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Carlson & Putin: Changing Narratives, Raising Eyebrows

Updated: May 23

When it was announced that the popular, but controversial, conservative American TV anchor, Tucker Carlson, would be interviewing Vladimir Putin, it sent waves through Western media. For a long time, despite Carlson's claims in the introduction, Western outlets have been refused audience with the Russian President. As expected, the very fact this conversation happened has been deeply polarising. In the United States, the so-called liberal establishment and the guardians of Western status quo labelled Carlson a Kremlin shill. The Finical Times called Carlson "Putin's useful idiot." Whilst on the other hand, the conservative opposition and MAGA contingents of the Western hegemony defended Carlson, maintaining that it was important the world sees Putin’s perspective.

The interview is just under 2 hours long and so asks the viewer for quite a bit of patience. After a fairly misleading introduction from Carlson, the first 30 minutes of the interview see Putin explaining the births of Russia and Ukraine respectively. You would have to be a student of Russian and Ukrainian history to have a real understanding or educated opinion on this part of the conversation. Regardless, academics and historians are coming out in droves to describe Putin's historical narrative as false, which is being reported on widely. .

The interview starts to pick up steam once Carlson commences with questions about Putins' motives for invading Ukraine. Putin makes startling claims about him once asking former American President Bill Clinton if Russia could join NATO and says that Clinton flat-out refused. He then discusses how he proposed developing a joint-missile defence system with America, which again saw the latter's refusal, he claims. Putin was endeavouring to create a narrative in which Russia wanted good relations with America but was consistently rebuffed. According to Putin, the west did not deal with Russia respectfully or justly.

The most anticipated portion of the interview was always going to be about the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war. Putin, of course, mentioned that America went back on its promise not to expand NATO eastwards to Russia’s borders, a fact that is well documented. He repeatedly mentions the 2014 Maidan coup as a moment which catalysed and even caused the conflict. He highlighted Ukraine’s inability to implement the Minsk peace agreements negotiated by France and Germany, contending this was also one of the main drives behind the invasion. The Minsk Peace Accords aimed to peacefully resolve civil war in the Donbas region, where the population is majority ethnically and linguistically Russian. Putin then claims that the Ukrainian Armed Forces were determined to resolve the situation militarily, and ended up killing many ethnic Russians. Therefore, Putin states he was forced to invade Ukraine on their behalf. The same claim was made about Crimea, where the post-coup government headed by Petro Poroshenko threatened Russia’s military position in Crimea, thus came the annexation. Still, the interview gets more interesting.

Putin says particularly fascinating things after the first hour. The Russian President mentions that Russia and Ukraine reached an agreement in March 2022 in Istanbul to end the war, which is well documented. However, Putin states that the agreement was nullified by former UK PM Boris Johnson on behalf of the US. This, let's say fact, is contentious but many believe it to be true, with negation mediator and former Israeli PM Naftali Bennet confirming it to be the case last year.

Putin's claims about the de-Nazification of Ukraine fell flat for the most part. This line of justification from Putin led Carlson to scrutinise how he intends to de-Nazify Ukraine if he cannot control the whole nation. Carlson listened patiently for the most part but assertions of de-nazification seemed to prick his ears.

Ultimately, I think the interview is reassuring given that Putin seemingly remains open to a negotiated end to the conflict. Regretfully he mentioned that Zelensky has outlawed himself from directly negotiating with him, which if true is troubling. Putin also refuted claims that he was interested in invading Poland or the Baltic states. In response to a question about invading Poland he said: ‘We will only attack Poland if they attack Russia’. He also took jibes at America about their border crisis, their 33 trillion dollar debt, and claimed the United States is spreading ‘bogeyman stories’ about the US' main adversary, China.

Importantly the interview was released against a busy backdrop. Several important developments revealed themselves on the same day Carlson published the conversation. After multiple speculations and leaks, Ukrainian President Zelensky replaced the current Ukrainian army chief General Zaluzhnyi, who has led Ukraine ever since Russia invaded. He will be succeeded by the current head of Ukraine’s land forces, General Oleksandr Syrskyi. Additionally, US Senators voted 67-32 to advance an aid package worth $95b (£75.2b) for Ukraine, Taiwan and Israel after Republicans blocked a bipartisan bill that tied aid to the border crisis. However, it remains to be seen what happens to the bill in the House of Representatives. Furthermore, The Washington Post reported that Ukraine has a severe shortage of men, likely not enough to continue this conflict in the fashion they have to date. It was a busy and important day in the history of the Russia-Ukraine war.

With the elections in America just around the corner, attention will turn towards their domestic politics. In the interview, Putin claimed that the war could be over in hours if America stopped supplying weapons, which if true could prove to be a consequential narrative regardless of who becomes President. Putin's willingness to speak to Carlson, apparent openness to negotiations and Ukraine's inability to progress on the battlefield could prove the Republicans correct and hand them an electoral advantage. It remains to be seen. Nevertheless, Carlson and Putin may well be swaying the result of another US election.

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