Defeating Russia ‘impossible by definition’: Putin interview with former Fox host

Six main take-aways from interview with former Fox News host Tucker Carlson in less than pugnacious outing with Russian president Vladimir Putin

Former Fox News host Tucker Carlson with Russian president Vladimir Putin
Former Fox News host Tucker Carlson with Russian president Vladimir Putin

In a high-profile interview with former Fox News host Tucker Carlson, Russian president Vladimir Putin gave his first interview with a Western media outlet since he launched his full-scale invasion of Ukraine almost two years ago and comes as fighting in the country has reached a stalemate.

Carlson has repeatedly questioned the rationale for US support for Kiev, and has previously described Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy as a “Ukrainian pimp” and “rat-like”.

After his interview with Putin aired, Carlson said in a video posted on his website that anyone who believed Putin would give up Crimea for peace is a “lunatic” and “they want a weak leadership in Russia”.

Before the interview, Carlson attracted criticism for travelling to Moscow to interview the Russian leader, with former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton accusing the former TV host of being a “useful idiot”.

Prior to the interview, he falsely claimed that other journalists were uninterested in talking to the Russian leader and that “not a single Western journalist has bothered to interview” Putin since the invasion of Ukraine.

Countless reporters from Western countries have sent the Kremlin repeated interview requests. All of these have been ignored.

Russia will hold presidential elections next month, and while the contest is almost certain to be won by Putin – with his sole anti-war challenger disqualified on Thursday – the interview with Mr Carlson allows the Russian leader to present himself as an international statesman with a global presence to his home audience.

1. Defeating Russia ‘impossible by definition’

Putin warned that defeating Russia in Ukraine is “impossible by definition.

He said: “Up until now, there has been the uproar and screaming about inflicting a strategic defeat to Russia on the battlefield. But now they are apparently coming to realise that it is difficult to achieve, if possible, at all. In my opinion, it is impossible by definition. It is never going to happen. It seems to me that now those who are in power in the West have come to realise this as well.”

2. Putin says he will not expand war

Putin insisted he does not seek to expand the war to neighbouring countries such as Poland and Latvia. Putin repeated his claim that invading Ukraine was necessary to stop the country from threatening Russia by joining NATO, denied that he had territorial ambitions across Europe, and insisted he would only send troops into neighbouring countries if attacked first. “It is absolutely out of the question. You just don’t have to be any kind of analyst, it goes against common sense to get involved in some kind of a global war... And a global war will bring all of humanity to the brink of devastation. It’s obvious.”

3. Putin says US must stop supplying weapons

The Russian leader said his government was in contact with the United States and that a peaceful resolution to the war would only be possible if Washington stopped supplying weapons to Ukraine. “I will tell you what we are saying on this matter and what we are conveying to the US leadership. If you really want to stop fighting, you need to stop supplying weapons. It will be over within a few weeks, that’s it, and then we can agree on some terms. Before you do that, stop.”

4. Clinton ‘misled’ Putin over joining Nato

Vladimir Putin said Bill Clinton had misled him over Russia’s potential membership of NATO two decades ago. He said he asked the outgoing President Clinton if his country could join the alliance when he visited the Kremlin in 2000. He claimed Clinton initially suggested he believed that would be possible, before rowing back on the statement later that same evening.

“I asked him: ‘Bill, do you think if Russia asked to join NATO, do you think it would happen?’ Suddenly he said, ‘you know, it’s interesting. I think so’. But in the evening, when we met for dinner, he said: ‘You know, I’ve talked to my team, no, it’s not possible now’.”

5. Peace with Ukraine

Putin said he would be prepared to negotiate a peace with Volodymyr Zelenskyy but added that Russia had not yet achieved its aims in the country, including “de-Nazification”. He said: “We have never refused negotiations indeed. We hear all the time, is Russia ready? Yes. We have not refused. It was them who publicly refused. Well, let him cancel his decree [not to negotiate with Russia] and enter into negotiations. We have never refused.”

6. Boris Johnson blamed

There were peace talks with Ukraine that were “almost finalised”, Putin said, but then Ukraine “threw away all these agreements and obeyed the instructions of western countries, European countries and the United States to fight Russia to the bitter end”.

Putin laid the blame at the feet of Boris Johnson, the former British prime minister, in particular. Johnson was forced out of UK parliament in June 2023, but Putin claimed that as prime minister he had dissuaded Zelenskyy from signing a peace deal in the early stages of the conflict.

“The fact that they [Ukraine] obey the demand or persuasion of Mr Johnson, the former prime minister of Great Britain, seems ridiculous,” Putin said.