Brexit has created quite a stir in Russia, dominating local news together with the UEFA tournament. Many people have been sharing relevant articles via social media, but only a minority were bold enough to share their personal views on such a complex situation. Following a statement by the British Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond, a rumour was doing the rounds that Brexit could possibly help to relieve the pressure of economic sanctions for Russia. President Vladimir Putin felt minded to comment: “it is not fair to tack Russia on to a problem it has no concern with.” Yet the reality is that Russia is one of few countries that can benefit from tensions between the UK and the EU.
Pro-western liberal-democratic Russians understandably view Brexit pretty negatively. For them, any weakening of Western Europe induces fear and anxiety. Brexit also poses the threat of isolation. Any shift towards Euroscepticism in Europe brings with it the likelihood of stricter migration policies, making it more difficult to obtain a European visa. Many are also concerned about the danger that Brexit poses to the economies of the UK and Europe, with a likely knock-on effect for Russia.
The small minority of Leftists share mixed feelings about Brexit. They dislike the nationalistic tones heard from Brexiteers, but at the same time hope this might mark the first step in a new economic direction away from the dominant form of European capitalism, which they perceive as benefitting only the elite.
Then there’s the majority who tend to base their views on the information they receive from Russian TV news. They responded to Brexit with moderate approval, reflecting the anti-EU rhetoric projected by the official media. Britain still retains a special status in the minds of many Russians brought up to respect the country’s rich history and culture. As a result, Britain evokes the sympathy of many Russians in its tussles with Brussels.
Interestingly, most pro-Kremlin political writers think Britain never really fitted the European mould, and that the negativity emanating from its former European partners is just a negotiating position aimed at pressuring Britain. Moreover, most confidently predict that the UK will find its way, and achieve its economic independence.
Part of our Culture Crunch: Brexit edition – global perspectives on Brexit from our partners across the globe.