President Vladimir V. Putin called on the United States to “make an agreement” ceding Ukrainian territory to Russia in order to end the war, speaking for two hours with a former Fox News host in an interview broadcast Thursday that was the Kremlin’s most direct appeal to American audiences since his invasion began two years ago.
“Wouldn’t it be better to negotiate with Russia? Make an agreement,” Mr. Putin told Tucker Carlson, the American conservative commentator, in the Russian leader’s first interview with an American outlet since 2021. “Start respecting our country and its interests and look for certain solutions.”
Much of the interview constituted a familiar Kremlin history lesson about Russia’s historical claim to Eastern European lands, beginning in the ninth century, that Mr. Putin made little effort to distill for American ears. Mr. Putin also laid out his well-worn and spurious justifications for invading Ukraine, asserting that Russia’s goal was to “stop this war” that he claims the West is waging against Russia.
But Mr. Putin was more direct than usual about how he sees his Ukraine invasion ending: not with a military victory, but through an agreement with the West. At the interview’s end, Mr. Putin told Mr. Carlson that the time had come for talks about ending the war because “those who are in power in the West have come to realize” that Russia will not be defeated on the battlefield.
“If so, if the realization has set in, they have to think what to do next. We are ready for this dialogue,” Mr. Putin said.
Responding to Mr. Carlson’s question about whether NATO could accept Russian control over parts of Ukraine, Mr. Putin said: “Let them think how to do it with dignity. There are options if there is a will.”
The original, Russian version of Mr. Putin’s comments was not immediately released, leaving viewers to rely on the dubbed translation in Mr. Carlson’s broadcast.
The interview, conducted on Tuesday, was Mr. Putin’s first with a Western media outlet since the start of the war in Ukraine and his first with an American one since 2021. While Mr. Putin regularly gave interviews to mainstream American media in his first two decades in power, his spokesman said the Kremlin chose Mr. Carlson this time because those traditional outlets take “an exclusively one-sided position” with regard to Russia.
Afforded a chance by Mr. Carlson to expand on his efforts to portray Russia as a defender of “traditional values” against what he frequently depicts as a degenerate and declining West, the Russian president was uncharacteristically restrained. “Western society is more pragmatic,” he said. “Russian people think more about the eternal, about moral values.”
He added that “there’s nothing wrong with” the Western path, noting that it had led to “good success in production, even in science.” It was an echo of Mr. Putin’s frequent assertion over the last two years that his conflict is not with the West as a whole, but with a hegemonic ruling elite.
Mr. Putin’s appearance underscored his tactical confidence as his adversaries face a vulnerable moment: Ukraine is struggling on the battlefield, further military aid is stalled in the U.S. Congress and Kremlin-friendly politicians are ascendant on both sides of the Atlantic. Chief among those politicians is former President Donald J. Trump, the Republican presidential front-runner whom Mr. Carlson frequently praises.
That confluence of circumstances means that the interview with Mr. Carlson comes as Mr. Putin senses his “finest hour,” said Tatiana Stanovaya, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Russia Eurasia Center.
Mr. Putin’s end goal, she said, is to secure a peace deal in Ukraine that would cement Russia’s control of the territory it has already captured and to install a friendly government in Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital. But to achieve it, Mr. Putin appears to believe that he needs the United States to put pressure on Ukraine to hold negotiations on ending the war, rather than to continue to resist Russia’s invasion.
“He believes that he now has a window of opportunity,” she said.