When Tucker Carlson went to the Kremlin he had a function well known to history. He was to be the stooge of the tyrant, the dictaphone to the dictator and a traitor to journalism.
In his fawning, guffawing, slack-jawed happiness at having a ‘scoop’, he betrayed his viewers and listeners around the world.
He didn’t ask tough questions. He didn’t ask Putin why even now he is using the most brutal means of modern warfare to maim and murder innocent Ukrainian civilians.
He didn’t take him to task for the torture, the rapes, the blowing up of kindergartens — all of it wholly unnecessary and unprovoked. Not once did he even try to dam the flow of lies from Putin.
Instead he gasped fanboyishly at Putin’s alleged erudition, boneheadedly accepting the Russian leader’s mixture of semi-masticated Wikipedia and outright falsehood — such as the bizarre (and ominous) suggestion that Poland was somehow responsible for her own partition and destruction in 1939 — as if Russia had had no part in the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact*.
He did not challenge the ludicrous suggestion that the UK government persuaded the Ukrainians to fight on, rather than surrender to Putin’s tender mercies, in the spring of 2022.
As every member of the Ukrainian government will confirm, from Zelensky down, nothing and no one could have stopped those lion-hearted Ukrainians from fighting for their country — and nothing will.
In the last two years Putin has conclusively demolished his own thesis. By his reckless and criminal violence he has proved himself completely wrong.
He has revealed that Ukraine is not only a country, but a great one, and by his stupid miscalculation he has helped engender a patriotic feeling that is stronger and more unquenchable than any in the world.
But of course Tucker Carlson didn’t make that point. He allowed the Russian leader to dilate for half an hour on the supposed historic non-existence of Ukraine then gushed about Putin’s ‘encyclopaedic knowledge’.
Not since George Galloway went to Baghdad and hailed the indefatigability of Saddam Hussein have we seen such a display of bum-sucking servility to a tyrant.
In a way it is unfair to blame Carlson for his abject performance. He was not there to challenge. He was just the medium, the sewer, the hose by which the untreated slurry of Putin’s message could be sprayed where Putin wants it most — over the fertile heartlands of America.
The message to the American people was simple. This is not your problem, Putin was saying. It’s a European problem. Stay out of this conflict, let me finish it off — and soon we can all be at peace. It is a message that the Americans have heard before.
In June 1940, shortly after Hitler invaded France, the newspapers of WR Hearst secured an interview with the German dictator, mainly because Hearst had long shown sympathies with Hitler.
The chosen journalist was a German-American called Von Wiegand, who had already conducted several positive interviews with the Fuhrer.
Von Wiegand was duly ushered into a captured French chateau, where he found Hitler, von Ribbentrop and others, and with the help of detailed notes that he had prepared Hitler gave the U.S. newspaper reporter his uninterrupted historical wisdom.
This is about Europe, not America, said Hitler. The Americans have nothing to fear from Nazi Germany and no reason to interfere. He didn’t particularly want to conquer Paris, he said; he didn’t even want to be waging war on the European continent.
He just wanted to vindicate the ancient rights of the German-speaking peoples. Does that sound familiar?
Exactly like Hitler, Putin now drones on about the alleged injustices suffered by speakers of his native tongue. Listen to Putin talking about Russophones in the Donbas, or Hungarophones in western Ukraine, and you can hear Hitler talking about the Sudetenland or Alsace-Lorraine.
Of course Putin kicked off the interview with his half-hour monologue about Yaroslav The Wise and Rurik and the events of the 9th century; because he wants to give American viewers and voters the impression that this is all some baffling euro-problem, some six-of-one-half-a-dozen-of-the-other Schleswig-Holstein** question that goes back hundreds of years, when the truth is as bald as Putin himself.
The Russian leader chose to invade a sovereign and independent European country — with no justification other than his arrogant desire to crush that country and to rebuild the Soviet Union. Like Hitler, he is of course lying about his future intentions.
After all, he lied bare-facedly about his intention to invade Ukraine. He told the world, he told me personally, that he wasn’t going to invade Ukraine, only weeks before giving the orders for the tanks to roll in.
Why on earth should he be trusted now to respect any peace deal — even if the Ukrainians tried to do one? He obviously can’t be trusted over Poland, or the Baltic states, or anywhere in the vast periphery of the former Soviet Union.
So I pray that the people of the U.S. are able to see through last night’s unholy charade of an interview. I know how many U.S. congress men and women have been fans of Tucker Carlson, and I say: remember Charles Lindbergh, remember the America Firsters, remember how many American legislators at first opposed involvement in the war with Hitler.
Well, they were wrong then, and the Tucker Carlsonites are grievously wrong about Putin today. To all those Republicans who are currently blocking aid to Ukraine, I say, for God’s sake remember who you are.
You are the heirs of Ronald Reagan, the leaders of the last best hope of earth. You cannot make America great again by selling out Ukraine and allowing Putin to use violence to rebuild the Soviet empire.
On the contrary, by investing only a fraction of the U.S. defence budget, you can help those valiant Ukrainians to turn the tide, put Putin back in his box — and therefore help secure the Euro-Atlantic area for a generation, without actually risking a single U.S. soldier.
You can show the world that trying to change borders by force will lead to disaster; because the greatest lie of all — and the one Putin hoped most to project by his interview — is that the Russian leader is bound to win. He is no more invincible than Adolf Hitler; in fact, he is bound to lose.
He has already suffered colossal losses, but that is not the point. Whatever Ukrainian territory he temporarily occupies, he can never conquer their spirit.
I hope and believe that if President Trump is elected again he will confound his critics, turn his party round and complete the work that he began when he became the first U.S. President to give arms to the Ukrainians.
I say that because in the end all U.S. Presidents know that our collective security is indivisible. In the end the Americans can be relied upon to do the right thing, having exhausted — as the old saying has it — all the available alternatives.
Tucker Carlson did us all a favour last night in the sense that he proffered the alternative — a Putin victory, the destruction of Ukraine and the descent of much of Europe, once again, into darkness and fear. It cannot and must not happen.