Russia has "no interest" in attacking NATO and European Union member states Poland and Latvia, Russian leader Vladimir Putin said in a lengthy interview given to right-wing pundit Tucker Carlson, broadcast in the small hours of Friday, Estonian time.
The West needs to stop supplying military support to Ukraine ahead of any end to the current war, now nearly in its third year, but were this to happen, it could be over in a matter of weeks, Putin claimed.
Interviewer Tucker Carlson has been the only foreign media personality to get an interview since then; Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said earlier this week that this was the case due to Carlson's Moscow-friendly, yet "pro-American" position on the conflict.
The two hour long exclusive was filmed in Moscow the day before broadcast, and was the Russian leader's first with a Western media outlet since the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, which began nearly two years ago.
Carlson has been described in the media as a right-wing provocateur, and was fired by Fox News in April last year. His scoop nonetheless has chagrined many others in the media, who have been waiting for a one-to-one interview with Putin for many years.
The interview began with an over 30 minute long overview of Russian history, from the eighth century to the 20th, which also took in EU and NATO member states Poland and Latvia, as well as Ukraine.
As for this century, Putin laid the blame for the Ukraine war at the feet of former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, whom he said had dissuaded Ukraine's Volodymyr Zelenskyy from signing a peace deal in the early stages of the conflict, while Ukraine following Johnson's lead was "ridiculous," Putin said.
On the other hand, attacking Poland or Latvia today is "out of the question," Putin said, save for in one case, namely: "If Poland attacks Russia."
"We have no interests in Poland, Latvia or anywhere else. Why would we do that? We simply have no interest in it," he said.
Similar statements had been made before the full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
If the West would stop helping Kyiv defend itself, however, Politico reports, Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine could end "in a few weeks."
If you really want to stop fighting, you need to stop supplying weapons," he said referring to Western aid to Kyiv."
Putin also said that he would like to "solve the situation in Ukraine through talks," but added that Ukraine was being intransigent while being backed by the West, and has offered peace terms unacceptable to Russia.
Ukrainian authorities have repeatedly emphasized that their goal is to liberate the territories within Ukraine's internationally recognized borders from Russian occupation, whereas Putin claimed that Russia's defeat in Ukraine is "impossible."
Russia does not control the administrative center of any Ukrainian regions save for Crimea, Donetsk and Luhansk, which had in effect been occupied since 2014.
Russia was forced to withdraw troops from northern and northeastern Ukraine in April 2022 after its offensive had stalled.
In fall 2022, Ukrainian forces liberated most of Kharkiv Oblast, including the cities of Izium and Kupiansk, as well as Kherson.
Achievement of some of the goals of the "special military operation" in Ukraine, including "de-Nazification," lie in the future, the Russian leader added.
"This means the prohibition of all kinds of neo-Nazi movements. We have to get rid of those people who maintain this concept and support this practice and try to preserve it," he said.
Carlson also asked Putin about the attacks on the Nord Stream gas pipelines in the Baltic Sea in September 2022,
Putin responded to Carlson's question on this in a rather gnomic manner: "You for sure." The pundit responded: "I was busy that day. I did not blow up Nord Stream."
Putin then joked that while Carlson personally had an alibi for the day of the bombings, the CIA did not, though he did not present any evidence to back up his accusations, saying that only the U.S. would have the capability and interest in blowing up that pipeline.
The U.S. "controls the entire world's media and a large part of the European media," Putin added.
The interview also covered the arrest of U.S. journalist Evan Gershkovich in Russia last year. "He's not just a journalist. I reiterate. He's a journalist who is secretly getting confidential information," Putin said in answer to Carlson's objections that Gershkovich is clearly not a spy.
The 32-year-old Wall Street Journal correspondent has been in pre-trial detention for almost a year on espionage charges, allegations he and his employer have strongly rebuffed, while Putin said the two countries' special services were "in contact with one another" and there was "no taboo to settle this issue."
Putin also hinted at the possibility that he might free Gershkovich if Germany releases Russian hitman Vadim Krassikov.
The latter was convicted of the murder of a dissident from Chechnya in Berlin in 2019.
The Guardian reports that Putin's full-scale invasion of Ukraine has also sped up the crackdown on independent media. More than 1,000 journalists have fled the country, a number of high-profile criminal cases have been opened against reporters for discrediting the Russian army or spreading "fake news," and legacy broadcast media like Ekho Moskvy have been forced to close down, despite having powerful backers in the government.
According to the Russian dictator, negotiations are ongoing between Washington and the Kremlin about Gershkovich's fate.
Carlson also asked Putin what he thought of X (former Twitter) owner Elon Musk.
Putin said he was rumored to have implanted a chip in a human brain, adding: "I think there's no stopping Elon Musk. He will do as he sees fit."
The full two-hour interview Tucker Carlson gave to Vladimir Putin earlier in the week can be viewed below.
Ep. 73 The Vladimir Putin Interview pic.twitter.com/67YuZRkfLL— Tucker Carlson (@TuckerCarlson) February 8, 2024
Tucker Carlson may be the target of EU sanctions or other responses as a result of the interview, Newsweek reports.
Editor: Andrew Whyte
Source: Politico, The Guardian, Newsweek, Reuters, The Times, AFP