In his wildest dreams, Russian President Vladimir Putin couldn’t have envisioned the world’s reaction to his invasion of Ukraine.
The media’s continuous coverage of the war has gripped the attention of Americans and Europeans in a way that rivals the coronavirus pandemic at its height.
While the empathy of much of the world resides with the Ukrainians, there is a great deal of disagreement on whether Putin’s invasion could have been prevented and even more so on the appropriate degree of foreign involvement that should go into reacting to it.
Nowhere are the opinions more varied than among the primetime hosts at Fox News.
Hot Air’s Allapundit summed it up in a recent post: “Love it or hate it, it illustrates Fox’s commitment to viewpoint diversity. How many other networks have a Putin apologist hosting at 8 p.m. and a guy who wants to kill Putin hosting at 9?”
In the weeks leading up to the invasion, Carlson argued that Russia had been betrayed by NATO member countries, including officials from the Clinton administration, who assured the Russians they would limit the alliance’s eastward expansion. Instead, NATO expanded to include “the Baltics,” which border Russia, and now was considering admitting Ukraine. How was Putin supposed to feel?
While Carlson certainly has a point, he relentlessly drove it home in one monologue after another. Frankly, he often did sound like a Putin apologist.
In terms of the U.S. involvement in the conflict, Carlson has adopted an isolationist approach. We need to deal with our own problems first, he contends. And again, his argument has merit. But, as we watch the Russian military target Ukrainian citizens and their bombs reduce the country’s infrastructure to rubble day after day, Carlson’s “hands off” position seems callous and cruel.
While I’ve disagreed with much of Carlson’s rhetoric surrounding the war, I fully agreed with his Monday night monologue, particularly with his conclusion that “what we’re watching is the beginning of a war between the United States and Russia.”
In a Fox News commentary based on that monologue, Carlson claimed the invasion could have been prevented. He’s not wrong.
Carlson makes the case that every time the Biden administration officials had the opportunity to take the necessary steps to avert this war, they punted. Additionally, he said that increasing U.S. assistance to the Ukrainians has elevated our status to participants in the conflict.
The piece begins by citing Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s declaration on Sunday’s edition of CBS News‘ “Face the Nation” that the State Department was working with the Polish government to backfill the Polish fleet of fighter jets if Poland gives MiG29s to their embattled neighbor.
(Note: Carlson’s remarks were made before Poland’s offer on Tuesday to send the MiGs to Ramstein Air Base, a U.S. Air Force base in Germany, placing them at the disposal of the United States. The Biden administration rejected the offer, according to Reuters.)
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Sunday that NATO members have the go-ahead to send fighter jets to Ukraine as the U.S. and allies continue their efforts to help Ukraine defend itself against Russia’s invasion. https://t.co/YT2gy2QvHe pic.twitter.com/B7fOUVUV4s
— Face The Nation (@FaceTheNation) March 6, 2022
Putin has been extremely clear that this would be a red line for him. He would consider that Russia is at war with any country that rendered such assistance to Ukraine.
Carlson referenced the clip of Blinken greenlighting Poland’s potential gift of the MiGs to Ukraine. He wrote (emphasis added):
“If that sounds jarring, what else would you call it? Now you may support everything that Tony Blinken just said. Maybe you do support it, but let’s not lie about what’s happening. Let’s be as honest and clear-eyed as we can be, especially now, because it matters. The Biden administration just inserted itself with force into the middle of a hot war between two foreign powers. That means the United States is now an active participant in a war. We are at war with Russia. Whether or not that war has been officially declared, whether or not Congress has authorized that war, all of that is irrelevant. That war is happening right now as we watch.”
He questioned why no one in Washington is talking about this and concludes the reason is that they support it. “They always have,” he wrote.
He also maintained that the U.S. government is well aware that Putin’s biggest motive for the invasion was to prevent Ukraine’s membership in NATO.
“No one who knows anything and is honest will tell you Putin invaded Ukraine simply because he is evil. Putin may be evil. He certainly seems to be, but he also has strategic motives in doing that, whether or not you agree with those motives, that’s irrelevant,” he Carlson wrote. “Those are the facts. So, with those facts in mind, the Biden administration’s behavior in the days before the Ukraine invasion tells you a lot about what motivated them.”
Carlson continued:”With Russian troops amassed by the thousands on the Ukrainian border, Joe Biden sent Kamala Harris, the least capable diplomat in Washington, to explain America’s policy to European heads of state. At a public press event at the Munich Security Conference, Kamala Harris encouraged Ukraine to become a member of NATO. ‘I appreciate and admire President Zelenskyy’s desire to join NATO.’ Message: ‘Up yours, Vladimir Putin, go ahead and invade Ukraine.’ And of course, Vladimir Putin did that just days later.”
“Why in the world would the United States intentionally seek war with Russia?” Carlson asked. “How could we possibly benefit from that war? We still don’t know the answer to that question, but it is obvious that permanent Washington has been fixated on war with Russia for a very long time.”
I would add a very provocative comment Biden made during a December phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy that was guaranteed to infuriate Putin. This occasion was not mentioned in Carlson’s commentary, but supports his argument. Reuters reported on this story.
According to Zelenskyy’s chief of staff Andriy Yermak, Biden “assured Zelenskyy that Kyiv’s bid to join the NATO military alliance was in its own hands.”
He did so with the full knowledge that Putin had already massed nearly 100,000 troops along the Ukrainian border. I’m not suggesting Biden should have appeased him, the Russian leader, but knowing that Ukraine’s potential membership in NATO was a major reason for Putin’s troop buildup, the situation called for some finesse.
Far from de-escalating the situation, news of Biden’s assurance incensed the man who was already setting up to pounce.
Carlson’s commentary and a video of his monologue can be viewed here.
From the beginning of the crisis, Hannity’s perspective has been far less seemingly sympathetic to the Russian perspective, which puts him more in the mainstream of American politics at the moment
However, his ideas of where to go from here are a tad extreme.
Last week, Hannity suggested that Putin should be assassinated.
‘Cut off the head of the snake, the snake dies’: Sean Hannity suggests Putin should be ASSASSINATED and says the Russian leader has ‘forfeited his right to live’https://t.co/5Sa2ZofVgt pic.twitter.com/QVkqZtTdEX
— Wittgenstein (@backtolife_2022) March 3, 2022
On Monday night’s “Hannnity,” according to a transcript, Hannity labeled Putin a “maniacal, megalomaniac dictator” and has encouraged Putin’s advisors to remove him from power “by any means necessary.”
“We are witnessing a mass casualty situation before our very eyes, and for what? To fulfill the selfish, territorial dreams of an evil, murdering, maniacal, meglomaniac dictator?” Hannity told his viewers.
“Does anyone around Putin, in his inner circle, generals, advisers – do they actually believe this is a good thing? Or are you just following orders and making that your lame excuse?” he asked.
“As I’ve said before, there is one way to stop this war and if anyone around Putin has a backbone, a soul, a conscience, guess what? They need to get him out of power by any means necessary and I say that unapologetically for you liberal critics out there.
“How many more children do you need to see dead before you get to that position?”
He wasn’t finished.
“Putin has reportedly even sent death squads into Ukraine to assassinate President Zelensky and his family,” he said. “So, as far as I’m concerned, what goes around will come around and Vladimir Putin should watch his back.”
You may agree with either Carlson or Hannity, some of the perspectives of both, or neither of them. But you must admit, they are asking questions that need to be answered — even if they are at odds in their approaches to the Putin problem.
It’s a testament to the strength of conservative thinking that it includes room for that kind of diversity of thought — the only kind of diversity that matters.
One thing for sure is that President Joe Biden specifically, and his administration as a whole, have grossly mismanaged this crisis, just as they have every other crisis they’ve faced over the past 14 months of this misguided presidency.
On that, we can all agree.
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