What did Vladimir Putin say to Tucker Carlson? Five key takeaways

On Thursday, President Vladimir Putin spent two hours being quizzed by former Fox News host Tucker Carlson in a highly anticipated TV interview.

The interview took place just ahead of the second anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and at a time when United States politicians are pushing to restore military funding to Ukraine.

Putin claims Clinton flip-flopped on Russia joining NATO

Putin revealed that, at some point, former US President Bill Clinton told him that Russia would have an opportunity to be welcomed into the military alliance, NATO.

“At a meeting here in the Kremlin with the outgoing President Bill Clinton, right here in the next room, I said to him, 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,’” said Putin who was speaking through an interpreter.

“But in the evening, when we met for dinner, he said: ‘You know, I’ve talked to my team, no, no, it’s not possible now.’ You can ask him. I think he will watch our interview, he’ll confirm it,” the Russian president said.

“I wouldn’t have said anything like that if it hadn’t happened. Okay, well, it’s impossible now,” he added.

“Would you have joined NATO?” Carlson asked. “Look, I asked the question, is it possible, or not, and the answer I got was no,” Putin said.

“But if he had said yes, would you have joined NATO?” Carlson said.

“If he had said yes, the process of rapprochement would have commenced, and eventually it might have happened if we had seen some sincere wish on the other side of our partners. But it didn’t happen. Well, no means no. Okay, fine,” Putin said.

Putin also highlighted that they were promised that NATO would not expand to the East. “Not an inch to the East … and then what? They said, ‘Well, it’s not enshrined on paper, so we’ll expand.’”

“There were five waves of expansion. We tolerated all that. We were trying to persuade them. We were saying, ‘Please don’t. We are as bourgeois now as you are. We are a market economy, and there is no Communist Party power. Let’s negotiate’,” Putin added.

Putin says Russia is open to releasing WSJ journalist

Putin said that it might be possible to free Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, who is awaiting trial on spying charges, in exchange for a Russian prisoner.

The Russian president suggested that, in return, Moscow wanted Germany to free Vadim Krasikov, who was convicted of the 2019 murder of a Chechen dissident in Berlin.

Gershkovich was arrested on March 29, 2023 in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg and accused of trying to obtain defence secrets. He and his newspaper strongly reject the charges and the US government has designated him as wrongfully detained.

“We are willing to solve it but there are certain terms being discussed via special services channels. I believe an agreement can be reached,” said Putin, stressing that Western powers will have to take what he called “reciprocal steps”.

“There have been many successful examples of these talks crowned with success. Probably this is going to be crowned with success as well but we have to come to an agreement,” said Putin.

Russia and the US have agreed high-profile prisoner swaps in the past – most recently in December 2022 when Moscow traded Brittney Griner, a US basketball star convicted of a drugs offence in Russia, for Russian arms trafficker Viktor Bout.

Putin called any US military support of Ukraine a ‘provocation’

Carlson asked Putin: “Can you imagine a scenario where Russia is ready to send troops to Poland?”

“Only in one case if Poland attacks Russia, why? Because we have no interest in Poland, Latvia or anywhere else,” Putin said.

US politicians have said we “have to continue to fund the Ukrainian effort, or US soldier citizens could wind up fighting there. How do you assess that?” Carlson asked. That argument is based on the fact that Poland and the Baltic states are NATO members, and the alliance’s principle of collective security would kick in if any if them were attacked, necessitating US forces to intervene directly.

“This is a provocation. I do not understand why American soldiers should fight in Ukraine,” Putin said.

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