U.S.A/Russia

What Putin Wants to Get Out of Tucker Carlson

user avatar Author: Editors Desk Source: Politico
February 8, 2024 at 13:05
Putins goal is to weaken America. Putin has had it up to here with feeling that Russia is a second-class power compared to America said Lionel Barber, the former editor of the Financial Times. Mikhail Klimentyev/AFP via Getty Images
Putins goal is to weaken America. Putin has had it up to here with feeling that Russia is a second-class power compared to America said Lionel Barber, the former editor of the Financial Times. Mikhail Klimentyev/AFP via Getty Images

One of the last Western journalists to interview the Russian leader describes the Kremlin’s mind games, and how to discern journalism from propaganda.

Vladimir Putin doesn’t give many interviews to Westerners. So when Tucker Carlson airs his sit-down on Thursday, it will mark one of the first times in years that the Russian president held a one-on-one interview with a Western journalist — though there’s debate if Carlson counts as one.

One journalist who did gain this kind of access to Putin was Lionel Barber, the editor of the Financial Times until 2020. Barber, together with a Moscow-based colleague, spent more than an hour and a half interviewing Putin in the Kremlin in July 2019. He recalls quite an experience, being kept waiting for hours until nearly midnight while aides played mind games to unnerve him.

Barber’s interview broke new ground, eliciting answers from Putin that revealed how his worldview was changing, and how his hostility to the West was growing. It remains to be seen whether Carlson does something similar — uses the interview the way a journalist would, to draw out new information — or whether he and Putin are both seeking to promote a similar political agenda.

Barber says that he’ll be watching Carlson as closely as he’ll be watching Putin, a figure he describes as “a very icy character.”

“I’m going to judge him first by the quality of the questions and whether his questions give the game away, show that he’s on Putin’s side,” Barber said. “If they’re just softball or cream puff questions, then it’s just a piece of propaganda and he’s just acting as Putin’s mouthpiece and puppet.”
 

Tucker Carlson stares into the distance with his arms crossed.
Barber says that he’ll be watching Tucker Carlson as closely as he’ll be watching Putin, a figure he describes as “a very icy character.” | Seth Wenig/AP

 

The following has been edited for length and clarity.

Russian leaders do not give one-on-one interviews to Westerners very often, and when they do, they usually have an ulterior motive. What do you think is Putin’s motivation for talking to Carlson now? Is it that Putin wants to talk, or does he specifically want to talk to Carlson?

ladimir Putin doesn’t give many interviews to Westerners. So when Tucker Carlson airs his sit-down on Thursday, it will mark one of the first times in years that the Russian president held a one-on-one interview with a Western journalist — though there’s debate if Carlson counts as one.

One journalist who did gain this kind of access to Putin was Lionel Barber, the editor of the Financial Times until 2020. Barber, together with a Moscow-based colleague, spent more than an hour and a half interviewing Putin in the Kremlin in July 2019. He recalls quite an experience, being kept waiting for hours until nearly midnight while aides played mind games to unnerve him.

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