Putin Interview Refutes His Portrayal as a Cartoon Villain

Tucker Carlson’s interview of Vladimir Putin was quite the scoop for the controversial former Fox News commentator. The war in Ukraine has cost the United States tens of billions of dollars while costing the Russian and Ukrainian people hundreds of thousands of lives. Putin is central to this conflict, as he is the undisputed leader of Russia.

Who is Putin? What does he think? Why did Russia invade Ukraine two years ago? In our country, these questions are mostly answered by U.S. government and NATO propaganda, which is repeated by media lackeys, to the extent these questions are considered at all.

Even high-ranking political leaders do not question the consensus. Republican senators and congressmen sometimes object to the great expense of arming Ukraine without ever asking what are we doing in that part of the world or whether a more cost-conscious system of slaughtering Russians would somehow be desirable.

Tucker’s interview allowed us to hear Putin’s own perspective on his country, its decisions, and the war in Ukraine.

A Myth Dependent on Ignorance

In order to encourage a widespread feeling of hostility, Putin has become a cartoon villain in the West. Critics call him a killer and dictator and communist. For the same reason, post-Soviet Russia is largely unknown to Americans. Since American lives are not on the line, there is little curiosity among the public or the media about whether the U.S. government is playing it straight.

In 2021, Putin authored a lengthy essay on “The Historical Unity of Russians and Ukrainians.” It expressed in great detail his view of history and what this means for relations between Russia and Ukraine. For the first half hour of the Tucker interview, Putin recounted this detailed genealogy of historical Russian claims to the region as well as expressing contemporary concerns for security.

After the interview, the media purported to fact check these statements, but the facts are not really in doubt. It’s more a question of interpretation. It is a fact Ukraine became independent in 1991 and split off from the Soviet Union. And it’s also a fact that Ukraine was part of the Russian empire for hundreds of years, and it’s a fact that half or more of Ukraine’s citizens primarily speak Russian including their president. And it is a fact that Ukraine’s pro-Russian president, Viktor Yanukovich, was democratically elected and then ousted in a U.S.-supported coup in 2014. It is also a fact that this led to (or at least preceded) Russia annexing Crimea, as well as separatist movements gaining power in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk and Lugansk oblasts.

The American government’s position on the Russian invasion of Ukraine as “unprovoked” requires the suppression of Russian perspectives on the order of events, particularly between 2014 and 2022. There are obvious ideological and security-related concerns that would lead many states, including democratic states, to act in response to the situation that prevailed in February 2022. The United States would never tolerate, for example, a Chinese-led coup in Mexico and the installation of a pro-Chinese leader so that Mexico and China could enter into a military alliance.

But instead of obtaining an authentic understanding, which would admit the possibility that Russia is acting rationally, critics classify Russians as a collective of maniacs and psychopaths, people devoid of justice, restraint, and even basic humanity. Among such a people, there is not much to understand and certainly no good reason to listen to their leader.

Many prominent figures in the U.S. media—who routinely criticize Russia for its policies of censorship—were highly critical of Tucker for undertaking the interview. Former congressman and war hawk Adam Kinzinger called Tucker a traitor. The country’s left-leaning managerial class has become a jingoistic caricature of the McCarthyism it once denounced. This same group also hopes the American people remain ignorant and forgetful, a hope not entirely misplaced.

But have they themselves forgotten Barbara Walter’s interview of Fidel Castro? Or John Miller’s 1998 interview of Osama bin Laden? This used to be fairly routine.

Putin’s Intelligence and Self-Control Contrast Sharply With Biden’s Stupidity and Anger

Putin did not become Russia’s leader because he is devoid of intelligence, charm, and strategy. Instead of a frothing-at-the-mouth dictator, we instead had a knowledgeable, sober, cold-blooded, and detail-oriented person. The tone and content did not fit the myths propagated by the American media and foreign policy establishment, and that is the primary reason why they were so opposed to this interview going forward.

The contrast between Putin and Biden could not have been more dramatic. On the same day that the interview aired, Biden gave an angry, disjointed press conference in response to the special counsel’s claim that he was, essentially, too feeble-minded to have criminal responsibility for mishandling classified documents.

On the other hand, Putin gave a thirty-minute talk on 1,200 years of Russian history without notes or any apparent diversions in his train of thought. Putin commands respect and exudes erudition and discipline.

If the American establishment wants to convince our people to continue antagonizing Russia, they will need to explain what’s in it for us and how we will win. This seems doubtful, as Russia is far away, it is winning the war on Ukraine, and its leadership is apparently an order of magnitude more serious and qualified than the idiots and ideologues presently running America’s foreign policy.

Putin’s Primary Audience Was the American Establishment

Putin’s sometimes strange approach during the interview, including the long digression on history, also made an important point of the “dog that didn’t bark” variety. Putin is culturally conservative and frequently critical of the West’s political correctness. He could have easily appealed directly to America’s conservatives, pointing out how American leadership was hostile to them and how this extends to the left-wing establishment’s foreign policy goals, where homosexuality and mass immigration are prominent objectives. But he remained silent on these issues.

He was silent because his audience was not the American people, even though he was giving a widely seen interview. He delivered his message to them quickly and indirectly by appearing intelligent and calm. The audience for his substantive remarks was, instead, America’s political leaders and the foreign policy establishment, whom he knows are implacably hostile to him.

He knows they are weakening America, but why stop the bad guys when this is happening? He only wants the American establishment to change course to the extent it involves lessening their pressure on Russia. He has now fully abandoned his earlier efforts at rapprochement with the West.

He implied several times that the American people exercise no meaningful control over the government’s foreign policy. He did not even think American presidents necessarily have such control. In his words, “It is not about the personality of the leader; it is about the elites’ mindset.” So for him, conversations must be had leader-to-leader and elite-to-elite.

For this audience of elites and decisionmakers, Putin’s reiteration of his historically rooted understanding of the Ukraine conflict and Russian identity demonstrates a certain amount of immunity to the usual diplomatic overtures and other attempts at tangible pressure, including sanctions.

For Putin and many Russians, the connection to Ukraine is as deep and immutable as the Muslim belief in the Koran or the Argentinian revanchism regarding the Malvinas. Putin made Russia’s position clear: Ukraine will not be allowed to become a western satellite, and this requirement is non-negotiable.

It is worthwhile in general to have a dialogue between nations and their adversaries. Sometimes understanding another’s point of view can help avoid avoidable conflicts. In other cases, as with the 1998 interview of bin Laden, it becomes clear that a person or group is a fanatic opponent and the only option is war.

It remains to be seen if Americans love or hate Putin as they get to know him better. Judging by the establishment’s criticism of Tucker Carlson and desire to avoid this interview, the establishment is obviously worried their cartoon vision of Putin as the “Next Hitler” won’t stand up to even minimal scrutiny.



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About Christopher Roach

Christopher Roach is an adjunct fellow of the Center for American Greatness and an attorney in private practice based in Florida. He is a double graduate of the University of Chicago and has previously been published by The Federalist, Takimag, Chronicles, the Washington Legal Foundation, the Marine Corps Gazette, and the Orlando Sentinel. The views presented are solely his own.

Photo: In this pool photograph distributed by Russian state agency Sputnik, Russia's President Vladimir Putin gives an interview to US talk show host Tucker Carlson at the Kremlin in Moscow on February 6, 2024. (Photo by Gavriil GRIGOROV / POOL / AFP) (Photo by GAVRIIL GRIGOROV/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)