Russia Revels In Brexit Vote
June 24, 2016
by Tom Balmforth
MOSCOW -- Russian politicians, journalists, and nationalists are reveling in the United Kingdom's historic vote to leave the European Union, banking on a Brussels more amenable to Moscow, and casting Brexit both as a sign of Europe falling apart at the seams and of waning U.S. influence.
Russian television stations spoke of a victory for "Little England," cast the referendum as a "real nightmare for Brussels," and carried images of Nigel Farage -- the leader of the populist, anti-immigration U.K. Independence Party (UKIP) -- drinking beer and declaring a "victory for ordinary people, a victory for decent people."
Russian ultranationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky hailed the vote as a "heroic deed" by the British people, telling journalists that "agricultural, provincial, working Britain has said 'no' to a union created by the financial mafia, globalists, and the rest of them."
The flamboyant politician predicted that "after the British leave, NATO will collapse, Schengen, the euro" before declaring: "Long live the ruble and the development of Russian ties with all the democratic countries of Europe!"
Communist Party chief Gennady Zyuganov, too, prophesied a chain reaction in Europe, predicting that France, Italy, and the Netherlands would be next to pull out of the EU.
Ahead of the vote, President Vladimir Putin had refrained from commenting publicly on whether he supported Brexit, although Putin's foes warned that leaving Brussels would play straight into the Kremlin's hands.
Commenting after the vote, however, Putin acknowledged that the vote would "undoubtedly have consequences for the world and for Russia" and criticized British Prime Minister David Cameron's May 17 suggestion that Putin would welcome Brexit, saying Russia "in no way" influenced the outcome. Putin said the vote primarily reflected Britain's desire not to subsidize weaker economies in the EU and that Cameron's remark had demonstrated "a low level of political culture."
In contrast with much speculation in Russia, Putin also said he did not expect sanctions imposed on Russia over the crisis in Ukraine to be eased as a result of Britain's vote.
Earlier on June 24, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov had told journalists that Russia wants the EU to remain "a prosperous, stable, and predictable" economic power, and that the Kremlin hopes London will understand the need for better relations with Moscow.
Vladimir Soloviyev, a prominent telejournalist, goaded Putin's detractors, writing on Twitter: "It seems Great Britain is leaving the EU. Will they again perform the 'Putin is to blame for everything' song? Or will they analyze the problems in the EU this time?"
State Duma Foreign Affairs Committee chief Aleksei Pushkov chimed in: "There is no need to project your own ill-health onto us: Russia has nothing to do with this. This is defeat of the opponents of Brexit themselves. And the personal failure of Barack Obama."
Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin suggested that Russia would stand a better chance of busting out of EU sanctions now that London, often a noisy critic of Moscow, is spinning out of the 28-member trade bloc. "Without the U.K. in the EU there will no longer be anyone so zealously standing up for sanctions against us."
Boris Titov, the head of the Right Cause party, floated the common view in Moscow that France, Germany, and Russia should unite Europe against the United Kingdom and United States.
"In my opinion, the most important long-term result of all this is that their exit will tear Europe away from the Anglo-Saxons, that is to say, from the USA," he wrote on Facebook. "This isn't independence of Britain from Europe, this is independence of Europe from the USA."
Senator Konstantin Kosachyov, head of the Federation Council's International Relations Committee, wrote on Facebook that the result showed the EU had "failed to solve the fundamental problem: to become understandable and convenient for the population at large."
Igor Korotchenko, a nationalist journalist who appears regularly on state television, joked about the mayhem Brexit could cause inside the United Kingdom itself, possibly renewing Scottish independence calls, considering that voters in Scotland cast ballots to remain in the EU. He wrote simply, "SNR -- Scottish People's Republic."
Sputnik I Pogrom, a nationalist website, posted photos casting the U.K. as the bad boy of Europe.
Aleksei Zhuravlev, head of the Rodina (Motherland) party, took a more accepting approach in a Twitter post that alluded to Soviet-era communal apartments: "We welcome the wish of the British to leave the multicultural EU 'komunalka' in which it has now become dangerous to live."
A small dissenting voice came from Aleksei Kudrin, the former finance minister seen as a liberal on the Russian political spectrum, who tweeted: "We can regret the decision of the British to leave the EU. But there will be no catastrophe, although there will be short-term instability on the financial market."
"I think the EU will come around, but the EU, like Great Britain will become economically weaker."
Copyright (c) 2016. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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