Russian President Vladimir Putin was interviewed in detail by a US interviewer for the first time since the start of the war of aggression against Ukraine.
In an interview with right-wing talk show host Tucker Carlson, the Kremlin chief said, among other things, that Russia's invasion of the NATO states Poland and Latvia was basically "completely out of the question" - with one exception. Asked whether he could imagine a scenario in which he would send Russian troops to Poland, Putin replied: "Only in one case: if Poland attacks Russia."
The 127-minute long interview was recorded on Tuesday and published that night. Carlson, a television personality known for spreading false reports and conspiracy theories at his former employer Fox News, did not question Putin's long-winded remarks. Critics had already identified this in advance of the conversation as the reason why the Kremlin chief may have granted the American an interview.
Putin speaks of an “imaginary Russian threat”
As expected, Putin dominated the conversation, while Carlson refrained from describing the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine as such or speaking of an invasion. Putin, in turn, explained that Russia had no interest at all in Poland, Latvia or other countries, so fears of a Russian attack were misplaced.
"Why should we do that? We're just not interested." It contradicts common sense to get involved in “a kind of global war”. Putin accused the NATO states of intimidating their own people with the illusion of an “imaginary Russian threat”.
With regard to the war in Ukraine, Putin said towards the end of the interview that they were ready for dialogue - the time for talks had come because the West had to recognize that the conflict could not be won militarily. “Sooner or later this will end in an agreement,” Putin said. "Once this realization has set in, they (the West) will have to think about what to do next."
Debauchery until the 13th century
The interview, recorded in Moscow, appeared on Carlson's website and the platform X, formerly Twitter. In it, Putin began by making lengthy statements about the history of Russia, going all the way back to the 13th century and handing Carlson a folder of documents "so you don't think I'm missing anything."
In the course of the interview, he again justified the Russian invasion of Ukraine with alleged historical territorial claims and sharply criticized NATO and the USA. Carlson largely let the Kremlin chief finish speaking and rarely intervened, but sometimes also built rhetorical platforms for Putin. At one point he interrupted the Russian president's historical ramblings: "Can you tell us what time? I'm losing track of where in history we are."
US journalist Gershkovich soon to be released?
In the end, he spoke directly to Putin about the US journalist Evan Gershkovich, who was in custody in Russia, and asked whether there was a chance of his release. Putin said he was willing to talk and hinted at the possibility of a prisoner exchange. "It makes no sense to keep him in prison in Russia," said the Kremlin chief.
Rather, the US should think about how it could contribute to a solution. Further statements by Putin could be interpreted as meaning a release of the Tiergarten murderer Vadim K., who was convicted in December 2021 and sentenced to life imprisonment in Germany.
In December, the White House announced that Moscow had rejected an offer from Washington to release the journalist who worked for the Wall Street Journal. Gershkovich was arrested at the end of March 2023 on a reporting trip in Yekaterinburg in the Urals. The Russian prosecutor's office accuses him of espionage. The American with Russian roots and the newspaper reject the allegations, as does the US government.
Conspiracy theories, false reports and hate speech
Carlson had been touting the pre-recorded interview as a major media event for days. The conversation with the 54-year-old talk show host may have served as a welcome platform for the internationally criticized Kremlin chief before the presidential election on March 17 in Russia, as Russian political scientist Tatjana Stanovaya noted.
Putin used Carlson for his own purposes to gain access to the US audience. The supporters of the US Republican Donald Trump, who wants to move back into the White House, are less critical of Putin than many other compatriots.
Former Fox News host Carlson reaches an audience of millions via social networks. Last year he was fired from the ultra-conservative US broadcaster, without any reasons being given for his dismissal. He hosted a high-ratings evening show there for years. Carlson used this to incite false allegations against the Democratic Party and against minorities. Shortly after leaving Fox News, he started his own show on X.
Kirby warns about Putin's words
US National Security Council Communications Director John Kirby noted that nothing said in the interview should be taken at face value. "Remember, you are listening to Vladimir Putin," he said in Washington on Thursday.
Carlson has now left Moscow again. The news website Semafor reported that he also met with Edward Snowden before his departure. The US whistleblower, who made public the extent of the United States' global surveillance and espionage practices in 2013, has been living in exile in Russia for around ten years. Further details about the alleged meeting were initially not known.