Alexander Baunov writes: There are two chief complaints about the EU among Russian diplomats and foreign policy professionals. First, they argue that it is not an entirely independent political entity or sovereign body because the United States dictates its most important decisions.
Second, they argue that the EU has changed for the worse in recent times. Enlargement to the east means that Brussels now heeds too much the small Eastern European countries, which have a generally hostile attitude toward Russia. Great Britain is the most pro-American EU country and is prone to listen to Eastern European countries’ concerns about Russia. In contrast to Italy, France, or Germany, the Brits have never talked about lifting sanctions against Russia.
There is also the issue that the Russian leadership feels personally offended by Britain. Vladimir Putin and Tony Blair started off as firm friends and built a relationship. Putin’s first visit to the West was to London. Then, the British started supporting Putin’s enemies, they believe, and giving refuge to men like Boris Berezovsky and Alexander Litvinenko. So, with the separation of Britain from the rest of Europe, it will become easier to deal with the other countries of the EU.
One of Russian diplomacy’s most cherished dreams is to build relationships with every European country individually. Brexit makes this dream much more attainable. Russia dreams of a Europe of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, when European Entente meant that nations could negotiate with, support, or restrain each other. A Britain apart from the European Union is a return to a Europe of the past that Russian politicians hope will also be a future Europe.
This dream is unlikely to be realized, however, and it’s worth remembering what this bygone international system led to: two world wars in which Russia suffered more than any other country. [Continue reading…]