Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed strong dissatisfaction with former Fox News host Tucker Carlson following insinuations that Putin harbored paranoia towards the United States.
In the initial moments of their contentious exchange, Putin questioned Carlson on whether their discussion was meant to be a “serious conversation” or simply a “talk show” when confronted with accusations of paranoia. These accusations stemmed from Putin’s alleged concerns that the U.S., via NATO, might launch an unforeseen assault on Russia prior to its incursion into Ukraine.
The Interview Setting The interview between Putin and Carlson occurred during Carlson’s recent visit to Moscow and was made public on Thursday evening. Carlson has faced criticism in the past for what some perceive as amplifying Russian government narratives and for his decision to conduct the interview amid ongoing conflict in Ukraine.
Guy Verhofstadt and Urmas Paet, both members of the European Parliament (MEPs) and former prime ministers of Belgium and Estonia respectively, suggested to Newsweek that Carlson’s interview could warrant sanctions from the European Union (EU).
Conversely, supporters of former President Donald Trump’s MAGA movement in the U.S., particularly conservatives, commended Carlson for engaging in what they deemed “genuine journalism” through his interview.
At the outset of their conversation, Carlson asserted Putin’s belief that the U.S., via NATO, might launch a surprise attack on Russia, a sentiment Carlson suggested sounded paranoid to American ears. He pressed Putin to elaborate on this belief.
Putin’s Response Putin refuted the notion that he claimed the U.S. would initiate a surprise attack on Russia, stating, “I didn’t say that. Are we having a talk show or a serious conversation?” Despite Carlson’s laughter and offer to read Putin his own quote, the Russian president embarked on a detailed explanation of the historical context between Russia and Ukraine, defending Moscow’s actions in claiming parts of Ukrainian territory.
In response to Newsweek’s inquiry, a spokesperson from Putin’s office denied finding any instance in the interview where Carlson directly labeled Putin as paranoid.
Putin’s Perspective Putin cited NATO expansion as a key factor in Russia’s decision to invade Ukraine on February 24, 2022. He accused the U.S. of breaking promises regarding NATO’s eastward expansion and criticized NATO members for allegedly following U.S. leadership obediently.
While Putin has faced accusations of paranoia in the past, these have primarily revolved around concerns for his personal safety rather than geopolitical matters.
Looking Ahead Despite Putin’s objections, NATO has continued to expand during the conflict in Ukraine, with Finland joining the alliance last year and Sweden likely to follow suit soon. Should Sweden join NATO, it would mark the completion of what some describe as the transformation of the Baltic Sea into a “NATO lake.”
All Baltic coastline nations except for Russia’s Kaliningrad exclave are NATO members, with Finland, Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia included in the alliance.