By the end of the conversation, it was clear that Putin had no intention of ending his brutal war against Ukraine. But Carlson, who was fired from Fox last year, seemed ready to capitulate. Putin continued to speak. Carlson, fed up with the Russian leader's longstanding conspiracy theories and grievances against the West, thanked him and walked away — much less the media conspiracy he was propagating.
Analysts said Putin's willingness to talk to Carlson was based in part on his sympathy — the former Fox host has repeatedly dismissed criticism of Putin over the years — and the opportunity to appeal to Republicans' higher MAGA limits in an election year. It could boost Donald Trump's re-election chances and convince Republicans to continue blocking US military aid to Ukraine.
Carlson looked either silent or confused for most of the interview.
He didn't ask a question about Russia's attacks on civilian areas or critical infrastructure in Ukraine that have killed thousands of people. There was no mention of the war crimes charges the Russian leader faces or the forced deportation of Ukrainian children. Nor are there questions about Russia's massive political crackdown on Putin's critics or the long prison sentences handed out to ordinary Russians who stage anti-war protests.
Instead, Carlson posed increasingly profound questions — including whether any world leader could be a true Christian — at times appearing to accuse Putin of the U.S. deep state and promoting other conspiracy theories.
Putin interview with Tucker Carlson shows Kremlin influence over Trump's GOP
At several moments, when Carlson tried to intervene, he was chastised by the president.
“I'll tell you, I'll get to it. This conference is coming to an end. It might be boring, but it explains a lot of things,” Putin said in a condescending tone.
“It's not boring. [I’m] “I don't know how that fits,” Carlson said. Putin replied that he was “delighted” and appreciated it.
Putin's dominance in the interview with Carlson was in stark contrast to the one the Russian leader received from Austrian news anchor Armin Wolf, who earned praise in 2018 by repeatedly challenging him and putting him on the defensive.
Carlson acknowledged the challenges of interviewing an increasingly isolated autocrat with a 24-year history of dodging questions and dominating interviews.
Reflecting on the interview later in the gilded front room of the Kremlin Palace, Carlson said he was surprised by the beginning of the interview, “a very detailed history of the formation of Russia back to the 9th century.”
“I don't know exactly what I thought about the interview. … It took me a year to decide what it was,” Carlson said in a video posted on his website. “Putin's not one to do a lot of interviews. He's not good at explaining himself. … But he explained himself. He spends a lot of time in the unnecessary world.
Carlson said Putin did not present his case coherently, but realized the Russian leader was “hurt” by the West's rejection.
Tucker Carlson says he's going to interview Vladimir Putin in Moscow
During the long and rambling course of the interview, the Russian leader recycled his justifications for the invasion of Ukraine.
“If they consider themselves a separate people, they have the right to do so. But not on the basis of Nazism, Nazi ideology,” Putin said, adding that Ukraine is a satellite country of the United States.
The president also said Moscow had withdrawn its troops from Kiev by 2022 as part of a peace accord. In April 2022, Kyiv repulsed Russian troops invading from the capital.
Putin at one point strongly warned the West against sending his own troops to fight in Ukraine, then wondered why the United States was meddling in the conflict rather than attending to its own problems. Washington, he said, should be ready to reach an agreement with Russia to end the war (ignoring the obvious fact that Kiev would not go along).
“Well, if someone wants to send conventional troops, it will certainly bring humanity to the brink of a very serious global conflict – that's obvious,” Putin said.
“Does America need this? why Thousands of miles away from your national territory. Don't you have anything better to do? You have boundary issues. Problems related to migration, problems with national debt. Over $33 trillion. Do you have nothing to do? So you want to fight in Ukraine? Wouldn't it be better to negotiate with Russia? Make a deal?
“Recognizing that Russia will fight for its interests to the end, such an agreement will return to common sense,” Putin said.
In some of his direct comments, Putin said that Wall Street Journal reporter Ivan Gershkovich, who was detained while on a reporting trip in Yekaterinburg last year, was arrested “because he was working for the US intelligence services.”
Putin said Gershkovich – who has been in prison since March last year on espionage charges – was “caught red-handed while secretly receiving classified information”.
Gershkovich, the Wall Street Journal and the White House strongly deny the allegations against him.
“Ivan is a journalist and journalism is not a crime. Any portrayal to the contrary is pure fiction,” the Journal said in a statement Thursday. “Ivan has been unjustly arrested and wrongfully detained by Russia for nearly a year for doing his job, and we continue to demand his immediate release.”
Late last year, the Kremlin said it had rejected a “significant offer” that would have seen the release of Gershkovich and Paul Whelan, a former US Marine jailed in Russia.
But during the interview with Carlson, Putin said he believed a deal on the exchange was possible and that he hoped Gershkovich would return home, but there had been “many goodwill gestures” and Moscow had “walked away from them”.