The long-anticipated interview between former Fox News star Tucker Carlson and Russian President Vladimir Putin finally dropped on Thursday on X, making the longtime Putin defender the first Western “journalist” to sit down with the authoritarian leader since Russia invaded Ukraine.
Carlson began the more than two-hour long video with a brief monologue about his impressions following the interview, complaining that the two-hour conversation was longer than expected while adding that he emerged convinced that Putin’s long-stated belief in Russia’s historic claim to Ukrainian territory was sincere.
“Putin went on for a very long time, probably half an hour, about the history of Russia going back to the eighth century,” Carlson said. “We thought this was a filibustering technique and found it annoying and interrupted him several times, and he responded. He was annoyed by the interruption.”
“Vladimir Putin believes that Russia has a historic claim to parts of western Ukraine,” Carlson added. “So our opinion would be to view it in that light, as a sincere expression of what he thinks.”
When Carlson seemed to be unfamiliar with basic details preceding Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Putin snapped at the former Fox News host: “Are we having a talk show or a serious conversation?”
Ep. 73 The Vladimir Putin Interview pic.twitter.com/67YuZRkfLL
— Tucker Carlson (@TuckerCarlson) February 8, 2024
A long, drawn-out and thoroughly twisted history lesson would follow, which is one of Putin’s favored tactics. Apparently tuckered out by Putin’s spiel, Carlson pointed out, “I’m not sure why it’s relevant to what happened two years ago.”
After the modified history lesson was over, Tucker asked an astonishing question, “But may I ask, you’re making the case that Ukraine, certainly parts of Ukraine, eastern Ukraine is in effect Russia—has been for hundreds of years. Why wouldn’t you just take it when you became president 24 years ago? You have nuclear weapons. They don’t. It’s actually your land. Why did you wait so long?”
Instead of responding, Putin delved into another history lesson, going back all the way to 1654 and prompting Carlson to ask, “Do you believe Hungary has a right to take its land back from Ukraine, and that other nations have a right to go back to their 1654 borders?”
When Putin demurred, Carlson persisted, “Have you told Viktor Orbán that he can have part of Ukraine?” Putin replied, “Never. I have never told him. Not a single time.”
In the course of the interview, Putin revisited old grievances about Russia offering to join NATO and being rejected. He blamed the U.S. for helping Ukraine to get rid of its formerly pro-Russian presidents, to which Putin was accustomed. He recalled successfully pressuring Yanukovych into not signing an association agreement with the EU. Putin blamed Ukraine’s Revolution of Dignity on the CIA, noting, “the organization you wanted to join back in the day, as I understand. We should thank God they didn't let you in.”
With zero pushback from Carlson, Putin claimed that “they” (presumably, still talking about the CIA or Americans in general) “launched a large-scale military operation. Then another one. When they failed, they started to prepare the next one.”
Putin brazenly claimed, “Our goal is to stop this war. And we did not start this war in 2022. This is an attempt to stop it.” With no pushback whatsoever, Tucker asked, “Do you think you’ve stopped it now? I mean, have you achieved your aims?” Putin answered this rhetorical question by stating that so-called “de-Nazification” of Ukraine is yet to be completed.
In a comical exchange during the meandering interview, Tucker asked Putin: “Who blew up Nord Stream?” Putin replied, “You for sure.”
Carlson parried: “I was busy that day. I did not blow up Nord Stream. Thank you though.” Once again, Putin blamed the CIA, but refused to elaborate as to whether Russia has any evidence to prove that.
One of the leading questions Carlson asked attempted to blame NATO for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine: “Right before you sent troops into Ukraine, the vice president of the United States, went to the Munich Security Conference and encouraged the president of Ukraine to join NATO. Do you think that was an effort to provoke you into military action?”
Putin broke out in another long speech, complaining, “No one listens to us.”
Jumping from topic to topic, Putin assured Carlson he has no intention to invade Europe, claimed that Christianity does not stand in the way of the war Russia is waging in Ukraine and even threw in a comment about the owner of X (formerly Twitter): “I think there’s no stopping Elon Musk.”
To his credit, Carlson asked Putin to release the Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich as a goodwill gesture. Putin harshly replied, “We have done so many gestures of goodwill out of decency that I think we have run out of them.” He added that this matter could be solved through appropriate channels.
Despite Ukraine’s heroic resistance and passionate commitment to its own Ukrainian identity, Putin claimed that even Ukrainian soldiers on the battlefield “still identify themselves as Russian” and described the bloody invasion as “an element of a civil war.”
He dramatically proclaimed that Ukrainians and Russians would be “reunited” in the end: “No one will be able to separate the soul.”
The proclamation concluded Putin’s two-hour history lesson, which included little if any pushback to the Russian leader’s perspective.
Tucker Carlson has been desperately seeking to interview Russian President Vladimir Putin even before he was formally recognized as a wanted war criminal, sought by the International Criminal Court (ICC). The designation did not repel the fired Fox News host and instead led him straight to Moscow, to shake hands with the man who spearheaded a bloody invasion of a neighboring nation, in his apparent quest to restore the Russian Empire.
Carlson revealed the slant of his inquiry even before the interview was released, portraying it as his noble attempt to inform clueless English-speaking audiences. He alleged this was necessary because “their media outlets are corrupt, they lie to their readers and viewers.”
Carlson asserted, “It is government propaganda, propaganda of the ugliest kind, the kind that kills people.” This declaration sounded especially preposterous, since it was uttered from Moscow—the capital of government propaganda that kills people. Government-controlled propagandists have long been cheering for Carlson to get this opportunity.
The spot where he stood to record the introduction spoke louder than words. Russian journalist, and political scientist Yevgenia Albats noted that for security reasons, this location is off-limits for most journalists: “The Ritz Carlton Hotel in Moscow stands right across from Red Square. Its roof is controlled by one of the KGB’s successors, the Federal Security Service.”
Carlson claimed, “Most Americans have no idea why Putin invaded Ukraine or what his goals are now. They’ve never heard his voice.” To the contrary, the coverage of this invasion, along with the Kremlin’s alleged rationale for doing so, has been extensively covered by Western media—including Putin’s own on-camera statements, immediately prior to the invasion and thereafter. Nonetheless, Tucker Carlson promised to deliver something the English-speaking world hasn’t heard before—Putin’s perspective, undiluted and uncut.
Despite state media personalities, along with the Kremlin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov, denying their foreknowledge of this interview, they’ve announced that it would be released in its entirety and without cuts or editing — days before Tucker did.
While many are questioning Carlson’s motivation for pursuing this interview, Putin’s most likely rationale for sitting down with an unaffiliated vlogger was articulated by Henry Sardaryan, Dean of the School of Governance and Politics at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, during Wednesday’s broadcast of The Evening With Vladimir Solovyov. He explained, “They [Americans] were so afraid of election interference by the Russian Federation, so worried that Russia is influencing them! I don’t doubt that this interview alone, if it does not play a pivotal role, at the very least it will influence the outcome of these elections to an extraordinary degree.”
Appearing on 60 Minutes on Wednesday, political scientist Sergey Luzyanin said that Putin is “hammering this nail straight into the Western mainstream media” and described his interview with Carlson as “a slowly burning fuse, leading to the tinderbox known as American elections 2024.” Luzyanin surmised that Americans will be opened up to the infusion of Putin’s undiluted talking points. He noted, “It will be just like Columbus discovering America!”
Thursday morning, state TV host Vladimir Solovyov described Carlson’s interview as Russia “beating the West with its own weapons.”