(NYT) President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia received the geopolitical equivalent of manna from heaven when British voters opted to leave the European Union, speeding his long-term goal of weakening the most powerful alliance confronting the Kremlin as it seeks to rebuild its superpower muscles.
Officially, Moscow presented a somber facade, repeating its pre-vote stance that the British referendum was of little direct concern.
“This will certainly have consequences for Britain, for Europe and for us,” Mr. Putin told reporters on Friday at an Asian security conference in Uzbekistan. “The consequences will be global. They are inevitable. They will be both positive and negative.” […]
“The Kremlin is interested in any kind of disagreement, any kind of trouble in the E.U. which makes it weaker,” said Nikolay V. Petrov, a professor of political science at the National Research University’s Higher School of Economics in Moscow.
For starters, he noted, the vote removes Britain as an influential voice in European efforts to isolate and punish Russia over its annexation of Crimea and role in destabilizing Ukraine. Second, it helps Mr. Putin in his preferred method of dealing with strong countries one on one rather than as blocs. Third, it can be exploited at home as an example of how a lack of unity can lead to weakness.
“It can be used domestically to demonstrate that we are strong and everybody around us is not that strong,” Mr. Petrov said. As for any negative economic consequences, he added: “Those are not the highest priority. Geopolitically and strategically, the Kremlin thinks it will benefit.” […]
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