Putin Explains Why Russia Doesn’t Pose a Threat to Europe

Tucker Carlson began his interview of President Vladimir Putin with the words, “On February 24, 2022, you addressed your country in your nationwide address when the conflict in Ukraine started….”  Clearly the war in Ukraine was the motivation and central topic for the interview.  But precisely what Mr. Putin had to say about the Ukraine war and its bearing on the future has been lost amidst frantic cries that Carlson is a “traitor” or “useful idiot” for so much as speaking with the Russian President.

Putin Declares Russia Not a Threat to the EU

The interview comes at a time when near apocalyptic warnings are being issued by the foreign policy establishment.  Should Putin prevail in Ukraine, we are warned, he will next occupy nearby nations like Poland and the Baltics. Then, the story goes, he will march across the European continent in a frenzy of conquest, requiring the US to send US troops to fight in Europe.  The message is, “Be very afraid – and pony up the tax money for mission Ukraine.”

Is this all too familiar call to fund a war in a far-away place with no clear importance for the US reasonable?  Tucker raised this crucial question in a simple and pointed way, and Putin’s reply was unambiguous and unequivocal.  Here is the relevant exchange from the transcript (Italics jw): 

“Vladimir Putin: …… They (NATO) are trying to fuel the Russian threat.

“Tucker Carlson: The threat I think you were referring to is Russian invasion of Poland, Latvia – expansionist behaviour. Can you imagine a scenario where you send Russian troops to Poland?

“Vladimir PutinOnly in one case: if Poland attacks Russia. Why? Because we have no interest in Poland, Latvia or anywhere else. Why would we do that? We simply don’t have any interest. It’s just threat mongering.

“Tucker Carlson: Well, the argument, I know you know this, is that, well, he invaded Ukraine – he has territorial aims across the continent. And you are saying unequivocally, you don’t? 

“Vladimir PutinIt is absolutely out of the question. You just don’t have to be any kind of analyst, it goes against common sense to get involved in some kind of global war. And a global war will bring all of humanity to the brink of destruction. It’s obvious.”

Putin Cites Bismarck’s Opinion on “Potentials” of a Nation

Are we to believe what Putin says?  There are many reasons why we should.  But perhaps the most powerful of them comes in another segment of the interview which at first glance is unrelated to Ukraine.  In that segment Putin cites Bismarck in reply to an assertion of Carlson’s about China. This reply provides us a look into how Putin thinks about international relations.  Here it is:

“Tucker Carlson: ….And many in America thought that relations between Russia and the United States would be fine after the collapse of the Soviet Union, at the core. But the opposite happened. But you have never explained why you think that happened, except to say that the West fears a strong Russia. But we have a strong China that the West doesn’t seem to be very afraid of. What about Russia, what do you think convinced the policymakers to take it down?

“Vladimir Putin: The West is afraid of a strong China more than it fears a strong Russia because Russia has 150 million people, and China has a 1.5 billion population, and its economy is growing by leaps and bounds – over five percent a year, it used to be even more. But that’s enough for China. As Bismark once put it, potentials are most important. China’s potential is enormous – it is the biggest economy in the world today in terms of purchasing power parity and the size of the economy. It has already overtaken the United States, quite a long time ago, and it is growing at a fast clip.”  (In 2023 the US economy grew at a rate of 2.5%; China’s grew at 5.2% of a larger economy. JW)

Putin cites Bismarck approvingly for identifying the “potentials” of nations as the “most important” factor.  And Putin uses two parameters to assess “potential”:  the size of the economy and the size of the population.  These are the two pillars on which a country’s military might rests.

What are the potentials of the EU or NATO versus Russia

Let’s apply this thinking to the outcome of a conflict between Russia and the other European nations, using the same criteria Putin does.  It is quite simple.  Russia has a population of ~150 million as Putin says; that of the EU+UK is over 500 million.   The PPP-GDP of Russia is ~$5 trillion;  that of the EU+ UK is ~$30 trillion.  These numbers put Russia in a most unenviable position.

A  comparison with the whole of NATO leaves Russia in an even worse position.  The population of NATO is 960 million; over six times larger than Russia.  NATO’s PPP-GDP is a bit over $50 trillion, 10 times that of Russia.  Moreover, NATO has a total of 3.4 million military personnel; Russia has 1.15 million with a plan to expand to 1.5 million by 2026.

Based on these numbers Russia would be insane to get into a war with the EU nations or with NATO.  And whatever one may think of Putin, he is not insane.  Watch the interview and you will see a very intelligent man, quite measured in his responses.  (Unless you are a history buff, you might want to skip Putin’s history lesson at the beginning and begin at the 25 minute mark.)

These numbers defining the military “potential” not only show that Russia is no threat to the rest of Europe.  Quite the contrary.  The EU countries alone or in concert with the US as NATO are grave threats to Russia.  And the record shows that the threat is real.  The US has pushed NATO eastward; the fake Russian “threat” has been hyped endlessly in the Western press and by most Western politicians. From the Balkans to Afghanistan to Libya and beyond, NATO has shown that, far from being a defensive organization, it is an aggressor.  And now as in the days of the old colonialism, NATO also has cast its eye on East Asia and an “Indo-Pacific NATO.”

Far from being a “threat,” Russia has every reason to feel threatened.  Backed into a corner with NATO on its doorstep, it is no surprise that Russia acted to prevent Ukraine from becoming a platform for invasion from the West as it was twice in the 20th Century and as it could be again as a member of NATO.

Author: John V. Walsh

John V. Walsh writes about issues of war, peace, empire, and health care for Antiwar.com, Consortium News, DissidentVoice.org, The Unz Review, and other outlets. Now living in the East Bay, he was until recently Professor of Physiology and Cellular Neuroscience at a Massachusetts Medical School. John V. Walsh can be reached at john.endwar@gmail.com