The highly awaited interview between Russian President Vladimir Putin and US conservative media figure Tucker Carlson has been broadcasted. The interview, recorded on Tuesday according to the Kremlin, was streamed on Carlson’s website and will also be posted on X, previously known as Twitter. This is Putin’s first interview with a Western media outlet since the start of his full-scale invasion of Ukraine nearly two years ago.
Carlson had inaccurately stated that no Western journalist had interviewed Putin during this period. However, numerous Western journalists, including the BBC’s Russia Editor Steve Rosenberg, have made multiple interview requests to the Kremlin, all of which were ignored. Kremlin Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov confirmed that Carlson’s claim was false during a press conference on Wednesday.
Despite this, the interview is a significant achievement for Carlson, who has quickly recovered after being dismissed from Fox News last year due to a reported fallout with owner Rupert Murdoch. The interview allows him to showcase his new media company, launched on X last year, as a significant player in the media industry.
The interview is also beneficial for Putin. Carlson’s request came at a convenient time for the Russian leader, whose media appearances are strictly controlled by the Kremlin. In the US, efforts to pass legislation providing new military aid for Ukraine have been stalled in Congress.
The Kremlin hopes that by conducting an interview with a well-known conservative TV host, Republican lawmakers may be more open to narratives typically circulated within Russian domestic media. Carlson has a longstanding and mutually beneficial relationship with Donald Trump, the likely Republican presidential nominee, who has expressed doubts about supporting Ukraine.
Carlson’s platform provides the Kremlin with a chance to reach a broader, potentially sympathetic, and predominantly conservative audience in the US. In the past, the former Fox News host has criticized Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and aligned himself with Putin’s push for “traditional values,” which has included attacks on LGBT individuals in Russia.
The Kremlin is also keeping an eye on Europe, which would be left to financially support Ukraine if the US withdraws aid. Public opinion in Europe is shifting, with increasing hesitancy about continuing support for Ukraine. Right-wing populist parties, some with pro-Russian leanings, have been successful in various elections.
The interview with Carlson also allows Putin to portray himself as an international statesman to his domestic audience ahead of the upcoming presidential elections in Russia. Russian state media have treated Carlson as a major celebrity, covering his arrival and various outings in Russia.
Lastly, the Kremlin is closely monitoring the growing signs of internal political divisions in Ukraine. President Zelensky announced on Thursday that he was replacing his top military commander, Gen Valery Zaluzhny, amid rumors of a disagreement between the two. This news is likely to please Putin, whose ultimate goal is to replace the Zelensky government with a pro-Russian one.