The Interview That Could Reshape the World

How often does an interview with a nation’s leader become a 1,000-year history lesson? If you live in America, never. Can you imagine an American politician being asked a question and beginning his answer, “Well, in 1842 we saw…” Heck, our current president can’t even remember what happened yesterday, much less in 988. But if you are interviewing Russian President Vladimir Putin, such a discussion is at least a possibility, as can be seen from his interview this week with Tucker Carlson. (One has to wonder how much of this extensive history lesson was simply a flex; a demonstration that the Russian President can mentally run circles around the American President.)

The 2-hour-long interview was a fascinating glimpse into the mind of the Russian leader, something we rarely see here in the censored United States. It likely came across as boring to a lot of Americans (a Daily Beast headline read “Putin Nearly Bores Tucker to Death with 2-Hour History Class“), but that’s because our collective memories barely go back a few months, much less hundreds of years, and our attention spans are limited to 280 characters and edgy memes. Yet a deep understanding of history is essential to understand our current world geopolitics.

In fact, it is Americans’ ignorance of history that allows the propaganda machine of our Political Class to operate successfully. For the past two years, these Elites and their flunkies in the Corporate Media have pretended that history began on February 24, 2022, the day Russia invaded Ukraine (or, as Putin puts it, when Russia “intensified” the conflict that he says began with the Ukrainian coup d’état in 2014). This ignorance allows flaks from Hillary Clinton to George Weigel to present a cartoonish version of what is happening there: Putin=Hitler; Russians=bad, Ukrainians=good; Putin only invaded because he has imperial designs on all of Europe.

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Knowledgeable analysts have always known this was a ridiculous and dishonest assessment, but it was necessary for the military-industrial complex here in the US to sell our role in the conflict to the American people. Sending billions of dollars to Ukraine (much of which actually goes to American military contractors) is only palatable if it is sold as an existential threat to our country, which it never was.

Putin’s long history lesson was full of gaps, of course, and purposefully only included events that make Russia look favorable. Of course, that’s how most political leaders tell history: in a favorable light to their own country. Yet the history he told since the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991 is essentially correct, and knowledge of this time period is vital to understanding today’s conflict.

The United States and the West repeatedly broke promises made in good faith to Russia, and has repeatedly provoked Russia over the past 30 years by consistently moving the NATO border—along with our military bases and missiles—closer and closer to Russia’s border, against the clear warnings of Russia’s leadership (Putin is not alone in Russian leadership in decrying this expansion).

To be clear, “provoked” is not the same as “justified.” Noting the factualness of Putin’s account of recent history is not a defense of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. But it’s necessary to acknowledge these realities if peace is ever to be achieved. We must recognize that Russia will defend its own interests, and demanding its complete capitulation is a fool’s errand.

Thus, if we insist on the cartoonish representation of Putin as a modern-day Hitler, we’ll never be willing to sit down and negotiate an end to this bloody conflict. Sadly, this is exactly what happened in March 2022, one month after the invasion, when British Prime Minister Boris Johnson (clearly in union with the Biden Administration) forced Ukraine to reject a peace initiative, an initiative Ukraine itself was ready to sign. If we insist on the cartoonish representation of Putin as a modern-day Hitler, we’ll never be willing to sit down and negotiate an end to this bloody conflict.Tweet This

Yet my purpose here isn’t to re-debate U.S. involvement in the Russia-Ukraine conflict (I’ve already commented on it here, here, here, and here). Instead it’s to note how important Tucker Carlson’s interview was for promoting peace, and how it reflects the changing landscape in media, a change I believe is vital to the cause of peace and freedom.

The Corporate Media is happy to caricature Putin as a thuggish dictator, just as they caricature Donald Trump as a wannabe dictator. This satisfies their masters in the Political Class, and so they do all they can to censor their targets. It’s easy to caricature someone if you never allow him to present his own point of view. But with the rise of alternative media, the Corporate Media’s ability to engage in such censorship is weakening.

(I know that CNN and others say they repeatedly asked for a Putin interview and were refused. Do you blame him? In just the past few months, the media has refused to broadcast some of Trump’s speeches, and cut out sections of an interview with Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. that they claimed was “false information.”)

Fortunately, people are waking up to this game. As just one indicator of the Corporate Media’s decline, it would take 226 days for CNN to have as many cumulative viewers during prime time as Carlson’s interview with Putin received in its first 17 hours. More and more people are rejecting the sound-byte-driven, Narrative-pushing Corporate Media for the long-form, open-to-different-views alternative media. This terrifies our ruling Political Class, because they know the more knowledgeable the populace, the weaker their grip on power.

Getting to hear from Vladimir Putin directly is a good thing, period. That doesn’t mean we must embrace his narrative any more than our own President’s (Putin’s claims about wanting to “denazify” Ukraine, for example, seem to be cynically driven for propaganda purposes). Hearing from the “other side,” however, does allow us to realize that in every conflict there are multiple points of view, multiple grievances, and each side has its own perspective of what led to the conflict and what continues it. Recognizing that fact is the first step toward peace, and for interviewing Vladimir Putin, we should all thank Tucker Carlson. 

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  • Eric Sammons

    Eric Sammons is the editor-in-chief of Crisis Magazine.

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