Crossing the Ocean*


*Editor’s note: On March 4, 2022, Russia enacted a law that criminalizes public opposition to, or independent news reporting about, the war in Ukraine. The law makes it a crime to call the war a “war” rather than a “special military operation” on social media or in a news article or broadcast. The law is understood to penalize any language that “discredits” Russia’s use of its military in Ukraine, calls for sanctions or protests Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. It punishes anyone found to spread “false information” about the invasion with up to 15 years in prison.

Americanist Konstantin Sukhoverkhov – on the importance of Putin’s interview with a U.S. journalist for the normalization of Russia-U.S. relations

Tucker Carlson’s interview with Russian President Vladimir Putin has sparked great interest on both sides of the Atlantic, capturing the attention of not only prominent businessmen and politicians but also ordinary citizens. The anticipation surrounding the event was palpable. In the United States, right-wing journalists touted this interview as epoch-making, foreseeing its profound global impact. Billionaire Elon Musk stressed that he would not hinder its publication on the X platform. Interestingly, this decision led to incredible growth in the number of users. By 1 p.m. Moscow time, the interview had over 75 million views.

The conversation between Putin and Carlson lasted two hours, during which the Russian president clarified Moscow’s stance on the situation in Ukraine and beyond. For Russian viewers, the president’s remarks will not be entirely novel. However, when watching the interview, it is crucial to keep in mind that its target audience is not only Russians (who are also interested in it) but also Americans, specifically Republicans. Carlson is popular primarily among Republicans.

Let’s look at the key takeaways from Putin’s sit-down with Carlson. First, Putin once again stated that Russia is ready for negotiations to resolve the conflict in Ukraine. Contrary to Western media, Putin’s unambiguous remarks now show that Moscow is ready for a diplomatic resolution.

Second, Putin hinted that Russia is ready to release Evan Gershkovich, an American reporter being held in Russia on espionage charges, in exchange for Russians detained in the United States. This is important to Americans, and Carlson, as a U.S. citizen and journalist, could not overlook the remarks. Putin’s response is expected to be well-received in the United States. Despite strained bilateral relations, Russia and the United States have recently reached agreements on several exchanges. Previously, Viktor Bout and Konstantin Yaroshenko returned to Russia, while the United States secured the release of Brittney Griner and Trevor Reed.

Furthermore, the Russian president aimed to provide viewers with the historical context of ongoing events in Ukraine, which is crucial for understanding the conflict. This part of the interview may prove challenging for a general audience. Objectively speaking, histories of other countries are not studied as deeply in U.S. schools as they are, for instance, in European countries. However, there is nothing inherently wrong with it, as the U.S. educational system is structured differently and places a greater emphasis on practical skills. In addition, one should note that an increasing number of people all around the world are susceptible to clip thinking.* Nonetheless, the fact that the Russian president delved into history may prompt many viewers to seek additional information on how Ukraine became a state and Moscow’s relations with Kyiv. After all, it is a lack of historical context that largely contributes to the misunderstanding of Russia’s actions on the international stage.

Reaction to the interview surfaced right after the interview was broadcast. However, the meeting between Putin and Carlson did not take center stage in major U.S. publications. First, it is worth noting that most U.S. media outlets tend to support Democrats and their agenda, as evidenced by their strong reaction to Carlson’s announcement of the interview. Second, election primaries are underway and a possible confrontation between Joe Biden and Donald Trump currently dominates America’s attention. Americas are closely following numerous investigations into Trump and Biden and his family. One such investigation produced a report by Special Counsel Robert Hur that stirred significant controversy. It suggested that the U.S. president should not be held accountable for mishandling classified documents, since a jury might view him as “a sympathetic, well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory” and vote to acquit.

Nonetheless, American scholars journalists and citizens are actively analyzing the interview. Major media outlets have already reported that Putin directly said he was ready to negotiate with respect to the Ukrainian crisis. Others also point to the segment where the president discusses the prospects for releasing Gershkovich. However, on the flip side, criticism abounds. Some U.S. observers think that Carlson refrained from posing pointed questions to Putin. Carlson will likely find a way to respond to the criticism from his colleagues, considering many of them might be a little bit jealous.

Reaction to the interview is growing with every passing minute and hour. Yet, it is now more important to know whether Putin’s statements will truly impact the international stage and improve relations between Russia and the United States. It is unlikely that Washington will engage in dialogue with Moscow any time soon or that the U.S. will push Kyiv toward direct negotiations with Russia. Nevertheless, Russia has reaffirmed its clear position to the international community. Putin has clearly signaled that he is not interested in a large-scale conflict with the United States and NATO. Instead, Russia aims to address all of the issues at the negotiating table. However, the ball is now in the court of our U.S. partners, who have unfortunately chosen to sever most ties with our country voluntarily.

Even if, for now, there is only the prospect of exchanging one American for one Russian, we might consider it to be a significant success for everybody, including Carlson. Each exchange signals there is communication between two nuclear powers, even if it’s only nominal. This gives us hope that we can eventually return to constructive dialogue on the international stage.

*Editor’s note: “Clip thinking” is thinking characterized by fragmentation, speed and superficiality.

The author is the program coordinator of the Russian International Affairs Council.

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About Nane Sarkisian 9 Articles
Born in Armenia, and raised mostly in Russia, Nane Sarkisian earned a BA in Linguistics from Surgut State University and a Fulbright-sponsored MA in Linguistic Anthropology from Northern Illinois University, where she studied language-culture correlation. Her professional journey includes roles as a Senior Language Specialist, Freelance Translator, and English Teacher. Fluent in English, Russian and Armenian, Nane actively engages in academic discourse, volunteering programs and anti-discrimination projects. She is a firm believer in the transformative power of education, inclusivity, empathy, cross-cultural exchange and social cohesion. Please feel free to contact Nane by email at nanesosovnasarkisian@gmail.com

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