Russian leader Vladimir Putin agreed to an interview with Tucker Carlson last week, predictably drawing mixed reactions across the political spectrum. Corporate media has long-accused Carlson of being a Putin apologist and said he should use his audience with the autocrat to challenge him over war crimes. Or not give him a platform at all. In response, Carlson chided journalists for not doing their job (however, the Kremlin confirmed Putin has refused interviews with many Western reporters. Russians appear to like Carlson and Putin clearly believes Tucker’s audience will be sympathetic to his cause.)
The interview was over two hours long and was more of a “lecture”, with Putin obviously used to giving his opinions at length and without interruption. Tucker Carlson did not offer much pushback with Putin dodging any difficult questions about his invasion of Ukraine.
Reactions in the Western were varied, with some saying there were no new revelations and that Putin really is boring. Some heard the ravings of a lunatic and others heard a rational justification of a patriotic leader. But Russian-British podcaster, Konstantin Kisin, had an even-handed reaction which I found really helpful.
Though some declared Putin’s (lengthy) explanation of why he thinks the formation of Ukraine was “illegitimate” fanciful nonsense, Kisin says it’s pretty accurate if you’re thinking in terms of medieval boundaries.(Putin’s recount about WWII was fanciful, by all accounts.) Putin’s desire to unite Russian-speaking people is something he has spoken about previously and clearly sees it as his legacy. But as Kisin points out, the same could be said of many modern states; who can reshuffle nations’ territory to return to the historical boundaries of their choosing? How far back would be be enough?
Putin restated his dismay at NATO’s expansion which observers like John Mearshimer have reminded the Western establishment would lead to war for years. Putin portrayed himself as being snubbed by Western leaders and in a slightly more paranoid fashion, spoke of his efforts to prevent the formation of a Golden Billion - a belief that Western powers intend to form a wealthy global elite, purposefully keeping the rest of the world poor.
Ultimately, Putin painted himself as a strongman leader with a soft heart, who is doing what is best for Russian people. As Kisin points out, Putin speaks as someone who knows he has the West over a barrel and believes he is being magnanimous in offering to negotiate for an end to the war. “Stop supplying weapons and it will be over within weeks,” he said.
The interview is a reminder to pray that times of peace would come from Jesus Christ. Despite his denial that God is at work in the world, the heart of every leader, even Putin’s, is in the hand of the Lord and He can turn it wherever He wishes.
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