Vladimir Putin’s filibustering interview with Tucker Carlson rightly captured the attention of the entire globe last week, marking the first interview the controversial Russian leader has given to a journalist from the West since invading Ukraine.
The two-hour interview began with President Putin rattling off centuries of Russian history as a justification for bombing civilians, aiming to eventually bring Ukrainian territory under Moscow’s command – as he claims it was historically.
Former Mongolian president Tsakhia Elbegdorj, who served as the neighbouring nation’s head between 2009 and 2017, has now pulled out his own history book to throw at Putin and attracted international applause.
The map shows the Mongolian Empire at its peak in the 13th and 14th centuries, where the nation held most of southern Russia, much of Europe and even moving in towards the Middle East.
“After Putin’s talk. I found Mongolian historic map. Don’t worry. We are a peaceful and free nation,” Mr Elbegdorj said.
The former leader has been outspoken in his support of Ukraine and has regularly criticised Putin over the past two years, describing him as a “deep narcissist” who “does not tolerate freedom”.
“The world’s democracies must rally with even greater resolve to declare that freedom is non-negotiable, and to give Ukraine the weapons it needs to win,” he wrote in February last year.
“I know Putin does not tolerate freedom. I have sat with him on many occasions. He despises differences and competition. He fears a free Ukraine. As a deep narcissist, he could not afford to see more successful and prosperous neighbors.”
Putin took several shots at the West in his interview with Carlson, viewed over 15 million times on Youtube alone, accusing the CIA of blowing up the Nord Stream Pipeline and joking that Russia’s information machine could never outdo the USA’s propaganda.
While some on the political fringes believe Russia’s stated goal to “de-Nazify” Ukraine and shield it from becoming a member of NATO justifies the now two-year long war, most were wholly unimpressed with Putin’s vague explanation for his “special military campaign” that has disturbed global politics.
Some analysts believe Russia could even unleash its nuclear weapons arsenal to ring in an official beginning to WWIII, but even Putin admitted that would be a step or two too far.
“In the war of propaganda, it is very difficult to defeat the United States, because they control the world’s media and many European media. The ultimate beneficiary of the biggest European media (outlets) are American financial institutions.
“We can only simply shine the spotlight on our sources of information, but we will not achieve results.”
When Carlson tried to move the conversation forward from his repeated attempts at shoehorning complex Russian history into the interview, Putin berated him.
“I understand that my long speeches probably fall outside the genre of the interview. That is why I asked you at the beginning, are we going to have a serious talk or a show. You said serious talk, so bear with me please,” Putin said.
Putin’s history lesson was mocked online, with Max Seddon, the Moscow Bureau Chief of the Financial Times writing, “I think Putin may have over-estimated American audiences’ appetite to hear about Prince Ryurik and Yaroslav the Wise.”
Carlson also confronted Putin about detained American journalist Evan Gershkovich, who was arrested for spying in what was widely seen as trumped up charges.
“I just want to ask you directly, without getting into the details of your version of what happened, if as a sign of your decency, you be able to release him to us and we’ll bring him back to the United States,” Carlson said to Putin.
Putin seemed surprised by the question, sat silently in thought and sighed deeply before responding.
“We have done so many gestures of goodwill, out of decency, that I think we have ran out of them,” he said.
Putin added that he did not rule out releasing Mr Gershkovich, if “special services” reciprocated, likely alluding to the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
Carlson said Mr Gershkovich, “is obviously not a spy. He’s a kid. He’s not a super spy and everybody knows that.”
He said the journalist was being “held hostage”.
“It’s true and everyone knows it’s true,” he said, and speculated that Russia’s demand for reciprocation “degrades Russia”.
Putin responded by alleging that Mr Gershkovich had received classified information in secret and had been working for the US special services.
“I hope you let him out,” Carlson replied.
Carlson’s decision to interview Putin was controversial, with Ukrainian MP Kira Rudik warning the Russian leader would “push propaganda”.
However, Carlson believes he is merely doing his job as a journalist and called for more channels of communication between superpowers as current events continue to drive fears over further escalations.
He claimed the US government actively worked against him for three years as he tried to secure a chat with the Russian leader, accusing intelligence agencies of monitoring his personal text messages.
“I was maniacally dedicated to doing this interview, not simply because because I want to know what Vladimir Putin is like and what he thinks of a war that is resetting the world and gravely damaging my country’s economy,” Carlson said following the interview.
“But also because they told me I couldn’t, based on illegitimate means. I thought ‘that can’t stand’.
“I want to live in a free country, I was born in one, and I want to do whatever small thing I can do to maintain the society that I love.”