With the Russian president in the heat of a re-election campaign, Putin sat down to talk with NBC’s Megyn Kelly for an interview that enabled him to burnish his credentials to the Russian electorate, Ray McGovern explains.
By Ray McGovern
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s team swept a doubleheader on March 1, with his mid-day speech claiming strategic parity with the U.S., and then the nightcap duel with NBC’s Megyn Kelly. Any lingering doubt that Putin is a shoo-in for another term as President is now dispelled. Putin might consider sending NBC a thank-you note.
As I watched NBC’s special, “Confronting Putin,” Friday evening, I asked myself — naively — what possessed President Putin to subject himself again to what NBC calls a Megan Kelly “grilling,” replete with supercilious questions and less-than-polite interruptions, just nine months after his first such “grilling.” It then hit me that “grilling” is in the eye of the beholder.
Reviewing the original Russian tape of the interviews, it became clear that the tête-à-tête showed a Putin looking patiently but supremely presidential to Russian viewers who could see the whole interviews, not just the selective selected excerpts aired by NBC and “interpreted” by Russophobe-de-jour Richard Haas. (A close adviser to Secretary of State Colin Powell, Haas was among those who told him it was a swell idea to invade Iraq. When the anticipated “cakewalk” turned rather bloody, with no WMD to be found, Haas quit in July 2003 and became President of the Council on Foreign Relations where he is now well into his 15th year.)
Back to the Kelly-Putin pas de deux: At the March 1 interview the Russian President came out swinging. When Kelly asked the first time whether there is “a new arms race right now” after Putin’s announcement of Russia’s new strategic weapons, Putin reminded her that it was the U.S. that withdrew in 2002 from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty of 1972. He added that he had repeatedly warned the Bush/Cheney administration that Russia would be forced to respond to the dangerous upset of the…