In a recent interview with former Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson, Russian President Vladimir Putin asserted that the conflict in Ukraine could be resolved within weeks. Putin attributed the prolongation of Russia’s extensive military operation in Ukraine to the support Kyiv receives from Western countries. He suggested that a cessation of this assistance could swiftly bring the hostilities to an end. During the conversation, which was broadcast on February 8, Putin emphasized Russia’s determination to defend its interests “to the end” while clarifying that Russia harbors no ambitions to extend the conflict into neighboring nations, including Poland and Latvia.
PUTIN ON WAR AND PEACE IN UKRAINE
Following a detailed half-hour discourse on the historical relationship between Russia and Ukraine, tracing back to the origins of Slavic history in 862, President Vladimir Putin revealed that Russia and Ukraine were on the verge of reaching a peace agreement in Istanbul shortly after the onset of the comprehensive conflict in 2022. However, the proposed settlement was ultimately rejected by Ukraine, influenced by Western intervention, particularly at the urging of Boris Johnson, who was the British Prime Minister at the time.
He suggested the West and Ukraine think about peace.
“Wouldn’t it be better to come to an agreement with Russia? To agree, understanding the situation that is today, understanding that Russia will fight for its interests to the end, and, understanding this, actually return to common sense, start respecting our country, its interests and look for some solutions?”
And Russia? “We are ready for this dialogue.”
Putin questioned why the United States needed to spend so much on arming Ukraine for a war he cast in some ways similar to a “civil war”.
“Does the United States need this? Why? It is thousands of kilometres away from its territory! Don’t you have anything else to do?” Putin said. He said there were mercenaries from the United States, Poland and Georgia fighting for Ukraine.
As reported by Reuters, in his initial interview with an American journalist since the period before Russia invaded Ukraine nearly two years ago, Putin remarked that Western leaders had recognized the impossibility of inflicting a strategic defeat on Russia and were now pondering their next steps.
ON POLAND AND NATO
In response to a query regarding the possibility of deploying Russian forces into Poland, a NATO ally, President Vladimir Putin specified that such a measure would only be considered if Poland were to initiate an attack on Russia. He justified this stance by emphasizing Russia’s lack of interest in Poland, Latvia, or any other country, questioning the rationale behind such an action given the absence of any Russian interest in these territories.
This conversation, conducted in Russian and subsequently translated into English, featured Putin offering extensive comments on Russia’s historical and current relations with Ukraine, Poland, and other nations. Additionally, Putin expressed frustration over the near-achievement of a ceasefire agreement during negotiations in Istanbul in April 2022. He lamented that Ukraine retracted its agreement to cease hostilities after Russian forces pulled back from the vicinity of Kyiv, indicating a missed opportunity for peace due to these developments.
ON NORD STREAM
Asked who blew up the pipeline, Putin indicated it was the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.
“The CIA has no alibi,” Putin said.
ON US FINANCIAL SUPPORT OF UKRAINE
President Vladimir Putin highlighted the significant internal challenges facing the United States, suggesting that it would be more beneficial for the US to enter into negotiations and reach an agreement with Russia. Acknowledging the current geopolitical dynamics, Putin emphasized Russia’s determination to defend its interests vehemently. Despite the US’s provision of over $110 billion in assistance to Ukraine following Russia’s military actions in February 2022, the US has shown hesitance to negotiate under the conditions proposed by Putin.
It’s noteworthy that Putin’s most recent official interview with an American media outlet was with CNBC’s Hadley Gamble in October 2021, marking a rare occasion for direct dialogue between the Russian leader and Western media.
PROGRESS IN JOURNALIST’S CASE
President Putin revealed that discussions between Russian and American special services regarding the case of journalist Gershkovich have seen some advancement. Putin hinted at a desire for a reciprocal gesture from Germany, specifically the release of Vadim Krasikov, who was found guilty in 2019 for the assassination of a Chechen dissident in Berlin, though he refrained from naming Krasikov directly.
Putin expressed optimism about the negotiations, referencing previous instances of successful talks leading to the exchange of prisoners. He suggested that this situation might also conclude successfully, contingent upon reaching a mutual agreement.
The historical context of Russia and the United States engaging in significant prisoner exchanges was underscored by the recent swap in December 2022. During this exchange, Moscow released Brittney Griner, an American basketball player convicted in Russia on drug charges, in return for Viktor Bout, a Russian convicted of arms trafficking.
The decision to grant an interview to Tucker Carlson was motivated by the Kremlin’s view that the former Fox News host’s approach to covering the Ukraine conflict was distinct from the predominantly one-sided narrative presented by many Western media outlets. Carlson’s reputed close ties with Donald Trump, anticipated to be the Republican candidate in the upcoming November U.S. presidential election, were also noted as a factor in this decision.
Voicing discontent over the substantial financial support provided to Kyiv, Mr. Trump has advocated for a reduction in the hostilities in Ukraine, a conflict that has seen the Biden administration offering strong support to President Zelenskiy’s government.
Similarly, Mr. Carlson has critiqued the coverage of the war by much of the Western media, arguing that it is prejudiced in favor of Kyiv.