Russian President Vladimir Putin said in an interview broadcast on February 8 that Russia will fight for its interests “to the end” but has no interest in expanding its war in Ukraine to other countries such as Poland and Latvia.
In his first interview with an American journalist since before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine nearly two years ago, Putin said Western leaders had realized that it was impossible to inflict strategic defeat on Russia and were wondering what to do next.
“We are prepared for this dialogue,” he said.
Putin also said he believed a deal was possible to free American Wall Street Journal journalist Evan Gershkovich, who has been detained in Russia for almost a year and is awaiting trial on espionage charges.
Putin made the comments in a more than two-hour interview with conservative talk show host Tucker Carlson that took place in Moscow and streamed on tuckercarlson.com.
Asked if he could imagine a scenario in which he would send Russian troops to NATO member Poland, Putin responded:
“Only in one case, if Poland attacks Russia. Why? Because we have no interest in Poland, Latvia or anywhere else. Why would we do that? We simply have no interest.”
Putin spoke in Russian and his comments were dubbed into English. He began with long observations about Russia’s relations with Ukraine, Poland and other countries.
Putin spent a substantial portion of the interview complaining that Ukraine had been close to reaching a deal to end hostilities at talks in Istanbul in April 2022, but backed out, he said, once the negotiations were over. Russian troops withdrew from near Kiev.
“Well, now let’s think about how to reverse the situation,” he said. “We are not against it. It would be funny if it weren’t so sad. This endless mobilization in Ukraine, the hysteria, the internal problems, sooner or later will lead to an agreement.”
The Russian leader said the United States had urgent internal problems to worry about. “Wouldn’t it be better to negotiate with Russia? Reach an agreement. Already understand the situation that is developing today and understand that Russia will fight for its interests to the end,” Putin said.
Washington, which has sent Ukraine more than $110 billion in aid since Russia invaded in February 2022, has made clear it has no interest in speaking on Putin’s terms.
Putin was last formally interviewed by an American media outlet in October 2021, when CNBC’s Hadley Gamble spoke with him.
The interview with Carlson came as U.S. lawmakers debate whether to provide more money for Ukraine’s war effort. It also aired on the same day that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy replaced the popular army chief with his ground forces commander.
A procedural vote in the US Senate helped push through a bill that includes $61 billion in new funding for Ukraine, but it faces uncertainty in the Republican-dominated House of Representatives, where dozens have voted. of members, particularly those closely allied with former President Donald Trump. against aid to Ukraine.
PROGRESS IN THE CASE OF THE JOURNALIST
Putin said Russian and American special services were discussing the Gershkovich case and had made some progress.
Putin suggested that in return, Moscow wanted Germany to release Vadim Krasikov, who was convicted of the murder of a Chechen dissident in Berlin in 2019, although he did not mention Krasikov by name.
“There have been many successful examples of these talks crowned with success,” Putin said. “This too will probably be crowned with success, but we have to reach an agreement.”
Russia and the United States have agreed to high-profile prisoner swaps in the past, most recently in December 2022, when Moscow swapped Brittney Griner, an American basketball star convicted of a drug crime in Russia, for the arms dealer Russian Viktor Bout.
The Kremlin said Putin agreed to the interview with Carlson because the former Fox News host’s approach differed from “one-sided” reporting on the Ukraine conflict by many Western media outlets.
Carlson is considered to have close connections to Trump, who is expected to be the Republican Party’s nominee in November’s US presidential election.
Complaining about the billions of dollars in aid sent to kyiv so far, Trump has called for a de-escalation of the war in Ukraine, in which the Biden administration has strongly backed Zelenskiy’s government.
For his part, Carlson has said that much of the Western media’s coverage of the war is biased in favor of kyiv.