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I have watched the first half of Tucker Carlson’s interview with Vladimir Putin. A two hour interview is exceptionally long, at least by American standards. However, I like long form interviews, such as those by Joe Rogan or Triggernometry. Also, I think Tucker Carlson did the right thing (like those other long for interviewers) by letting Putin talk, even though he did go off topic. An interview like this is a chance to hear what the interviewee has to say, not to try to get him to admit something. Carlson had plenty of time to ask his questions, so there was no harm in letting Putin ramble on about Russian history.

Now, that history was indeed beside the point, as Carlson later suggested. It is not completely irrelevant to note historical ties between Russia and the Ukraine, but things that happened 500 years ago are not a reason to take actions today. (I wrote about this right before the war in response to Putin’s article, “The Historical Unity of Russians and Ukrainians.”) Putin, of course, leaves off half of the story — all the things that make Ukraine distinct from Russia and that have fueled Ukrainian independence. He mentions them only briefly, and attributes it chiefly to Austrian interference, but he is not convincing. Moreover, whether Ukraine should be united with Russia is completely irrelevant to the current war, by Putin’s own justifications. He has never claimed that he was attacking Ukraine to recreate its historical union with Russia, and of course this would sound silly since there are millions of Ukrainians who do not want to be part of Russia. It would be a strange argument to claim that Russia should annex Ukraine because of the actions of Rurik in the 10th century or Boris Khmelnitsky in the 17th, when there are actual Ukrainians now who want to be independent. (The historical arguments would be relevant if a significant portion of Ukrainians did want to be part of Russia but people objected because the two polities would not mesh together.)

I think Russia has a decent case to make that Western power (NATO and the U.S.) was encroaching on Russia in the Ukraine, and Putin may have had some good arguments in the interview. What I kept hearing, however, were absurdities, such as his ridiculous claim that Poland collaborated with German before World War II and that Russia acted honourably in the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact. Also, listening to him complain about how the U.S. put pressure on NATO to do certain things, and comparing it to kindergarten, was nauseating, as though Russia doesn’t use the same tactic on its allies (and Putin more specifically in Russian domestic politics). So far, I have not heard anything that improved my opinion of Putin.

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