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15 Feb, 2024 08:55

‘Polite’ Carlson, ‘our guy’ Blinken, backing Biden: Putin weighs in on US politics

The Russian president has made his first public comments on his sit-down with American journalist Tucker Carlson
‘Polite’ Carlson, ‘our guy’ Blinken, backing Biden: Putin weighs in on US politics

Russian President Vladimir Putin has made his first public comments on his headline-grabbing recent interview with US journalist Tucker Carlson. Putin said the event had fallen short of his expectations, while suggesting Carlson may end up being punished for traveling to Russia.

He shared his thoughts in an interview with Russian reporter Pavel Zarubin that was published on Wednesday. The Russian leader also touched on US politics, including the presidential race shaping up between Joe Biden and Donald Trump.

Below is a summary of Putin’s key comments.

At least they watched it

Western leaders criticizing the interview with Carlson have presumably watched it, which is a good thing, Putin said. In the absence of direct dialogue, Russia should be grateful to Carlson for serving as an intermediary, he added.

Unfortunately, critics tend to distort what was actually said in the interview, Putin stated, noting that he had never claimed that NATO was planning to attack Russia from Ukrainian territory. The primary trigger for the Ukraine conflict was Kiev’s refusal to reconcile with rebels in the east and its continued attacks on Donbass, Putin stressed. Moscow should have intervened sooner, he believes.

Russia, however, does perceive NATO as a threat and Western officials in general as deceitful, the president added.

Carlson is ‘dangerous’

Putin called Carlson a “dangerous man” in the sense that his attitude was surprisingly respectful rather than combative. By not being pushy, he didn’t give the president an excuse to push back, Putin said.

“Because of that, frankly speaking, I didn’t fully enjoy this interview. But he stuck to his plan and carried it out,” the leader stated.

Carlson knew the risks

While it’s unlikely that Carlson will face legal issues for interviewing Putin, “in today’s America it is hypothetically possible,” the Russian leader believes.

The journalist knew what he was signing up for, Putin added, saying that if Carlson were arrested, it would mean “the ‘liberal democratic’ dictatorship… is showing its true face.” This would be bad for Carlson, but good in other respects, the president claimed.

Blinken is ‘our guy’

One topic that Carlson chose not to discuss with Putin on camera was anti-Semitism in Russia and the historic pogroms of Jews. Instead, the two talked about it after the cameras were switched off, the Russian leader said.

Western politicians may bring up the pogroms “to demonize Russia, show that barbarians, scoundrels and bandits live here,” Putin claimed. He named US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who comes from a family of Russian Jewish emigres, as an example.

Putin noted that Blinken’s ancestors had fled from Kiev, so when he says his family escaped persecution in Russia, he tacitly acknowledges that there was no Ukraine in the early 20th century, the president argued.

“It appears Mr. Blinken is our guy. But he should not make such public statements, or his cover will be blown,” Putin joked.

Biden preferable to Trump

Moscow would rather see incumbent US President Joe Biden remain in power than Donald Trump win the election this year, Putin said. The Democrat is an old-school politician who is “experienced and predictable,” according to the Russian leader. But Moscow is ready to work with whoever is entrusted by Americans to lead their country, he added.

Putin rejected the notion that Biden is in cognitive decline, saying he had seen no evidence of that during their face-to-face meeting in 2021.

Concerns in the EU that a second Trump presidency would be catastrophic for the bloc are overblown, the Russian president stated. While Trump’s ‘America first’ rhetoric makes him stand out, his actual policies were not that different from other leaders in Washington, Putin said.

He cited the example of George W. Bush, who in 2001 withdrew his country from the Kyoto Protocol, a key international agreement aimed at fighting climate change, for selfish nationalistic reasons.

Nazi granddad not an issue

Putin was also asked about the scandal in Germany involving Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, whose late grandfather has been exposed as a devoted Nazi. The president said blaming people for the atrocities of their ancestors was unjust.

If anything, Germans should be concerned about Baerbock’s disregard for national interests, which makes her appear hostile to her own country, Putin suggested.