Vladimir Putin called on the United States to “make a deal” for part of Ukrainian territory to be ceded to Russia in order to end the war, in an interview with Tucker Carlson broadcast Thursday.
The Russian president spoke for two hours with the former Fox News host; This interview constitutes the Kremlin’s most direct intervention with the American public since the start of the invasion of Ukraine two years ago.
“Wouldn’t it be better to negotiate with Russia? To make a deal? “, Mr. Putin asked Tucker Carlson, an American conservative commentator, during his first interview with an American media since 2021. “Start respecting our country and its interests and look for some solutions,” he added.
Much of the interview was devoted to an already rehashed Kremlin history lesson on Russia’s historic claims to Eastern European lands since the 9e century, which Mr. Putin has made little effort to adapt to American ears.
Mr. Putin also presented his well-rehearsed and fallacious justifications for the invasion of Ukraine, saying that Russia’s goal was to “end this war” that he says the West is waging against his country. .
But Mr. Putin was more direct than usual about how his country’s invasion of Ukraine will end, he believes: not in a military victory, but in a deal with the West.
At the end of the meeting, Mr. Putin told Mr. Carlson that the time had come to discuss the end of the war because “those in power in the West understood” that Russia would not be defeated on the battlefield.
“If that’s the case, if the awareness has happened, they need to think about what to do next. We are ready for this dialogue,” Mr. Putin said.
Asked by Mr. Carlson whether NATO could accept Russian control over parts of Ukraine, Mr. Putin replied: “Let them think about how to do it with dignity.” There are options if the will exists. »
The original Russian version of Mr. Putin’s remarks was not immediately released, forcing viewers to rely on the translation dubbed on Mr. Carlson’s show.
The interview, conducted on Tuesday, was the first that Mr. Putin gave to a Western media since the start of the war in Ukraine. While Mr. Putin regularly gave interviews to major American media outlets during his first two decades in power, his spokesperson explained that the Kremlin chose Mr. Carlson this time because these traditional media outlets adopt “a totally biased position” towards Russia.
When Mr. Carlson gave him the opportunity to speak about his efforts to portray Russia as a defender of “traditional values” in the face of what he often describes as a degenerate and declining West, the Russian president said evidence of unusual restraint. “Western society is more pragmatic,” he said. “The Russian people think more about the eternal, about moral values. »
He added that there was “nothing wrong” with following the Western path, noting that it had led to “good successes in production, and even in science.” The statement echoes Mr. Putin’s frequent assertion over the past two years that he is not in conflict with the West as a whole, but with a hegemonic ruling elite.
The Russian president’s intervention highlighted his tactical confidence, while his adversaries face a moment of vulnerability: Ukraine is in difficulty on the battlefield, military aid is blocked in the US Congress and the pro-Kremlin politicians are on the rise on both sides of the Atlantic.
Chief among these politicians is former President Donald Trump, the Republican presidential candidate whom Mr. Carlson often praises.
This combination of circumstances means that the interview with Tucker Carlson comes at a time when Mr. Putin feels that he is having his “hour of glory,” said Tatiana Stanovaïa, research fellow at the Carnegie Russia Eurasia Center.
She said Putin’s ultimate goal is to reach a peace deal in Ukraine that would consolidate Russia’s control over territory it has already conquered and to install a friendly government in Kyiv. But to get there, Mr. Putin appears to believe he needs the United States to pressure Ukraine into negotiations on ending the war, rather than continuing to resist the invasion. of Russia.
“He thinks he can currently benefit from a favorable situation,” she said.
This text was published in the New York Times.
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