Brexit's Gifts to Putin

How Russia Can Exploit European Divisions

Russian President Vladimir Putin adjusts his tie at a news conference in St. Petersburg, August 2016. Sergei Karpukhin / Reuters

Vladimir Putin may have publicly voiced his concern about the challenges ahead for the United Kingdom and the European Union during their divorce, yet Brexit is a real opportunity for Russia. Indeed, the Russian president will exploit the situation in three ways in the short term.

First, at home, Brexit is a domestic win for Putin, fuelling his broader nationalist agenda and shoring up his domestic support. Since Brexit, the Kremlin PR machine has focused on Putin’s strongman leadership and Russia’s ability to endure hardship in the face of Western economic sanctions and a weakened global oil price. For Putin, Russia is withstanding the challenges while Europe is seemingly falling apart. 

Second, abroad, Brexit bolsters Putin’s wider divide-and-conquer foreign policy. The vote was followed by the resignation of British Prime Minister David Cameron, who was a candid critic of the Russian leader and warned back in May

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