Putin's interview: talk show or serious conversation

Professor Denko Maleski, Photo: Free Press / Archive

Tucker Carlson, a former Fox News reporter who supports Donald Trump, was taken aback by Putin's long laments over the history of Russia and Ukraine, but also ignorant to match his theses even on recent European history.

The two-hour interview of Russian President Putin was composed of two parts: the part devoted to history, as one would expect from "our East", which lasted about 40 minutes, and the part devoted to the war in Ukraine. Of course, both history and recent events were put in defense of his decision two years ago to intervene militarily in Ukraine.
Tucker Carlson, a former Fox News reporter who supports Donald Trump, was taken aback by Putin's long laments over the history of Russia and Ukraine, but also ignorant to match his theses even on recent European history.
Putin who, since he was assured that it was a "serious conversation, not a talk show", began with events from a thousand years ago, claiming that in 862 the "Russian state was established". By the way, it is the year when Rurik, a prince from Scandinavia, is called to govern the city of Novogorod, the capital of the Rus, from which today's Russians are descended. Henceforth the interview was in the service of proving the continuity of the Russian state and nation, as opposed to the "fictional" Ukraine that was "created" in the twentieth century.
Prominent Western historians have characterized this part of the Russian president's speech as a selective misuse of history to justify the invasion of Ukraine. Just as his famous 2021 essay entitled "On the Historical Unity of Russians and Ukrainians" was an intellectual justification for the invasion a year later.
According to Putin, Ukraine is an artificial state created by Lenin and Stalin in the 20th century, which has been granted territories over which it has no historical right. The answer of contemporary historical thought is that, in the sense in which Putin spoke, every state is artificial and was created through a historical process. Thus, Russia, which was created by the Russian emperors, in conquests for the colonization of Siberia, and at the expense of the local population, for example, is an artificial creation.
America with its waves of settlers, conquering territories from the Atlantic to the Pacific, at the expense of the Indians, and especially with the deal to buy the territory of Alaska from Russia, is an artificial creation par excellence.
Tucker Carlson, to repeat, totally unprepared and ignorant not only of the history of Russia, but also of the events of the Second World War, followed the long monologues of the Russian president like a student in a desk with wide eyes and a half-open mouth. He was called a "useful idiot" by the people of his fella.
There is no doubt that his interview will be met with approval by a domestic Russian audience that is as "addicted" to history as Putin, but I doubt that 40 minutes devoted to the names of rulers from a thousand years ago can mean anything to Western viewers , except boredom.
For a Western intellectual audience (as a British historian says, namely that in history you can find confirmation of any contemporary thesis) the projection of the modern Russian state and nation back in history was unconvincing. That is why the impression remained that everything was said to justify the Russian aggression against Ukraine. Because, regardless of the historical facts, which Putin gave to the journalist in a folder, no fact can be a justification for the invasion and the dismemberment of a country in today's democratic Europe, a continent dedicated to peace, cooperation, democracy and the rule of law. .
That opinion is shared by the fierce critics of the American policy towards Russia, such as Chomsky, Mearsheimer, Sachs, Walt and others. And yet, it's as if Putin was referring to their relentless criticism of American foreign policy with the crowning argument – ​​the plan for NATO expansion in Ukraine.
What does scientific thought say about international politics? Kenneth Waltz, founder of the neorealist theory of international relations, defines great powers in terms of population and territory, resource disposition, military power, economic capacity, political stability, and capability. His colleague John Mearsheimer says: forget ideology or history, democracy or autocracy, and look at the great powers as "black boxes". In the anarchic structure of the international system, the great powers are in a permanent race to accumulate power. The "tragedy" of great power politics is that even those who want only security for themselves are forced into competition and conflict with rival great powers. These axioms of the science of international politics were established by Thucydides more than 2.500 years ago, closely following the war between Athens and Sparta. The real cause of the Peloponnesian Wars, he writes, is fear. The fear that if Sparta allowed Athens to build a powerful wall around her city she would be able to attack her at her most opportune moment. Likewise with the expansion of American power in Ukraine. In the interview, Putin repeated the conclusions of American scientists, critics of his own country's foreign policy, people like Jeffrey Sachs, John Mearsheimer, Noam Chomsky or Stephen Walt. Namely, that the reason for the war is Russia's fear that the rival great power will not project its power in neighboring Ukraine. And that the mistake was made when America, guided by the liberal principles of the right of every nation to be able to choose with whom to ally, no less than the desire to weaken the rival great power, decided to make Ukraine a member of NATO.
Then, the "black box" Russia, sensing an existential threat from the "black box" America, goes into action to counter the threatening power, dismembers its neighbor and occupies its territories.

(The author is a professor and the first minister of foreign affairs)







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