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With Putin interview, Carlson proves to be the Walter Duranty of our time

by John Hewko

Watching Tucker Carlson’s latest interview with Russian President Vladimir Putin jogs my memory of the infamous reporting by former New York Occasions journalist Walter Duranty, who defended Soviet chief Josef Stalin’s insurance policies and knowingly excused, coated up and lied concerning the mass homicide and hunger in Ukraine intentionally fomented by Stalin’s insurance policies within the Nineteen Thirties.

Carlson’s willful and maybe malign ignorance raises the specter of a Duranty in our instances, who persists regardless of the numerous warnings that those that can’t keep in mind the previous are condemned to repeat it.

For Duranty, who headed the Occasions Moscow bureau from 1922 to 1936, the deaths from hunger of a minimum of 3 million to 4 million Ukrainians throughout an engineered famine often called the Holodomor was a worth price paying. As Duranty wrote in 1933: “To place it brutally, you possibly can’t make an omelet with out breaking eggs.”

In truth, Duranty abided by the principles of the Soviet propaganda machine so properly that Stalin rewarded him with a coveted interview, one thing that Stalin not often bestowed on members of the Moscow international press corps. His biographer calls Duranty “Stalin’s Apologist.”

Like Stalin, Putin hand-picked Carlson for the same cause. After Russia invaded Ukraine two years in the past, Carlson referred to as on People to chop off multibillion-dollar support packages to Kyiv. He passionately defended Putin whereas insulting Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy by evaluating him to a “rat” and a “pimp.”

Having lived and labored in Russia and Ukraine as a lawyer throughout the dissolution of the Soviet Union within the Nineteen Nineties, I’m appalled by Carlson’s lack of primary information about many of the topics coated by Putin within the interview — Ukrainian and Russian pre-Twentieth century historical past, the collapse of the Soviet Union and Ukraine’s independence, its 2004 Orange Revolution, and Russia’s 2014 occupation of Crimea and components of the Donbas.

Severe historians may have a subject day with Putin’s numerous inaccuracies and lies. However Carlson, with an air of blissful ignorance, may solely sit again and hear, as if induced to a state of bewilderment by Putin’s genius. Even his half-hearted try and deliver up the imprisonment of Wall Avenue Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich couldn’t shake the picture that he had taken on the position of the fawning Russian press corps, whose job it’s to hear and nod and facilitate Putin’s distortion of historical past and actuality.

Carlson framed the interview to his followers as an intrepid act of journalistic truth-telling; Stalin used to credit score Duranty for making an attempt to “inform the reality” concerning the Soviet Union.

However his post-interview video is a distinct matter altogether. Within the first bit, with a deer-in-the-headlights look, he shares his shock that the interview didn’t go as he had envisioned however appreciated that Putin’s 20-minute historical past lesson supplied a “window into how he thinks concerning the area.”

Whereas dwelling in Kyiv and Moscow, I got here to know many Western journalists there. A severe journalist who had carried out his or her analysis would have challenged and uncovered the deeply flawed and revisionist view of historical past that Putin has conjured as much as justify his conflict on Ukraine and, by proxy, the West. All that Carlson wanted to do was learn Putin’s July 2021 essay “On the Historic Unity of Russians and Ukrainians,” by which Putin assembles a menu of historic fabrications to function a predicate to illegally invade a sovereign nation.

Within the post-interview, Carlson then returns to his lodge room and, after reflecting on the interview throughout the automobile experience from the Kremlin, affords some zingers that will put Duranty to disgrace. After appropriately concluding that Putin didn’t current a coherent case for invading Ukraine, Carlson involves Putin’s protection by implicitly condemning the West for rejecting Russia’s invitation into Europe with none evaluation of why which will have been the case. To the extent that NATO growth to Ukraine and safety issues have been the purported causes for the invasion, why did Putin open his interview with a prolonged evaluation of 1,000 years of Ukrainian and Russian historical past? Carlson mocks the concept that Russia would invade a NATO nation, regardless that high-ranking Russian officers have on quite a few events threatened to invade Poland and the Baltic nations.

Carlson then launches right into a screed about how Russia is just not an expansionist energy and has such a big land mass and sources that it actually doesn’t want extra. In that case, then why an unprovoked invasion of a sovereign state to seize much more land merely to meet a messianic imaginative and prescient of imperial restoration?

Carlson claims that Crimea is legitimately a part of Russia, populated by Russians who held a referendum to affix Russia. Actually? He conveniently neglects the truth that traditionally, the principal inhabitants of the peninsula have been Crimean Tatars who have been then systematically exterminated or deported by the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union. The 2014 referendum that Carlson lauds has been largely condemned as a sham. Nonetheless, there was a free and honest referendum held in December 1991 by which a majority of Crimean residents voted for Ukrainian independence.

However right here is Carlson’s largest whopper of all — the flippant declare that he’s not “a flack” for Putin. Any scholar of historical past would beg to vary.

Within the Nineteen Thirties, Duranty’s cover-up disadvantaged the West of the information of Stalin’s atrocities and left behind an indelible stain on American journalism. Carlson’s interview will go down in historical past as propaganda within the service of a geostrategic rival and tyrant.

As Russia’s invasion of Ukraine entered its third 12 months, can we as a nation afford to permit a distortionist like Carlson to undermine Western resolve at this important second when Ukraine is as soon as once more ravenous, this time for vital navy support that’s caught in Congress?

John Hewko, a Chicago-based Ukrainian American lawyer, labored in Russia and Ukraine within the early Nineteen Nineties and assisted the Ukrainian parliamentary working group that ready the preliminary draft of the post-Soviet Ukrainian structure.