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Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Breaking Down Tucker Carlson’s Interview With Vladimir Putin

What Putin said about Poland cries out for rectification.

Image Credit: | CC BY 4.0 Deed

Tucker Carlson’s recent, two-hour interview of Vladimir Putin generated massive attention around the world. Carlson deserves credit for the exclusive, although he left the former KGB apparatchik off the hook and looking more like an honest broker than he is or ever was.

Of the numerous lies and non sequiturs that gushed from the Russian dictator, what he said about Poland cries out for rectification. I will get to that, but first let me set the stage.

Putin sounded like a scholar of history, spending the first half hour in a marathon lecture (some would call it a filibuster) about Russia’s past Ukrainian connections. Twice, Carlson questioned the relevance of it all, but Putin’s purpose was starkly obvious: He wants the world to believe that Ukraine is an illegitimate country that belongs to Russia, that to kill and maim hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians and Russians in the 21st century is a noble venture grounded in events from the 9th century.

You’re excused if you didn’t follow the logic or the history. Neither did I. Nor does anyone who wonders why an authoritarian, blood-soaked regime that governs 11 time zones really needs one more.

World governments whose hands are clean in foreign policy are few and far between. I am no apologist for Washington’s behavior at home or abroad. One can be on either side of the question of U.S. support for Ukraine and still find no justification—moral or geopolitical—for Putin’s invasion. I was repulsed by Putin’s prevarications not because of some unwarranted bias or vested interest but because I dislike prevarications from wherever they emanate.

It’s a fact that history is one long tale of thugs battling each other for control of people, territory, and borders. Just about everyone can cherry-pick something from the past to prove their claims on others, but violence is violence. Putin’s slaughter today is senseless and immoral regardless of what some medieval tyrant said or did centuries ago. And it cannot be justified by any reasonable claim of self-defense.

When Russian troops invaded Ukraine in February 2022, Putin argued that the possibility of Kyiv joining NATO was intolerable to Russia. From the Carlson interview, we now know that this was not the main reason for the invasion. Putin attacked simply because he sees Ukraine as nothing more than a hijacked Russian time zone. He knows full well that no agreement was ever signed between NATO and Russia that forbade the alliance’s eastward expansion. Some officials may have suggested privately or publicly that NATO would stay put, but that’s not a treaty.

Whether Kyiv should be in NATO is a debatable matter, but who can fault any Ukrainian for favoring it? The country sits next to a giant neighbor that 1) imposed a communist tyranny on it for decades; 2) murdered millions of Ukrainians in a Moscow-directed adventure in famine and genocide in the 1930s; 3) abrogated 1990s agreements that recognized Ukrainian sovereignty and forswore the use of force; and 4) invaded Ukraine just a decade ago? Russia even offered Ukraine assurances of security in exchange for Kyiv relinquishing its nuclear weapons (inherited from Soviet days). All of that seems far more real to me than the ridiculous fear that NATO is about to bomb Russia and start World War III.

How can anyone expect Ukraine to trust serial liars in the Kremlin? Putin himself denied he planned to invade right up to the moment he invaded.

Poles know about Russian aggression as well as anybody, and after the Carlson interview with Putin, they also know that he lies about Poland too. He told Tucker that in 1939, Poland was so “uncompromising” that Hitler had no choice but to attack and start World War II.

Poor little Adolf. By not caving to the Nazi demand to give Germany the Danzig corridor (where the Polish city of Gdańsk now resides), the Poles pushed him into war. All he wanted (yeah, right) was a little strip of Polish territory, but the Poles had the audacity to say no! Maybe the Poles knew something that Britain and France had to learn painfully, namely, that appeasement only encourages dictators.

Putin even claimed that Poland “collaborated” with Hitler to partition Czechoslovakia in 1938–39. Poland had its issues with the Czechs, to be sure, but no evidence exists that the country saddled up with the Nazis to take the place over. None. Does anybody but Putin really believe that Hitler’s plan for Europe was peace, only to be derailed by an intransigent Poland?

Marcin Chmielowski, a good friend from the Freedom and Entrepreneurship Foundation in Katowice, Poland, tells me this:

Poland was the country that militarily first opposed Hitler. We paid a high price for this. True, Hitler offered us an alliance, but we rejected it. Poland chose France and Great Britain as its allies. Now Putin, speaking of Poland as Hitler’s ally, is simply lying. It was the Soviet Union that was an ally of the Third Reich. Together these two countries invaded Poland. There was even a joint Soviet-Nazi victory parade. It was held in Brest-Litovsk and a German military orchestra played the anthems of both the Third Reich and the Soviet Union.

Putin’s ridiculous revisionism is ironic, given his claim (repeated in the Carlson interview) that Ukraine needed a bloody invasion to stamp out Nazism. He says one of his objectives is the “de-Nazification” of a nation whose president is Jewish.

If anybody is a Nazi here, it’s the guy who thinks Poland pushed Hitler into war, who jails or murders his political opponents, who has all but wiped out any semblance of democracy in Russia, who kidnaps and deports Ukrainian children to Siberian reeducation camps, who is responsible for war casualties now exceeding half a million, and who perpetuates himself in power by shredding the law of his own country.

Having Vladimir Putin as an enemy is a badge of honor for Poland, a country that never signed an agreement with Adolf Hitler to divide and conquer anybody. Poland liberated itself from the Russian yoke in 1989 and is a free country today, no thanks to Moscow. It supports Ukraine because it knows that if Putin wins there, he’ll be sitting hundreds of miles closer to Warsaw. Poles have taken into their homes at least 1.5 million Ukrainians because they know what Russian oppression is about.

In 1940, the Russia of the old Soviet Union murdered 22,000 Polish officers in the infamous Katyn massacre. You can see why an independent Ukraine, for Poland, is a matter of national security.

“Show me a liar,” wrote the English poet George Herbert in 1651, “and I will show thee a thief.” Vladimir Putin is both, in spades.

This article was reprinted with permission from The American Spectator.

  • Lawrence W. Reed is FEE's Interim President, having previously served for nearly 11 years as FEE’s president (2008-2019).