In a hotly anticipated interview that began with a history lesson for Americans on the founding of Russia, President Vladimir Putin told Tucker Carlson that NATO expansion eastward and a 2014 coup that installed an anti-Russian government in Ukraine forced his country into war in 2022.
“In 2008… the doors of NATO were opened for Ukraine,” Putin said to Carlson in a sweeping conversation posted to X on Thursday, February 8. The former Fox News host has become the focus of intense vitriol within big-box media and political circles for traveling to Moscow to speak with the Russian leader.
“In 2014, there was a coup (and) they started persecuting those who did not accept the coup,” Putin stated. “They created the threat to Crimea, which we had to take under our protection. They launched the war in Donbas in 2014 with the use of aircraft and artillery against civilians. This is when it all started.”
Carlson: A Puppet for Putin?
Carlson has been pilloried by establishment political and media figures for talking with Putin. Hillary Clinton garnered headlines by calling him a “useful idiot.” Never-Trumper Steve Schmidt, who worked on presidential campaigns for John McCain and George W. Bush, was even more harsh in his assessment.
“He is a vessel for foreign poison to reach our free society, in which he seems to delight, undermining with lies, omissions and utter nonsense,” Schmidt wrote on his Substack account. “It is important to remember that Tucker Carlson is not engaged in an act of dissent or speech. He is a propagandist carrying water for a Russian war criminal who hates the United States, and is committed to conflict with the west.”
The New York Times took a unique approach in its attacks on Carlson, warning that his new form of independent journalism makes him easy prey to be manipulated.
“Russia has defined impartiality as hewing to its official line, deviation from which risks the decidedly censorious penalty of jail time. That goes against traditional journalistic standards — standards that Mr. Carlson does not have to concern himself with at X,” The Times caustically observed in a February 8 “Media Memo” feature article. The paper stated that Carlson’s “self-produced interviews on X – which lack the slick production values he once enjoyed on cable TV – have not had the same obvious influence on the national debate that he wielded on Fox News.”
“His waning power seemed to be at least part of the reason that Fox had not done more to stop his new endeavor even though Fox said it violated the terms of his contract,” The Times added.
So, what was it about the interview that so incensed the Fourth Estate?
‘We Were Promised No NATO to the East’
“They launched a large-scale military operation,” Putin said of Ukraine. “Then another one. When they failed, they started to prepare for the next one. All this against the background of military development of this territory and opening of NATO’s doors.”
“How could we not express concern over what was happening? From our side, this would have been a culpable negligence,” Putin stressed. “It’s just that the US political leadership pushed us to the line we could not cross because doing so could have ruined Russia itself. Besides, we could not leave our brothers in faith, in fact, a part of Russian people, in the face of this war machine.”
Putin is referring to the citizens in Ukraine’s disputed eastern territories, who he asserts see themselves as Russian. Putin emphasized as part of his argument that Ukrainians as a whole are spiritually Russian, with Ukrainization being a creation of Soviet Union founder Vladimir Lenin.
Putin declared the Ukrainian government headed by President Volodymyr Zelensky is nothing more than a proxy for the United States and its foreign policy interests. “Ukraine is obviously a satellite state of the US,” he said. “It is evident. I do not want you to take it as if I am looking for a strong word or an insult. But we both understand what is happening. The financial support. Seventy-two billion US dollars was provided…. Dozens of billions of US dollars are going to Ukraine. There’s a huge influx of weapons. In this case, you should tell the current Ukrainian leadership to stop and come to a negotiating table.”
He warned about the dangers of wide-scale war due to this monolithic antipathy for Russia. “It goes against common sense to get involved in some kind of a global war and a global war will bring all humanity to the brink of destruction.”
A Media Reaction
Putin himself told Carlson that he realizes the entire dominant establishment media apparatus in the West is aligned against Russia. “It is very difficult to defeat the United States because the United States controls all the world’s media and many European media,” Putin said.
And while Putin is clearly trying to paint himself and his war efforts in the most positive light, the reaction of the Fourth Estate is one that many readers and viewers might find confusing. Of course Vladimir Putin will try to propagandize his access to foreign media, but that doesn’t mean the American people don’t want to know his rationale or even his plans for the future. In fact, some would argue that such knowledge is a necessity. The Putin interview has amassed more than 85 million views since Carlson posted it to X last night; the appetite for information is strong, and it seems the big-box media is unwilling to satiate.