Tucker Carlson’s Cold War against Washington


Watching Tucker Carlson’s two hour, 19 minute sit-down in the Kremlin with Vladimir Putin, it quickly became evident that Carlson was not interviewing the Russian President as much as he was seeking sound bites to confirm his own oft-repeated narrative that the U.S. and NATO are responsible for the war in Ukraine.

It took a while to get what he was likely after. But by the end of the interview, Carlson proclaimed, “That’s great.”

It was not great. 

Not only did it border on journalistic malpractice, but it opened Carlson up to appearing as if he were cavorting with the enemy as well as aiding and abetting Putin — a wanted man who has an active International Criminal Court warrant for his arrest in connection to crimes against humanity in Ukraine. 

For many of us who came of age during the Cold War, Tucker Carlson’s decision to travel to Moscow during a time of war remains inexplicable. He seems to have forgotten what it was like to hide under school desks preparing for a Soviet nuclear attack. Nor did he remember that the Kremlin had militarily crushed democratic movements in Hungary and Czechoslovakia in the 1950s and 1960s.

It would have been one thing if Carlson had challenged Putin’s war narrative. Instead, during the interview, Carlson blindly and repeatedly lapped up Putin’s persistent Tarzan-like argument of “Me good, NATO bad.” In doing so, he played into the Kremlin narrative and contributed to Moscow’s web of disinformation, which will be replayed throughout social media indefinitely — as Putin undoubtedly planned.

There was much to challenge. Putin began his war justification by arguing that Russian history is identical to Ukrainian history — that modern-day Ukraine was always Russia going back to the 9th century. As justifications for war go, this would not be very impressive in any case, but it does not even enjoy the benefit of being true. The proto-state of Kievan Rus’ in central-eastern Europe to which he referred formed in 879 under Oleg, a Nordic Viking. Russia itself did not begin to form until the 13th century, in what was then known as the Grand Duchy of Moscow. 

Based on his first untrue premise, Putin then went on to assert that Vladimir Lenin, the first leader of the Soviet Union, had erred in creating an independent Ukrainian republic. Even if this opinion could be labeled as true, it is irrelevant. Ukraine is not a possession because the country declared its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, in an act that the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic, the immediate predecessor to the Russian Federation, also recognized.

Carlson, clearly annoyed by the long history lesson keeping him from bagging his sound bites, missed the obvious question. If Putin truly believes he has the right to correct historical wrongs by military force, what is stopping him from applying the same logic to Alaska? Does Putin reserve the right to argue Tzar Alexander II got it wrong when he sold Alaska to the U.S. for $7.2 million in 1867?

And no, that is not some facetious hypothetical. In late January, Putin actually did order his government to “look into the nation’s former “real estate” abroad,” clearly placing Alaska and its 1867 sale in the crosshairs. According to Russian News Agency TASS, Putin signed a new decree to allocate funds for the research and registration of Russian property overseas, including that in former territories of the Russian Empire and Soviet Union.

For those of us who follow Putin, his performance was par for the course. Long, rambling historical dissertations alongside lie after outright lie to justify his incredibly deadly land grab in Ukraine.

Carlson, however, was too busy to notice. He was eating it up every time Putin blamed the CIA or NATO for the decades-long deterioration in U.S.-Russian relations. Not content with Putin’s false accusations, Carlson even suggested the CIA was at fault, and even went so far as to suggest one of his favorite conspiratorial lines, that the so-called ‘Deep State’ was making the key decisions when it came to Russia and not our “elected officials.”

It was as if by the second half of the interview, Carlson had launched his own Cold War against Washington and NATO. Willing accomplice or not, Carlson frequently came off as naïve and ill-informed and conspiracy-minded.

Carlson often deploys a tactic in his dialogs and commentary, using the proverbial “they,” in darkly referencing some kind of uniparty or deep state controlling Washington D.C. It has likely never occurred to Carlson or his supporters that the “they” behind the shadows is actually a “he” and that the “he” is really Putin.

Simply put, Carlson is likely being duped, and in the process he is crassly assisting Russia in duping many in our own country.

But why? Stockholm Syndrome was a thing in the 1970s, especially after the kidnapping of Patty Hearst by the Symbionese Liberation Army. Now, arguably, there is a new psychological disorder: Moscow Syndrome. How else to explain people like Carlson and former United Nations weapons inspector Scott Ritter traveling to Russia to enable Putin, intentionally or not?

Carlson’s decision to interview Putin could even be understandable, but not his failure to press Putin on why he is intentionally targeting and weaponizing Ukrainian civilians, and leveling Ukrainian towns such as Mariupol, Bakhmut and Avdiivka. He also failed to counter Putin’s numerous claims about the U.S. violating international law by asking why the Russian president had violated the United Nations charter in invading Ukraine in 2014 and again in 2022. 

Instead of prepping for those kinds of questions, Carlson played “tourist in Moscow.” He was seen taking in the sites, including attending a ballet at the Bolshoi Theater, while Russian forces were bombing Kyiv and other major Ukrainian cities.  

Fact-checkers will soon pick apart Putin’s claims and Carlson’s inability (unwillingness?) to spot them. There were many — for example, the claim that Poland forced Russia to invade it at the start of World War II. Putin also lied about the Euromaidan Revolution of 2014. It was not a coup d’état as he claimed. It was an uprising by the Ukrainian people. 

Ditto Putin’s rot about de-Nazifying Ukraine. Almost as absurd was Carlson’s own suggestion to Putin that Vice President Kamala Harris provoked his invasion by encouraging Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to join NATO. 

Notably, Carlson failed to ask Putin why he had claimed he would not invade Ukraine in January 2022 — a position shortly thereafter reaffirmed in a TASS communiqué, just weeks before Russia began its “special military operation” Ukraine. 

Putin’s aim in agreeing to the interview was clear. He was once again trying to inject himself into a presidential election cycle. He was able to raise hot domestic U.S. election topics, including border security, deficit spending, and war funding without Carlson challenging him. Those are issues Americans deserve to decide for themselves.

That Carlson willingly gave Putin that platform without asking the hard questions makes you wonder where his loyalties reside. Putin was trying to weaponize Americans against each other. Carlson, blindly or not, coldly played right along.

Mark Toth writes on national security and foreign policy. Col. (Ret.) Jonathan Sweet served 30 years as a military intelligence officer. 

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