Vladimir Putin claims Clinton offered Russia NATO membership in 2000

 February 9, 2024

Vladimir Putin claimed that former President Bill Clinton offered to let Russia join NATO after the end of the Cold War but changed his mind.

During a controversial 2-hour interview with Tucker Carlson at the Kremlin, the Russian leader blamed the war in Ukraine on broken promises and hostility from the West since the fall of the Soviet Union. 

Before the interview was released Thursday, Hillary Clinton had dismissed its contents as little more than Russian propaganda and called Carlson a "useful idiot."

Putin's take on history

At the start of the talk, Putin asked for “one minute” to give some historical background, then delved into a long, grandiose discourse on Russian history going back to the Middle Ages.

Carlson barely got a word in as Putin discussed Genghis Khan, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and the formation of modern Ukraine, which he described as rooted in ultra-nationalist, Nazi ideology.

Turning to recent history, Putin said that Russia expected to be “welcomed into the brotherhood of civilized nations” once the Cold War ended.

He cited former Russian president Boris Yeltsin’s speech to Congress in which he declared, “God bless America" as an example of Russia's goodwill and eagerness to develop closer ties with the West. 

But the U.S. "let the genie out of the bottle” with the NATO bombing of Belgrade, and things only got worse from there. 

“The promise was that NATO would not expand eastward. But it happened five times. There were five waves of expansion,” he continued.

Clinton's meeting with Putin

Putin mentioned an exchange with Clinton at the Kremlin as an example of how Russia was “tricked."

The new Russian leader had asked Clinton whether Russia could ever join NATO, and Clinton did not close the door at first - but changed his mind later that same day.

“At a meeting here in the Kremlin with the outgoing President Bill Clinton, right here in the next room, I said to him, I asked him: ‘Bill, do you think if Russia asked to join NATO, do you think it would happen?’ Suddenly he said, ‘You know, it’s interesting. I think so,’” Putin told Carlson. 

“But in the evening, when we met for dinner, he said: ‘You know, I’ve talked to my team, no, it’s not possible now.’ You can ask him. I think he will watch our interview, he’ll confirm it.”

Putin blames Biden

Putin, who had just become president in 2000, suggested history might have taken a different course if Clinton kept his word. 

“The process of rapprochement would have commenced and eventually it might have happened if we had seen some sincere wish on the side of our partners,” he said. “But it didn’t happen. Well, no means no, okay, fine,” he said.

While much of the conversation concerned the past, Putin also discussed the ongoing conflict in Ukraine and his views on how it might end.

The Russian leader said he does not remember the last time he spoke with President Biden as Carlson pressed Putin on why he hasn't called the U.S. president to begin negotiations.

Putin said the conflict could end immediately if the U.S. stops supplying military aid to Ukraine.

"'If you really want to stop fighting, you need to stop supplying weapons. It will be over within a few weeks," Putin responded. "That's it. And then we can agree on some terms before you do that, stop," he said.

He said Russia will "fight for its interests to the end" and suggested that Western leaders are coming to a realization that a peaceful settlement with Moscow is inevitable.

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