Letter From the Editors

Tucker Carlson, the right-wing journalist who has become infamous for spouting outrageous conspiracy theories, got an earful of new ones from none other than Vladimir Putin. Most of the two-hour video, shot in a grand reception room in the Kremlin, shows Carlson staring blankly as the Russian leader lectures him on everything from the history of Kievan Rus to modern American missile defense. Carlson’s barely changing facial expression brings two metaphors to mind: “deer in the headlights” and “watching a train wreck.” So, which was it? Not even Carlson can say for certain, judging from his post-interview reactions (quoted by The Washington Post): “I’m not exactly sure what I thought of the interview. . . . It’s going to take me a year to decide what that was.” But he did add an insightful comment: “[Putin] is not good at explaining himself. . . . But he’s clearly spending a lot of time in a world where he doesn’t have to explain himself.”

The political experts of that world minimize the importance of the Carlson interview. According to Meduza, the Putin administration’s domestic policy staffers view the event not as a presidential campaign move for the domestic public, but as an opportunity to broadcast the Kremlin’s propaganda to the foreign audience, particularly US conservatives. One source dismissed even the latter purpose: “[T]here are established channels in security structures for [reaching the American public]. Clowns can be used to send signals to the dressing room or to the caterers.”

However, despite these claims, Andrei Sapozhnikov sees an odd novelty in the media hype surrounding the event: Upon his arrival in Moscow several days before the interview, Carlson found himself being followed by reporters and cameras everywhere. “On the one hand, such heightened attention could even come off as touching. However, I see this situation not at all as a sentimental expression of Russian hospitality, but . . . a rather humiliating ‘dance by the natives for an overseas guest.’ Because this kind of reaction . . . doesn’t seem at all appropriate for a civilized European country. . . . It comes off, instead, as a logical consequence of isolationism and an artificial ‘unplugging’ of the country from the global cultural and political context, which are the actual results of talk about Russia’s so-called sovereign greatness.”

Meanwhile, some momentous events were happening this week right near Russia’s borders. In Ukraine, Valery Zaluzhny tendered his resignation as chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces, laying to rest a much-publicized conflict between him and President Zelensky (or has it only buried the conflict deeper?). Zaluzhny’s replacement is Aleksandr Syrsky, who until now was commander of Ukraine’s Ground Forces.

And in Kazakhstan, President Tokayev dismissed the government headed by prime minister Alikhan Smailov, whom he had brought it in to quash economic protests in early 2022. The new premier was announced as Olzhas Bektenov, a younger technocrat with a reputation as both a corruption fighter and a loyal watchdog of the presidential administration.

Speaking of which, the Kremlin continues to keep a close eye on suspect activities going on under its nose (not just following Tucker Carlson into cafés and fast food restaurants). For example, it picked up on the fact that political newcomer Boris Nadezhdin had easily racked up over 100,000 signatures in support of his presidential candidacy. Naturally, the Central Electoral Commission had to invalidate just enough signatures to bar Nadezhdin from the race. And, in a more scandalous story, young blogger Alyona Agafonova is now in jail on charges of “rehabilitating Nazism,” for a video in which she – well, we recommend you read that article yourselves, now that we’ve tickled your curiosity.