In a milestone interview, the first one given to a Western journalist since the commencement of the Ukrainian invasion two years prior, Russian President Vladimir Putin conversed with American journalist Tucker Carlson. In this discussion, Putin presented his perspective on the situation, describing Ukraine as an “artificial state”. The Russian leader also pointed the finger of blame at the West, accusing them of being responsible for the ongoing conflict.
This interview, which was recorded, was beamed out to viewers on Thursday night (8) on the X channel, as well as being available on Carlson’s official website. Carlson, a former host on Fox News, has a substantial following of almost 12 million followers on Elon Musk’s social network.
The Russian President commenced the interview by reiterating the argument he had previously put forth in February 2022, at the onset of the war. His contention is that there are deep historical and ethnic ties between Russia and large parts of Ukraine. He further argued that Ukraine, in reality, never had its own distinct identity and territorial cohesion, asserting that these were artificially created by the Bolsheviks.
Putin declared to Carlson, “We have every reason to assert that Ukraine is an artificial state, established by Stalin’s will.” He pointed out two key factors that led him to make the decision to invade Ukraine. The first being what he referred to as a “coup,” alluding to the ouster of pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych in 2014. The second factor was Ukraine’s alleged failure to implement the Minsk Agreements, which were put in place to halt the war between pro-Kremlin separatists and Ukrainians in the Donbass region.
The Russian president also shared an anecdote from a past conversation with former American president Bill Clinton (1993-2001). Putin asked Clinton about the possibility of Russia becoming a member of NATO, the Western military alliance. However, after consulting with his advisors, Clinton responded with a negative answer. Putin summed up the situation stating “We realized that we were not welcome there”. He claimed that despite “promises” made, NATO continued to expand in the direction of Eastern Europe. Putin was emphatic in stating that Moscow “never agreed” to the notion of Ukraine joining the military alliance.
Furthermore, Putin alleged that he had in his possession a statement where the CIA admits to being allied with the opposition in Russia, with the aim of overthrowing him.
When it came to the relationship with the Americans, Putin gave a non-committal response when asked if a change in leadership in the United States could potentially alter the course of the war in Ukraine. He stressed, “You just asked me if another leader could come in and change something. It’s not about the leader.” He went on to add that it was not about the personality of a specific individual. As an example, he mentioned his good relationship with former President (George W.) Bush (2001-2009). Despite having a good relationship with another Republican president, Donald Trump (2017-2021), Putin believes that the issue is not the leader’s personality, but rather the mentality of the elites.
In relation to the current American president, Joe Biden, Putin confessed that he did not recall the last time he had a conversation with him. However, before the war, he had expressed to Biden that he believed the latter was making “a big mistake, of historic proportions, by supporting everything that is happening there (Ukraine)”.
In the interview, Putin also made allegations regarding the explosion of the Nord Stream gas pipelines in September 2022. When asked by Carlson about who was responsible for the explosions, Putin responded with “You, of course,” insinuating that the United States was the culprit. He humorously added, “Maybe you (Carlson) personally have an alibi, but the CIA doesn’t.”
Moreover, Putin accused the West of fueling the continuation of the war against Ukraine. He stressed Russia’s willingness to negotiate, laying the blame squarely on the Western side. He went as far as to say that Ukraine was effectively a satellite state of the United States.
Despite this, he admitted that Russia has not yet been successful in achieving its objectives in Ukraine, such as the “denazification” of the neighboring country. He also clearly denied having any intention of invading other countries in the region, such as Poland and Latvia.
When asked about the American journalist Evan Gershkovich, who was arrested in Russia last year on charges of espionage, Putin revealed that negotiations were underway for an exchange for a Russian prisoner.
The interview, which was recorded on Tuesday (6) in Moscow, stirred controversy even before it was broadcast. This was primarily due to Carlson stating that “no Western journalist had bothered” to interview Putin since the start of the war in Ukraine. However, contrary to Carlson’s claim, the Kremlin reported that it had received “numerous requests” for interviews with Putin from Western journalists. These requests were denied, as Moscow deemed the press organizations that made the requests to be biased.
In the video promoting the interview, Carlson expressed his view that most Americans “are not well informed about the war,” but “they should be, because they are paying for much of it in ways they haven’t fully realized yet.” He emphasized, “We are not here because we love Putin, we are here because we love the United States, and we want it to remain prosperous and free.”