“What you’re about to see seemed very sincere to us,” Carlson told his Internet viewers before the interview aired Thursday night: “A sincere insight into what he’s thinking.”
For Carlson, and the American audience that the Kremlin was aiming to reach by agreeing to the interview, it may have been a surprise. But for Ukrainians, who have lived for more than two decades with Putin denying Ukraine’s right to exist as a separate country from Russia, the interview but anger.
For them, the only shock may be that conservative American voters could fall for Putin’s litany of lies, half-truths and distortions, including a claim that he wants to negotiate with Washington to end the war , which would mean forcing Ukraine to surrender its borders. . Ukrainians accused Carlson of being a Kremlin puppet, giving a platform to a warmongering dictator with strategic designs on influencing this year’s US presidential election.
“The only thing that really causes special reactions is that Putin, a war criminal with an arrest warrant from the Hague Tribunal, is being interviewed instead of being questioned as he should be by a investigation,” said Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council. “That’s the only thing he should be doing in the remaining days of his life, no matter how many that remains.”
But Ukrainians were not the Kremlin’s intended audience. Putin’s message, which included a 30-minute mock history speech, was aimed at Carlson’s demographic: Republican supporters of former president Donald Trump, many of whom have expressed admiration for the Russian leader and the questioning US aid to Ukraine.
Putin seemed to want to convince them that Ukraine rightfully belongs to Russia, and that President Biden and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky are the ones escalating the war . Whether he succeeded remains to be seen. But what is already clear is that Putin controlled the interview from start to finish.
Carlson made no mention of the allegations of war crimes against Putin, and at times the host seemed out of his depth, struggling to keep up with Putin’s history speech, with the list of dates and unfamiliar names, such as the Varangian Prince Rurik of Scandinavia – dating back to the 10th century.
Putin, a trained KGB agent, rebuffed Carlson’s rare attempts to get a straight answer.
“Are we going to have a real speech or presentation?” Putin broke down at one point, after Carlson tried to persuade Putin to say that he attacked Ukraine because he felt NATO might launch a surprise attack. (Carlson noted that these were Putin’s actual words to justify his 2022 attack — one of the few times he tried to hold the Russian leader’s feet to the fire.)
Putin also proved that he was better prepared than Carlson, pointing out, to the surprise of the Fox News anchor, that Carlson had majored in history at the university and had tried – and had fail – join the CIA.
“We should thank God that they didn’t let you in, although it’s a real organization, I understand,” Putin said, in what appeared to be a dig at Carlson. Putin’s comments were translated into English and a transcript was published on Carlson’s website.
Joking aside, however, Putin used every question to hit his main arguments: that Russia is the rude party, the victim of several false promises by the West. Despite this, Putin insisted, Moscow was ready to negotiate and end the war – but with the United States, stressing his insistence that a government Ukraine is an illegitimate puppet of the West. President Biden has repeatedly said that Ukraine must decide when, or if, to make peace.
Putin, in a frantic interview, barely lets Tucker Carlson get in a word
“Don’t you have anything better to do?” Putin asked in response to a question about the possibility that US troops would be sent to Ukraine – a prospect that, contrary to Carlson’s question, was never on the table in Washington.
“Wouldn’t it be better to negotiate with Russia – to make an agreement,” Putin said, adding: “Russia will fight for its interests to the end.”
“We are ready for this conversation,” Putin told Carlson.
The supposed willingness to negotiate, however, stands in stark contrast to Russia’s long-standing insistence that only Ukraine’s total calculation, giving its – included a wide surrender of land, which will end the war.
But it was also just one of Putin’s many misrepresentations during the interview. He also suggested, for example, that Russian troops withdrew from trying to conquer Kyiv as part of a peace deal, which was later broken by Ukraine. In fact, the Russian forces were defeated and retreated after suffering heavy losses.
Still, some Putin supporters said they believed his message would resonate in America, helping Trump win in November and encouraging congressional Republicans to continue blocking new aid. any to Ukraine.
“The result of Putin’s interview with Carlson could be that a few million Americans will say, ‘yeah, so Putin is for peace. And Trump wants peace. Only Biden and Zelensky want war,’” said pro-Kremlin political analyst Sergei Markov. “So we should vote for Trump and against Biden and then there will be peace and there will be no risk of nuclear war.”
Putin’s interview with Tucker Carlson shows the Kremlin’s reach to Trump’s GOP
Markov said, as a result of the interview, “Trump will definitely win the election and become the president of the United States, Trump and Putin will quickly agree on peace in Ukraine, and the war will be over.”
Putin also told Carlson that the main reason for the attack, and one of Moscow’s main continuing goals, is the “denazification” of Ukraine – part of Putin’s ongoing false claim that Kyiv is under control of the Nazis. Ukraine is a democracy, and Zelensky, who was overwhelmingly elected president in 2014, is of Jewish descent, as are other top officials. Putin’s real goal, many analysts say, is to oust Zelensky in favor of a Russian puppet regime.
The rest of the interview consisted of a series of Kremlin lies or half-truths including Putin saying that “NATO and US military bases have started to appear on the ground, Ukraine is creating threats to us .” In fact, NATO before the attack on Ukraine’s attempts to join the alliance was largely out of concern about antagonizing Russia.
“Mixing truth with outright lies has been the Kremlin’s propaganda strategy for decades,” tweeted Russian opposition figure Mikhail Khodorkovsky. “This is what led him to attack Ukraine.”
The heart of the interview was Putin’s long speech covering more than 1,000 years of history, from the creation of Kyivan Rus – a state that formed the basis of modern-day Ukraine, Russia and Belarus – to the present day.
Although he initially promised to speak on the subject for just 30 seconds, the response lasted almost half an hour – all to make Putin’s case that living Ukrainians are Russians “on the edge” of the Russian empire.
However, Putin’s version of Ukraine’s history – as well as the history of Russia, Belarus, Lithuania, Poland and Hungary – was full of errors, experts said. This included his false claim that Poland “pressured” Nazi Germany to invade and start World War II.
Ukrainian front-line infantry units are reporting severe troop shortages
“It only took Putin a couple of hours to say: ‘I have to destroy Ukraine because I don’t know what Russia is,'” added Timothy Snyder, a Yale historian who has written extensively on Ukraine. and Eastern Europe, post on X.
His ramblings may not have been accuracy but overwhelming viewers with a tsunami of facts and dates, and impressing them with a Putin-like view of Kyivan Rus or Grand Duchy of Lithuania.
Ukrainians said Carlson was reckless and ineffective as an interviewer.
“The propagandist Carlson” spread “a stream of rhetoric, lies and heresy,” former Prime Minister of Ukraine Arseniy Yatsenyuk wrote on Facebook, saying: “Freedom of speech and freedom of lies should not be confused, Comrade Carlson.”
Ebel reported from London and Ilyushina from Riga, Latvia. Robyn Dixon and Natalia Abbakumova in Riga contributed to this report.