Like the Russians, the British

EU and Russia: Vladimir doesn't laugh

He is supposedly the third laughing forever. If anyone should be happy about the Brexit vote by the British, it is Russian President Vladimir Putin, they say. Before the referendum, British Prime Minister David Cameron named the Russian head of state in the same breath as Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the IS terrorist organization, as those who would be happy about a Brexit. British Foreign Minister Philip Hammond put it even more directly: "The only country that wants us to leave the EU is Russia." When the result was finally confirmed on Friday, numerous observers in Germany and the USA confirmed this view, including former US ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul.

At first glance, that seems logical. London is arguably the capital in Western Europe where Putin and his politics are most critically viewed. Relations between Moscow and London have been at a low point for years. And so, in the weeks before, Russian state media reported on the possible Brexit, stylized right-wing populists into noble knights and gratefully held out the microphone when supposedly simple Britons scolded the EU.

The demonstrative silence from Moscow is all the more surprising. Now when, in the opinion of many of his critics in the West, Putin should actually perform dances of joy.

The Brexit message reached the Russian President in Tashkent, at the summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. An Asian group of friends in which Putin feels comfortable and in which he probably does not have to listen to any criticism of his aggressive foreign policy. The vote, Putin said diplomatically, was an internal matter for Great Britain. Nevertheless: "The mere organization of a referendum is nothing more than superficiality in relation to such fateful decisions for the whole of Europe and for one's own country on the part of the British government," criticized Putin.

Even the otherwise malicious Russian media shifted down a gear on the day of the vote. Anyone who found out about the event of the week in the Sunday evening news on the state's Erste Kanal was presented with the following information: Above all, the less educated and the less well off would have voted against the EU. Brexit proponent Boris Johnson is not a simple populist, as his opponents dubbed him, but half the kingdom is angry with him. A few minutes later, the news anchor said: Putin may appear all-powerful to the western media, but Brexit would not benefit Russia with the best will in the world.

The Russian economy is not happy

The government newspaper followed on Monday Rossiyskaya Gazeta, who quotes the economist Evsej Gurwitsch, according to which Brexit would have negative consequences for Russia's economy. Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev made a similar comment. "We are of course not very pleased, after all, that means additional risks for our economy."

"Trying to connect Putin with Brexit is ridiculous," said foreign policy commentator Fyodor Lukyanov, editor-in-chief of Russia in Global Affairs, TIME ONLINE. However, he admits that Putin and the Russian leadership have no reason to regret a UK exit, after all that would be one vote less in Brussels for a tougher policy towards Moscow. But the search for external culprits is actually a Soviet and Russian habit. "Nevertheless, it is still difficult to take stock of whether Russia can benefit from this situation," says Lukyanov. After all, it is completely unclear how the EU will emerge from the current crisis.

Foreign politicians, who certainly do not belong to Putin's critics, see both negative and potentially positive effects of a Brexit for Russia. Konstantin Kosachev, chairman of the Foreign Policy Committee of the Russian Federation Council, the upper house of parliament, hopes on the one hand that the EU will now begin a reform process that will make the Union "less politicized", which will enable better relations between Russia and Europe. At the same time, there are also negative effects. "Any turmoil with such an important trading partner will have a negative impact on our economy," Kosachev, a member of the Kremlin United Russia party, told the pro-government newspaper Izvestia.

Most important trading partner EU

So it is the economy that ensures that even those in the Russian leadership who want to be politically happy about Brexit, laugh in the throat. Despite the sanctions, the EU has remained Russia's most important international partner with a 44.5 percent share in foreign trade. No wonder that the Russian RTS stock index fell by almost five percent on Friday, while the ruble lost some of its value not against the dollar, but also against the euro. Elwira Nabiullina, head of Russia's central bank, said on Tuesday that the long-term consequences of the referendum for Russia would depend on the exact circumstances of Britain's exit.

"Europe's economy would need more raw materials in the future if the British had voted differently," says economist Gurwitsch. Additional turbulence in the markets could also accelerate the outflow of capital from riskier Russian assets. Overall, growth of up to 0.2 percent would be at stake for Russia.

None of this is cause for celebration, after all, the country has been in recession for two years. After the oil price had recovered somewhat since the beginning of the year, there were also signs of a very slow recovery in the economy. In May the GDP minus was only 0.8 percent compared to the previous year. New problems are currently the last thing Russia's rulers want.