Russian T-90A tanks roll at the Red Square during the Victory Day military parade general rehearsal in Moscow on May 7, 2016 / AFP / KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV        (Photo credit should read KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP/Getty Images)
KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
Russian T-90A tanks roll at the Red Square during the Victory Day military parade general rehearsal in Moscow on May 7, 2016 / AFP / KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV (Photo credit should read KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP/Getty Images)
Now playing
01:37
The power of Russia's military
(L/R): Head of Dutch Military Intelligence and Security Service Onno Eichelsheim, Minister of Defence Ank Bijleveld and British ambassador Peter Wilson attend a press conference of the Dutch Military Intelligence and Security Service (MIVD) at The Hague, The Netherlands, on October 4, 2018. - Dutch intelligence thwarted a Russian cyber attack targeting the global chemical weapons watchdog in April and expelled four Russian agents, the government said. The Russians set up a car full of electronic equipment in the car park of a hotel next to the Organisation for the Prohibition for Chemical Weapons in The Hague in a bid to hack its computer system, it said. (Photo by Bart Maat / ANP / AFP) / Netherlands OUT        (Photo credit should read BART MAAT/AFP/Getty Images)
BART MAAT/AFP/Getty Images
(L/R): Head of Dutch Military Intelligence and Security Service Onno Eichelsheim, Minister of Defence Ank Bijleveld and British ambassador Peter Wilson attend a press conference of the Dutch Military Intelligence and Security Service (MIVD) at The Hague, The Netherlands, on October 4, 2018. - Dutch intelligence thwarted a Russian cyber attack targeting the global chemical weapons watchdog in April and expelled four Russian agents, the government said. The Russians set up a car full of electronic equipment in the car park of a hotel next to the Organisation for the Prohibition for Chemical Weapons in The Hague in a bid to hack its computer system, it said. (Photo by Bart Maat / ANP / AFP) / Netherlands OUT (Photo credit should read BART MAAT/AFP/Getty Images)
Now playing
01:11
Russia denies western accusations of attacks
putin response russian spy lon orig bks_00003009.jpg
BBC
putin response russian spy lon orig bks_00003009.jpg
Now playing
01:30
Reporter confronts Putin about spy poisoning
The UK will expel 23 Russian diplomats from the country after concluding that the Russian state is responsible for the attempted murder of former Russian agent, Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury on March 4th.  They will have one week to leave.   "For those who seek to do us harm, my message is simple. You are not welcome here."
Bowtie TV
The UK will expel 23 Russian diplomats from the country after concluding that the Russian state is responsible for the attempted murder of former Russian agent, Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury on March 4th. They will have one week to leave. "For those who seek to do us harm, my message is simple. You are not welcome here."
Now playing
01:08
Theresa May: UK will expel 23 Russian diplomats
A Russian flag flies next to the US embassy building in Moscow on July 31, 2017. (MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images)
MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images
A Russian flag flies next to the US embassy building in Moscow on July 31, 2017. (MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images)
Now playing
01:04
Suspected Russian spy worked inside US embassy
 Steven Seagal (R) delivers a press conference with Costa Rican President, Oscar Arias (out of frame), on February 11, 2009, at the presidential residence in San Jose. Seagal and Arias met to talk about the possibility of real estate and film industry investments in Costa Rica. AFP PHOTO/ Mayela LOPEZ (Photo credit should read MAYELA LOPEZ/AFP/Getty Images)
MAYELA LOPEZ/AFP/Getty Images
Steven Seagal (R) delivers a press conference with Costa Rican President, Oscar Arias (out of frame), on February 11, 2009, at the presidential residence in San Jose. Seagal and Arias met to talk about the possibility of real estate and film industry investments in Costa Rica. AFP PHOTO/ Mayela LOPEZ (Photo credit should read MAYELA LOPEZ/AFP/Getty Images)
Now playing
02:30
Putin appoints Steven Seagal for diplomat job
russia new nuclear weapons putin chance lkl vpx _00002715.jpg
Russian Defense Ministry
russia new nuclear weapons putin chance lkl vpx _00002715.jpg
Now playing
01:09
Russia releases video of new nuclear weapons
SALISBURY, ENGLAND - JULY 05:  A police officer stands by a cordon in place at Queen Elizabeth Gardens in Salisbury after a major incident was declared when a man and woman were exposed to the Novichok nerve agent on July 5, 2018 in Salisbury, England. The couple, named locally as Dawn Sturgess 44, and Charlie Rowley, 45 were taken to Salisbury District Hospital on Saturday and remain there in a critical condition. In March Russian former spy Sergei Skripal and his 33-year-old daughter Yulia were poisoned with the Russian-made Novichok in the town of Salisbury. British Prime Minister Theresa May has accused Russia of being behind the attack on the former spy and his daughter, expelling 23 Russian diplomats in retaliation. (Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images)
Jack Taylor/Getty Images
SALISBURY, ENGLAND - JULY 05: A police officer stands by a cordon in place at Queen Elizabeth Gardens in Salisbury after a major incident was declared when a man and woman were exposed to the Novichok nerve agent on July 5, 2018 in Salisbury, England. The couple, named locally as Dawn Sturgess 44, and Charlie Rowley, 45 were taken to Salisbury District Hospital on Saturday and remain there in a critical condition. In March Russian former spy Sergei Skripal and his 33-year-old daughter Yulia were poisoned with the Russian-made Novichok in the town of Salisbury. British Prime Minister Theresa May has accused Russia of being behind the attack on the former spy and his daughter, expelling 23 Russian diplomats in retaliation. (Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images)
Now playing
02:02
Russia denies involvement in poisoning attacks
Reuters
Now playing
00:54
May: Nerve agent poisoning deeply disturbing
 A CNN team accessed the Malaysia Airlines flight 17 (MH17) crash site, July 30, 2014 and found evidence that there are still belongings at the site, including pieces of the plane .
Raja Razek/CNN
A CNN team accessed the Malaysia Airlines flight 17 (MH17) crash site, July 30, 2014 and found evidence that there are still belongings at the site, including pieces of the plane .
Now playing
00:49
Investigators: MH17 downed by Russian missile
Yulia Skripal poses for the media during an interview in n London, Wednesday May 23, 2018. Yulia Skripal says recovery has been slow and painful, in first interview since nerve agent poisoning. (Dylan Martinez/Pool via AP)
Dylan Martinez/AP
Yulia Skripal poses for the media during an interview in n London, Wednesday May 23, 2018. Yulia Skripal says recovery has been slow and painful, in first interview since nerve agent poisoning. (Dylan Martinez/Pool via AP)
Now playing
02:34
Daughter of poisoned ex-spy: Lucky to be alive
GOOGLE EARTH
Now playing
01:28
Russia blames Israel for strikes on Syria
CNN PHOTO ILLUSTRATION/GETTY IMAGES
Now playing
02:36
Why Hungary is looking more and more like Russia
A Russian flag flies next to the US embassy building in Moscow on March 27, 2018. (MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images)
MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images
A Russian flag flies next to the US embassy building in Moscow on March 27, 2018. (MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images)
Now playing
02:26
Russia retaliates, expels 60 US diplomats
Presidential candidate, President Vladimir Putin addresses the crowd during a rally and a concert celebrating the fourth anniversary of Russia's annexation of Crimea at Manezhnaya Square in Moscow on March 18, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / POOL / Alexander Zemlianichenko        (Photo credit should read ALEXANDER ZEMLIANICHENKO/AFP/Getty Images)
ALEXANDER ZEMLIANICHENKO/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
Presidential candidate, President Vladimir Putin addresses the crowd during a rally and a concert celebrating the fourth anniversary of Russia's annexation of Crimea at Manezhnaya Square in Moscow on March 18, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / POOL / Alexander Zemlianichenko (Photo credit should read ALEXANDER ZEMLIANICHENKO/AFP/Getty Images)
Now playing
01:35
Russia votes: How the day unfolded
Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers a speech during a meeting with Russian athletes and team members, who will take part in the upcoming 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games, at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow on January 31, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / SPUTNIK / Alexey NIKOLSKYALEXEY NIKOLSKY/AFP/Getty Images
ALEXEY NIKOLSKY/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers a speech during a meeting with Russian athletes and team members, who will take part in the upcoming 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games, at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow on January 31, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / SPUTNIK / Alexey NIKOLSKYALEXEY NIKOLSKY/AFP/Getty Images
Now playing
03:47
How do you become president of Russia?

Story highlights

Some think the Russian leader has everything to gain

Britain will still remain a key player in the NATO alliance

(CNN) —  

What happens in Europe doesn’t stay in Europe.

Brexit’s aftershocks are now rumbling through the distant capitals of Moscow and Washington. And the shake-up could be bad for U.S. strategic military interests and good for Russia’s.

In the run-up to the UK’s referendum last Thursday on whether to leave the European Union, Russian President Vladimir Putin denied the accusation – leveled by no less than British Prime Minister David Cameron – that he would be happy to see the UK go.

But some in Russia, and many around the world, have calculated that anything that erodes a unified Western front and leads to instability in Europe would be a boon for an increasingly aggressive Moscow.

Former U.S. ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul wrote in The Washington Post that, “Putin, of course, did not cause the Brexit vote, but he and his foreign policy objectives stand to gain enormously from it.”

In a Facebook post Friday, Kremlin official Boris Titov outlined how, claiming that the vote would “tear Europe from the Anglo-Saxons, that is, from the United States,” and predicting the coming of a “united Eurasia” in “about 10 years.”

What does Russia want?

It is no secret that Putin is locked in a bitter rivalry with the West, a relationship that has significantly deteriorated since Russia’s intervention in Ukraine in 2014 and subsequent annexation of Crimea.

Striving to project an image of Russian strength domestically and abroad, the hardline president has made a point to flex his military muscle in recent years, clashing with the national security objectives of the U.S. and its allies.

Moscow has conducted massive military drills on the borders of states in the NATO military alliance and has been accused of cyber-attacks against members of the EU political alliance, like Estonia, funding propaganda campaigns abroad, financially supporting anti-EU political parties in Europe, while conducting dangerously close aerial maneuvers to U.S. aircraft and warships.

The then-Commander of U.S. military in Europe, Gen. Philip Breedlove, said in March that Moscow was actively trying to undermine European unity by intentionally attacking civilian areas in Syria and forcing an exodus of refugees to Europe. The migration of millions that has exacerbated political divisions in Europe, some of which led Britons to back quitting the EU.

In January, Putin endorsed a new security strategy that points to NATO expansion as a threat to the country.

NATO, which is led primarily by the U.S. and the UK, has positioned military equipment further east and tripled the size of the 40,000-strong NATO response force to respond to threats on its eastern flank. This month, NATO announced the deployment of four multinational battalions to Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland. British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon said soon after that the UK would lead one of the battalions.

Can the US and EU still work to counter Russia?

The EU and NATO currently collaborate to counter potential Russian cyber attacks and have conducted joint naval exercises.

And the EU, spurred on by the U.S., imposed strict economic sanctions on Russia in response to the intervention in Ukraine.

Now, Brexit could decrease American influence over its non-British allies in Europe.

U.S. officials believe that having the UK, one of America’s closest partners, has helped align the European Union more directly with U.S. foreign policy objectives – such as the EU participating in the upcoming NATO summit in Warsaw and keeping the tough sanctions over Ukraine in place.

RELATED: U.S. and Russia meet on cybersecurity

The U.S. and Putin have publicly said they do not expect Brexit to affect the sanctions, which include asset freezes on some Russian companies and people, as well as travel bans on certain officials. Britain, along with the nations of Eastern Europe, has been among the strongest voices to keep the sanctions in place.

But some Russian officials think otherwise.

The mayor of Moscow, Sergey Sobyanin, tweeted that without “Great Britain in the EU, no one will so zealously defend the sanctions against us.”

What about NATO? How’s it different from the EU?

The EU was founded as an economic organization to create a common European market, in the decades since it has taken up additional missions in the social and security spheres – like participating in peacekeeping and anti-piracy missions.

In the early 2000s the EU adopted a “Common Security and Defense Policy” among its states. Though it pays close to 15% of EU joint military operations, the UK has resisted some of these efforts, fearing that the initiative would compete with NATO for limited defense resources.

The EU has no standing army, relying on ad hoc forces contributed by member nations to carry out civilian and military missions. Most foreign and security policies require the agreement of 28 nations in the bloc through its governing body, the European Council.

NATO, a military alliance founded after World War II to counter the Soviet Union, and the EU have 22 members in common but also several – among them the U.S. – that are not.

RELATED: Brexit: What does the EU referendum mean for the US?

Despite voting to leave the EU, Britain will remain in NATO.

Some NATO officials and U.S. military commanders, however, are warning that Brexit could have “knock-on” effects on the alliance. There are concerns that if Brexit hurts the country’s GDP over the long term, the UK – second only to the U.S. in NATO contributions – will struggle to maintain its defense spending. And if Brexit boosts the momentum for Scotland to secede from the UK, Britain would lose its only nuclear submarine base.

But NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg last week reiterated the UK’s central role in NATO: “I know that the United Kingdom’s position in NATO will remain unchanged. The UK will remain a strong and committed NATO Ally, and will continue to play its leading role in our alliance.”

Could Brexit actually strengthen NATO?

Some military experts definitely think so.

When asked Tuesday if Brexit would weaken NATO, Secretary of State John Kerry responded, “No, I think it will strengthen NATO.”

And NATO’s former top military commander, retired U.S. Adm. James Stavridis, wrote an op-ed in Foreign Policy Saturday arguing that, “Brexit, counter-intuitive as it might sound, will likely produce a stronger NATO.”

In the short term, Brexit “may cause NATO to be even more relied upon as it will be the only organization that includes all the major European heavyweights,” according to Fran Burwell, an expert on the EU at the Washington-based Atlantic Council, told CNN.

What about intelligence? Does that get harder to gather?

The UK and U.S. have had one of the world’s closest intelligence-sharing relationships dating back to World War II, and U.S. officials believe that this allows the British to play a critical role in boosting intelligence operations in Europe.

The two countries, together with Australia, Canada and New Zealand “are tied at the hip when it comes to intelligence sharing, intelligence relationships, actually doing joint operations together,” said Mike Rogers, former chairman of the House Intelligence committee, and a CNN contributor.

Rogers added that the unique U.S.-UK intelligence relationship means that the EU would continue to cooperate with the UK on intelligence matters.

Could the EU really break up? And does that feed Russia’s military ambitions even more?

Concerns are mounting that other European nations might follow Britain’s lead, with Eurosceptic parties in France and the Netherlands celebrating last week’s result and calling for their own referendums.

RELATED: Nigel Farage: Arch-eurosceptic

Were the EU to breakup, Russia’s heft could allow it to more easily bully individual states on its periphery without the EU to collectively challenge it in the economic sphere.

And while the EU as a bloc numbers 500 million citizens and possesses a GDP that rivals America’s, separately European nations wouldn’t be able to counter-balance Russia in spheres like energy where there is intense competition and strategic interests at stake.

However, when it comes to defense, NATO appears to not be going anywhere.