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Expert: Putin's interview did not include a single new idea

Ilmar Raag.
Ilmar Raag. Source: Kairit Leibold/ERR

No sentence from Russian President Vladimir Putin's interview with Tucker Carlson should be quoted because his speech contained no new ideas, and the entire interview served propaganda interests, communication expert Ilmar Raag told Vikerraadio.

Raag noted that the interview was conducted with very clear calculations.

"It's worth remembering that Putin, or the Kremlin administration through various personas, has repeatedly said that he distrusts Western media, whether in America or Europe, which are all under the control of Americans anyway. And now, when he conducts such an interview, their own view is that they'll take a journalist, but only if they believe they can control him," Raag explained.

"Now, considering the conservative background that Tucker Carlson has, where he has been more of an agitator rather than a journalist, the entire interview carried more the mark of public relations than journalism. I think this is connected to the historical moment we are currently in, where Russia indeed sees an opportunity, by sufficiently pressuring America, to reduce American support for Ukraine. Because we know how difficult it has been to push through aid packages for Ukraine in the U.S. Congress," Raag said.

Putin began the interview with a so-called historical lecture lasting 30 minutes, claiming things he has always claimed, that Ukraine is an artificially created country and talking about events from the ninth century. When the interview actually started, he called on the U.S. to stop aiding Ukraine with weapons.

"The lengthy historical lecture at the beginning was somewhat curious and, in its own way, points to a weak spot in the whole situation. That is, Russia has not managed to impose its framing of the conflict on the West. Russia has tried in various ways to explain that there are Bandera Jewish Nazis in power in Kyiv and then that NATO is encroaching, and Russia was only defending itself. But the West isn't really buying it and he now feels somewhat offended," Raag commented.

According to Raag, Putin's next theme was clearly related to deterring the USA, as on the one hand, the threat is made that Russia will win no matter what. "And this is a theme that actually reveals the fear that Russia, like other countries, may not be able to fight indefinitely. To this, Putin suggests, 'Let's agree then, we are open to negotiations,' but throughout the interview, he never talks about the conditions," Raag mentioned.

"He only says that we are ready for peace, come let's negotiate. But he doesn't address what the Ukrainian side has said, that they want Russian troops to leave Ukraine. He rather indicated that when we, as a gesture of goodwill, withdrew our troops from Kyiv, we were ready for peace. But against this backdrop, it still shines through for Russia that making peace means keeping everything it has conquered so far. This aligns very clearly with various Russian security doctrines, which talk about war in such a way that it begins and the next moment, negotiations start to legally secure the conquests Russia has made in the meantime," Raag explained.

He noted that regarding Putin's claim of having no interests in Poland or Latvia, if someone other than Carlson had been interviewing, they would have asked follow-up questions. "For example, about the ultimatum Russia presented to NATO and the USA in December 2021, which demanded that NATO forces be withdrawn from the Baltic states and Poland and even questioned the membership of those countries in NATO, clearly interfering in the sovereign decision-making process of those nations. One might ask if this issue is now forgotten, now that Putin claims to have no grievances against Poland or Latvia," Raag pondered.

Raag agreed with the host's statement that Putin was unusually friendly towards the West in this interview. "Absolutely. Because the purpose of the interview was primarily to speak with the more conservative electorate in America. The group that will soon be going to vote for Donald Trump as president," Raag said.

The interview is likely to have some impact on the American electorate, Raag mentioned. "But I think it would be naive to believe that one interview could change the fate of the world. Therefore, the media should not quote any sentence of what Putin said, because there was nothing original in it, there was nothing he hadn't said before," Raag stated.

He added that there's no reason to believe this time that Putin's message of peace to neighbors is credible.

"And if we want, we can add a more detailed question, remembering the aggression that started in 2014, during which two peace agreements, Minsk 1 and Minsk 2, were made, and both bore the same tactical stamp. Russia conquered certain territories. Then, it achieved that negotiations were started, peace was signed, during which Russia reorganized its units and started new offensive actions. If we now imagine that the West, charmed by this sweet talk, concludes this agreement, it's very hard to believe that the peace agreement would hold without any additional external guarantees," Raag explained.

In response to why Western media covers Putin's interview so extensively, Raag said the West might think that if it doesn't talk about it, no one will know, but that's a clear overestimation of itself.

However, Kremlin doesn't care about the coverage by Western outlets like BBC or New York Times. "For the Kremlin, it's important that [the interview reaches] that segment of the American population who needs to be assured in their belief that Ukraine doesn't need any more help and that Donald Trump should become president," Raag stated.

The controversial conservative U.S. television journalist Tucker Carlson uploaded an interview with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday. The two-hour interview with Putin was recorded on Tuesday in Moscow at the Kremlin and is the first interview Putin has given to a Western journalist since Russia started its full-scale aggression war against Ukraine in February 2022.

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Editor: Mari Peegel, Marcus Turovski

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