Why Was Tucker Carlson’s Putin Interview the First Time Americans Heard the Russian Viewpoint?
The shielding of Americans from a broader perspective has implications for both the survival of the species and the values we hold most dear.
“I beg your pardon. Could you tell us what period? I’m losing track of where in history we are,” interrupted Tucker Carlson as Vladimir Putin rolled into minute 8 of an extended disquisition covering the last 1,100 years of Russian history.
For a handful of Americans across the country, what followed was a brief moment of redemption. For those pitiable souls who had plodded through years of Russian history and its mendacious Soviet retellings on their way to an otherwise marginally useful degree, this seemed to be a sudden call to action. Here was a man among America’s most hated drawing the world into a debate on the historical origins of the Russian Federation. He even added a classic Soviet KGB flourish by dropping a papka of archival documents upon his bewildered guest.
More than anything, Tucker’s brave interview should highlight one glaring reality to Americans: We, as a nation, are dangerously unfamiliar with Russia, and this ignorance is putting our own country at risk.
With the Senate now proposing to ship a further $61 billion of additional taxpayer money eastward to continue the war, and with the certain loss of further hundreds of thousands of more lives on both sides, we need to stop and take account. It is high time to ask: What is the U.S. really doing in Ukraine? How does our involvement serve our vital national interests? And what, exactly, is the desired end state for U.S. strategy?
Making America great again here at home also involves unmaking past mistakes abroad. It means avoiding them in the future by maintaining an abiding focus on our own national interests. The time for defending borders on the other side of the world while ignoring our own is over. There is too much on the line and real work to be done.
Americans deserve the answers to these questions and Congress must start demanding them.
How can it be that America’s vital national interest is so unquestionably intertwined with a non-ally nation 6,000 miles away? Why, if Ukraine is such a valuable strategic partner, did net U.S. direct investment there prior to Russia’s first 2014 invasion total to well under $1 billion, and today a negative $131 million?
What interests are we spending hundreds of times this amount to protect? Why is it worth taking on additional debt that we have no realistic possibility of ever repaying, but will become a permanent legacy liability for every future American generation? Is this really so no bureaucrat in Kiev will ever lose their job and all pensions will be paid in full and on time?
Unfortunately, we now have a real mess. Repairing it will require further effort and resources. Both the need to restore the strength of U.S. leadership, as well as to address the moral obligation created by helping lead Europe’s largest country on a path to destruction, demand that the U.S. cannot simply cut and walk away. Yet, this is the case, and pressing questions remain: With Ukraine’s top military commander now out, is there any coherent plan for victory? And regarding additional military aid, which may be necessary to position for negotiations and should be the limit of America’s involvement, why are European contributions so paltry in comparison to ours?
Don’t count on receiving any explanation for this from Joe Biden, let alone a crisp 10 minutes on why financing and managing a proxy war in Ukraine helps the people of East Palestine. The State of Union Address is not scheduled until March 7, its latest date in nearly a century. If Biden won’t speak, Congressional committees must summon his staffers for answers.
Yet Biden is the only one keeping Americans in the dark. While many of Putin’s statements coming out of the two-hour Tucker interview will be considered revelatory, they shouldn’t be. His stated willingness to find a negotiated solution for Ukraine? Absolutely nothing new. Historical claims on Ukraine? Ditto. Putin has repeated these same themes and statements many times over the course of the last two years, not to mention in the time since the 2014 invasion. They are available for any journalist or analyst as video segments on the Kremlin’s website. Why did we never hear any of this?
Whatever we may think of him, and however we may evaluate his sincerity, Putin is not reluctant in expressing his thoughts and setting forth the positions of the Russian Federation for its actions. He does this in Russian, of course. Nevertheless, anyone who wants to go deep on Putin’s plans for Anadyr, Russia’s closest city to the United States, can get there with a click. It will be a challenge to find it in our news though. When Putin headed to Chukotka last month, 50 miles from the U.S. border, it was the closest he has come to the United States since a 2015 meeting with Barack Obama. While there, he cruised around in special Arctic off-roader called a “Khishchnik”—Russian for “predator.” Did Alaska’s largest newspaper even mention the visit? No.
The key problem for U.S. policymakers is that developing an understanding of Russians requires time, effort, and dedication. Attempting to understand the other side without embracing its positions is work few want to do. First, you really have to speak Russian to understand Russians. Very few Americans do. Certainly, if anyone in Congress does, it’s a well-kept secret. Fewer than 0.2 percent of American high school students receive any amount of Russian language instruction. Save immigrants, heritage speakers, academics and those trained by our government for state purposes, the result is an ingrained ignorance of Russia among Americans. In turn, this begets an over-reliance on a small cadre of experts whose points of view seldom coincide with the interests of most of us, let alone America First voters.
In fact, as is clear in the event, most of these voices are deeply vested in continuing adversarial relations between Russia and the United States. Peace is difficult and does not pay. Deterrence went out with the last plane from Bagram. When our government openly declares that its goal from the outset has been to inflict maximum pain on Russia and the president demands that his counterpart, who commands the world’s largest nuclear arsenal, be removed from power, it seriously crimps opportunities for diplomacy and dialogue while ushering in death and destruction. It’s no wonder Putin tells Tucker he cannot recall when he last spoke with Biden.
This has to change. After 1,100 years, Russia is not going anywhere. And neither are we. America needs new leadership who can talk with Russia. So does Ukraine—and the rest of the world, for that matter. Let’s hope this November provides that opportunity.