4 Takes on the Putin Interview

Putin was fully in charge of this encounter
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 9, 2024 8:23 AM CST
4 Takes on the Putin Interview
In this photo released by Sputnik news agency on Friday, Feb. 9, 2024, Vladimir Putin gestures as he speaks during an interview with former Fox News host Tucker Carlson at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2024.   (Gavriil Grigorov, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

Tucker Carlson asked Vladimir Putin to release American journalist Evan Gershkovich during the interview with the Russian leader that aired Thursday, but he did little else to challenge Putin during a two-hour talk at the Kremlin that began with Putin delivering a very long lecture on Russian history. Four takes on Putin's first interview with a Western journalist since the invasion of Ukraine:

  • Putin was "fully in charge." Carlson's "fixed, fascinated expression slipped a few times," especially while Putin talked about history going back to the 9th century in an attempt to justify Russian claims to eastern Ukraine, writes Sarah Rainsford at the BBC. "But for the most part, Carlson seemed to lap up what Russia's president was telling him," she writes. "Putin was fully in charge of this encounter and for large parts of it his interviewer barely got a word in." Rainsford notes that none of Putin's statements were "challenged in essence" and Carlson made no attempt to address Russian war crimes in Ukraine. David Folkenflik at NPR writes that Putin "appeared to have done opposition research worthy of the KGB agent he once was. He needled Carlson at separate moments about having been a history major and having applied (unsuccessfully) for a position at the Central Intelligence Agency."

  • A win for Kremlin propagandists. Eva Hartog and Sergey Goryashko at Politico say the interview was a win for the Kremlin, with Carlson "failing to extract any stirring insights into the Russian president's actual war aims" and Putin taking "full advantage of the opportunity to plant seeds of doubt about America's aid for Ukraine and the US political system." They note that anyone "who can dent Putin's armor is kept lightyears away from the president."
  • An "olive branch to the West." Anton Troianovski at the New York Times sees the interview, in which Putin called for the US to "make an agreement" to end the war by allowing Russia to remain in control of territory it has seized, as an "olive branch to the West." The "uncharacteristically restrained" Putin did not resort to his usual "fiery rhetoric" when Carlson asked about Russia's defense of "traditional values," he notes. Putin said there's "nothing wrong" with the Western way of doing things, which he described as more "pragmatic," while Russians "think more about the eternal, about moral values."
  • Carlson's "not exactly sure" what he thought. After the interview, Carlson said he was surprised by the history lecture. "I'm not exactly sure what I thought of the interview," Carlson said in a video posted on his website. "It's going to take me a year to decide what that was." He said Putin seemed sincere. "Putin is not someone who does a lot of interviews. He is not good at explaining himself," Carlson said, per the Washington Post. "But he's clearly spending a lot of time in a world where he doesn't have to explain himself." He said that while Putin denied it, it's "obvious he's very wounded by the rejection of the West."
Semafor reports that Carlson also met with two Americans during his time in Moscow. He spent hours with NSA leaker Edward Snowden on Thursday and also taped an interview with Tara Reade, who, during the 2020 campaign, accused then-presidential candidate Joe Biden of sexually assaulting her when she was a Senate aide in 1993. She defected to Russia last year. (More Vladimir Putin stories.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.