Fox News anchor Chris Wallace has promised to treat the American viewing public to front seat tickets to an interview with a living tyrant — an introspective examination of a man who is viewed with unequal parts fear, respect, admiration, and terror by people around the world.
On Monday, July 16, Fox News Channel will air Wallace’s interview with Russian President Vladimir Putin — the only broadcast of its type promised to Western media following a planned summit between the Russian leader and U.S. President Donald Trump in Helsinki, Finland.
“No holds barred, no subjects off limits,” the Fox News Sunday host promised.
Front row seat to history
Wallace ensured viewers that he wouldn’t shy away from asking Putin tough questions about his country’s interference in the 2016 presidential race, as well as asking about potential meddling in America’s crucial 2018 midterms.
Additionally, Wallace hopes to talk about the historic summit and question Putin about the progress of negotiations on critical issues like NATO, Syria, and Ukraine.
“I want to delve into Vladimir Putin and what he wants for his country,” Wallace noted.
Cult of personality
While critics have accused Putin of pushing Russia towards becoming an autocratic state, the former Soviet intelligence officer is undoubtedly the most popular world politician over the last decade, according to approval ratings from his people.
Many Russians credit Putin for pulling the country from the brink of economic collapse following the fall of the Soviet Union, and restoring Moscow’s place on the world stage. While the international community condemned Russia and instituted sanctions following the annexation of Crimea in 2014, Putin’s approval rating rebounded to a six-year high following the event.
Friend or foe?
When asked if Putin was considered a friend or a foe ahead of their meeting in Helsinki, Trump preferred to call his Russian counterpart a “competitor.”
“Ultimately, he’s a competitor,” Trump said. “He’s representing Russia. I’m representing the United States. So in a sense, we’re competitors. Not a question of friends or enemy.”
“He’s not my enemy. Hopefully someday, maybe, he’ll be a friend.”
The U.S. president’s refusal to characterize Putin along strictly negative or positive terms followed a grand jury indictment from the Trump Justice Department accusing 12 Russian intelligence officers of hacking into the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and Hillary Clinton campaign’s computers, and disseminating thousands of sensitive communications in hopes of disparaging the Democrats’ election chances.
And at the NATO summit on Wednesday, Trump slammed an $11 billion natural gas pipeline planned between Russia and Germany, asking what the purpose of the alliance was “if Germany is paying Russia billions of dollars for gas and energy?”
Certainly, Wallace’s interview promises to be an entertaining and enlightening event. However, the real show will finish hours earlier, when Trump and Putin meet for the first time in private to discuss a host of hot topics.
Hopefully Wallace can cut through the boilerplate and get to the essence of this enigmatic world leader.