10-20 minutes.
To his credit, Carlson started at the most obvious starting point for a discussion with Putin, which is the reasons behind the invasion of Ukraine in 2022. Instead of a clear answer he got a 30 minute lecture about the history of the region going back to the 8th century. Putin spent several minutes on events in the 17th century before finally bringing himself to World War I and World War II.
Carlson interrupted several times saying he wasn’t sure why all of this was relevant and Putin just continued his spiel. Carlson also pointed out that when he launched the invasion last year, Putin has said that he was concerned about the possibility of a US surprise attack on Russia. Putin seemed to be doing his best to drown out those former explanations with the new 30 minute history lesson.
The fifteen minutes after that was a recitation of Putin’s own outreach to the United States which he says rejected his offers at every turn. Around this time Putin mentioned off-hand that Tucker Carlson had wanted to be part of the CIA. That’s a story that you can read more about here. In any case, all of this leads to Putin’s claim that the war he started in 2022 was really an attempt to stop a war started by the west.
Asked if he had stopped that war yet, Putin said no he hadn’t achieved his aims because they hadn’t “denazified” Ukraine yet. Carlson asked Putin what “denazification” meant and why it was relevant when Hitler was been dead for 80s years. Putin’s response was to imply that Zelensky is a Nazi and that Nazism still needs to be stamped out. At this point, Putin sounded more like an Antifa member in Portland than a president.
An hour into the interview, Carlson might have spoken for a collective 2 minutes. He says in his intro that Putin wasn’t filibustering but I disagree. Putin was clearly trying to dominate every minute of this interview and barely gave Carlson any chance to ask questions, at least in the first hour.
Carson asked Putin about claims that he might try to expand his borders beyond Ukraine. Putin denied having any such intentions and said the idea that he would do so or that he might use “tactical nuclear weapons” was all fear-mongering by the west. I found this interesting because it was primarily people who were against sending money and arms to Ukraine who were spreading the idea online that nuclear war or WWIII was around the corner. But to be fair, the reason that came up is because Putin himself brought it up, followed by various members of his government and his TV propagandists.
Putin’s nuclear threats peaked in September 2022, as Russia’s army faltered on the battlefield. When claiming to annex four Ukrainian regions (Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhia), Putin stated: “We will defend our land with all the forces [emphasis added] and resources we have.” To underscore the point, he referenced the “precedent” set by the 1945 American nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki…
One problem with Russia’s nuclear signaling: the many actors articulating nuclear threats, often not in sync with one another. The often contradictory signals confused and undercut the message. Putin and Lavrov presumably speak authoritatively, while the military leadership has remained largely silent on the question, possibly because they well understand the risks and consequences of nuclear use.
However, others in Moscow seemed not to have received last fall’s memo about toning down the threats. Former President Dmitry Medvedev, currently deputy secretary of Russia’s Security Council, has regularly brandished the nuclear saber. He has claimed the war with Ukraine could be “brought to an end within a few days” by using nuclear weapons. Earlier this year, Vyacheslav Volodin, speaker of the Duma (Russia’s lower legislative body), threatened that continued provision of Western arms would lead Russia to use “more powerful weapons.”
Last December, Margarita Simonyan, editor-in-chief of the propaganda outlet RT, opined that “Either we win in the way we consider our victory, or there will be World War III, sooner or later.” Just days ago, she suggested detonating a nuclear weapon over Siberia as a way to warn Ukraine and the West. Other TV pundits, such as Vladimir Solovyov, frequently propose nuclear strikes.
It would have been nice if Carlson had brought any of this up but he did not. Instead he let it pass that the nuclear threats were whipped up by the west when in fact they were coming from Russia itself.
Toward the end of the interview, Carlson asked about the imprisonment of WSJ reporter Evan Gershkovich. He pressed Putin on this arguing that Gershkovich was just a reporter. Putin pressed back saying he was caught engaging in espionage red handed:
Tucker Carlson did ask Vladimir Putin about Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich who was arrested by the FSB on false charges of espionage and has been wrongly detained for nearly a year.
Here is what Putin said:
Tucker: I appreciate all the time you’ve given us. I… pic.twitter.com/HxYBDptyki
— Yashar Ali ???? (@yashar) February 8, 2024
Tucker: So typically, I mean this stuff has happened for obviously centuries. One country catches another spy within its borders. It trades it for one of its own intel guys in another country. I think what makes and it’s not my business, but what makes this different is the guy’s obviously not a spy. He’s a kid, and maybe he was breaking your law in some way, but he’s not a super spy and everybody knows that. And he’s being held hostage in exchange, which is true with respect. It’s true. And everyone knows it’s true. So maybe he’s in a different category. Maybe it’s not fair to ask for, you know, somebody else in exchange for letting him out. Maybe it degrades Russia to do that.
Vladimir Putin: You know, you can give a different interpretations to what constitutes a spy. But there are certain things provided by law. If a person gets secret information and does that in conspiratorial manner, then this is qualified as espionage. And that is exactly what he was doing. He was receiving classified, confidential information, and he did it covertly. Maybe he did that out of carelessness or his own initiative. Considering the sheer fact that this is qualify this espionage. The fact has been proven as he was caught red handed when he was receiving this information. If it had been some farfetched excuse, some fabrication, something not proven, it would have been a different story then. But he was caught red handed when he was secretly getting confidential information. What is it then?
Here’s the full interview.
Ep. 73 The Vladimir Putin Interview pic.twitter.com/67YuZRkfLL
— Tucker Carlson (@TuckerCarlson) February 8, 2024