Question: Russia has not officially taken a stand on the issue of whether UK citizens should vote to remain or leave the EU. Then why is there a media storm claiming the opposite?
Answer: Just like the west, Russia does have an interest the politics of other countries, particularly those closest to its borders. However, that interest is weighed in terms of cost/benefit analysis. Too much or too little interest can be counter-productive. In the case of Brexit, Russia has officially and wisely remained silent – any public expression one way or another regarding the vote would make that expression part of the political debate. Moscow knows Brexit is all about how British voters feel about the EU and not about Russia. Opponents of Brexit have used Russia as a propaganda straw man to shore up their position. The British public is deeply divided on this issue. It staggers belief to claim Russia attempts to throw the vote on way or another. Russia would lose if it even tried.
Q.: Opponents of Brexit claim Russia supports a no vote because it will weaken the EU and NATO. How true are both claims?
A.: The EU and NATO are already deeply divided and fractionalized – and Russia has had nothing to do with either when it comes to the big picture. The founders of the EU and their successors have always desired to turn the EU into a super-political union without consulting the voters of Europe. Russian “aggression” is not at fault, but rather the increasing democracy deficient at the core of the EU project. Additionally, it is the lack EU unity across a wide spectrum of issues that has worsened EU-Russia relations. Europeans and not Russians attempt to stack the deck when playing the Russia “card.”
Regarding NATO, it is American overt involvement in the Brexit vote that is truly detrimental. Washington wants to keep the military alliance firmly under its jackboot and the current manic propaganda campaign against Russia is evidence of this. If the UK leaves the EU, then NATO unity could be negatively impacted. Washington can’t stomach such an eventuality. British voters should be more wary of American meddling in their politics; Moscow has been and will remain nothing more than an interested bystander in comparison.
Q.: Speak to the claim Russia wants a divided Europe to force concessions from individual members of the EU.
A.: Ever since the end of the Cold War, Russia has repeatedly and respectfully sought a European-Russian security rapprochement. The Cold War was never properly and legally ended. Washington lied to Russia and greedily endeavored to capitalize on its unipolar moment to reduce Moscow to a second rank and inconsequential power. This has been a grave mistake and a complete misunderstanding of Russia’s security perceptions. The fact is Russia actually prefers a unified Europe speaking with a single and clear voice. Such a Europe logically would at least entertain security and trade agreements benefiting European and Russian citizens. Again it is Washington that stridently fears such a relationship, as the U.S. would not have the hegemonic role it so covets. Unlike Europe, Russia thinks in terms of civilization. Russia and Europe have a long historical relationship Brussels elites and the liberal media wish to deny. Russia’s ties to the west are undeniable – and both face many of the same issues that threaten global insecurity. So it is not “conquer and divide,” it is how unity can and should be found? The foreign policy that comes out Brussels is akin to a sleepwalker determined to burn down his own house.
Q.: Moscow wants the UK to leave the EU so as to end the sanction regime against Russia. Truth or fantasy?
A.: Sanctions against Russia is Europe’s problem at the behest of Washington. Yes, Russia is sanctioned by the west, but the Europeans are the ones who feel the pain. If the UK left the EU would sanctions policies change? This is entirely unclear. As far as Moscow is concerned the sanctions are illegitimate and its political leadership has not once to date even publicly addressed the issue. It is quite possible a UK not part of the EU would fall further into Washington’s lap and the sanctions would be extended and deepened. It is fantasy to think under the Conservatives the UK would reach out to Moscow at the expense of Washington. It is also fantasy to think Washington’s grip on the EU would actually change if London left to union. In fact, Berlin would probably more than ever feel Washington’s heavy hand in the area of foreign policy.
Q.: Explain how Vladimir Putin and Russia benefit from Brexit as the elites and media claim.
A.: The simple answer: Putin and Russia don’t really care one way or the other. Russia has its own problems as it is incessantly harassed by the west. Russia is not at the root causes of Britain’s problems, not the reason for the disarray and anger within the EU. When Europe and Washington face problems they have created for themselves they often claim its all Russia’s fault. Putin is watching the Americans and Europeans engaged in a circular firing squad – why would he even think of getting involved?
Peter Lavelle is host of RT’s political debate program CrossTalk. His views may or may not reflect those of his employer.