On February 8, US TV anchor Tucker Carlson launched a two-hour interview with Russian President Vladimir Putin. This was the Russian chief’s first encounter with a Western journalist for the reason that begin of the Russian full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.
The interview was met with plenty of mockery within the West, largely centered on the primary half, wherein Putin prompt that he would speak about Russo-Ukrainian historical past for 30 seconds after which went on bragging about medieval princes and long-extinct empires for a superb half-hour.
A few of his claims have been outright surprising, corresponding to his suggestion that Poland precipitated World Conflict II by failing to accommodate Hitler’s calls for. Others mirrored a view of historical past related to Russian nationalist mythology, which is hardly worse than Ukraine’s nationalist mythology – the one which Western supporters of Ukraine are inclined to cross because the nation’s official historical past.
Whereas the interview supplied plenty of fodder for Western ridicule, it additionally contained some essential messaging that Western observers ignored amid their persistent rejection of the very doubtless prospect that Putin will finish the conflict in Ukraine on his personal phrases.
All through his dialog with Carlson, the Russian chief appeared to channel the sentiment of being continually duped by the West and reveal a agency resolve to not be duped ever once more.
The Russian president spoke of Ukraine’s invitation to hitch NATO, issued on the Bucharest summit in 2008. Germany and France have been identified to be towards it on the time and solely a small minority of Ukrainians supported the concept. In line with Putin, US President George W Bush pushed by the choice which triggered a sequence of occasions finally resulting in the battle in Ukraine.
He advised Carlson that on the time he was being repeatedly assured by his German and French counterparts that Ukraine wasn’t actually going to hitch NATO, however he had no purpose to imagine these assurances. If the US was in a position to press them into agreeing to the invitation for Ukraine, there was no assure it wouldn’t do it once more to get the nation into NATO, he mentioned.
Later within the interview, Putin introduced up the February 2014 settlement between the Ukrainian authorities and the opposition. Mediated by France, Germany and Poland, it was supposed to finish the violence on the most dramatic level of the Maidan revolution in Kyiv. Putin mentioned that as a substitute of complying with it, the opposition proceeded with overthrowing Viktor Yanukovych’s authorities, whereupon – he maintained – the Western guarantors threw the settlement “into the furnace”.
In direction of the tip of his historical past lecture, he introduced up the Istanbul talks in March 2022, which may have ended the present conflict in Ukraine. He claimed that he eliminated the troops from the environment of Kyiv on the insistence of Western leaders as a way to facilitate the talks, whereupon the Ukrainians ditched the agreements on the behest of the West – particularly British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
The declare that the withdrawal was intentional is hardly believable for the reason that Russian forces in northern Ukraine have been extraordinarily stretched and struggling heavy losses from the Ukrainian military’s guerrilla ways. They doubtless would have needed to be pulled again anyway. However the sentiment of being duped was as soon as once more very a lot there and it ought to inform us about his additional actions.
Putin seems to see the historical past of his relationship with Western and Ukrainian leaders as a succession of insults and betrayals, to which he has responded in his trademark heavy-handed method: Not a watch for eye, however a punishment that grows exponentially every time the opponent exhibits perceived intransigence. But his coverage, a minimum of from his personal perspective, has at all times been reactive, not proactive.
Whether or not it was in good or unhealthy religion, the message he was making an attempt to convey within the interview is that at every essential level in historical past, Ukraine had a selection of sparing itself all of the additional bother and that it nonetheless has this selection now. He’s prepared for talks. A number of occasions within the interview, he ridiculed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy for banning himself from speaking to Putin by a presidential decree. He urged his Ukrainian counterpart to cancel that call.
Putin’s endgame seems to be getting an settlement alongside the traces of what has been tentatively achieved in Istanbul, however this time with all of the territories which Russia occupied and formally annexed after these talks fell by. The implied menace is that Ukraine will lose much more territory – to not point out lives and infrastructure – ought to it maintain being cussed.
What Putin is making an attempt to attain is making the West face its ethical dilemma which boils right down to the fee and advantage of resisting his aggression. The continued help for Ukraine’s navy effort will price 1000’s of lives and devastate Ukraine even additional, whereas success is hardly assured.
The stakes don’t appear to be in Kyiv’s favour as issues stand now: Russian troops are advancing all alongside the entrance line and the US navy support to Ukraine is in jeopardy because of the resistance from the Republicans.
However getting again to the Istanbul framework means a transparent defeat for each Ukraine and the West, regardless of how arduous all of the spin docs and troll farms will attempt to body it as a victory.
Greater than anybody else, will probably be the Ukrainians who will probably be asking what was all this monumental sacrifice for when it was doable to signal a deal in Istanbul again in March 2022 or to implement the Minsk agreements, which Zelenskyy publicly dismissed as “vapid” days earlier than Putin ordered his troops to march on Ukraine.
If the state of affairs doesn’t miraculously change, in the intervening time Ukraine appears to be like very removed from getting any semblance of what was envisaged in Minsk or Istanbul and it’s drifting additional in direction of distress. The mockery of Putin’s interview will, after all, proceed in a airtight echo chamber that has lengthy parted methods with actuality.
The views expressed on this article are the creator’s personal and don’t essentially mirror Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.