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Stephen Sestanovich on Tucker Carlson’s Putin Interview
February 13, 2024

Stephen Sestanovich analyzes the Tucker Carlson interview with Vladimir Putin for the Council on Foreign Relations.

No matter how tedious the interview seemed, Putin clearly had some real goals in mind, and it’s worth parsing them a little. I was struck by two contradictory objectives. The first was to get Western governments and publics thinking and talking about a negotiated settlement of the war in Ukraine. After two years of proclaiming that Russia had to experience a “strategic defeat,” he claimed that Western powers now see “it is never going to happen.” Instead they will have to figure out how to back down “with dignity.” Russia, he insisted, is “ready for this dialogue.”

Putin seemed even more determined to justify both his decision to start the war and his entire approach to relations with Ukraine. Unfortunately for him, this second goal undermined the first one, maybe fatally. It is hard to imagine any other world leader trying to legitimize invading another country by starting with events of the ninth century—and then slow-walking their way through several centuries after that. Carlson spoke for many listeners when he interrupted Putin to say, “I am losing track of where in history we are.” (Putin’s helpful reply: “In the 13th century.”)

Read the interview