Don’t Exaggerate Russian Meddling in the Catalan Independence Crisis

Yes, Russia tried to exacerbate the crisis, but it didn’t create Catalan separatism.

View of the Palau Nacional in Barcelona, Spain, March 17, 2011
View of the Palau Nacional in Barcelona, Spain, March 17, 2011 (Mark Turner)

Spanish media exaggerate Russia’s role in the Catalan independence crisis.

Russian state media, like RT and Sputnik, and Russia-friendly trolls, like WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, have predictably sought to exploit the crisis in a major European Union and NATO country, for three reasons:

  1. To encouraging Catalan separatism.
  2. To provoking an overreaction from the Spanish right.
  3. To legitimizing the self-determination referendum it organized in the Crimea in 2014.

But there is little evidence Russian propaganda has changed anyone’s mind.

Scapegoat

Support for independence has been rising in Catalonia for years without Russia’s help.

Too many Spaniards ignored it. Few national journalists and politicians asked why a growing number of Catalans wanted to break away. Even now, many Spaniards don’t get it.

Russia is a convenient scapegoat. Easier to blame foreign manipulation than examine the root causes of Catalan separatism and the events which led to the current crisis.

That would reveal Spain shares responsibility. It gave the Catalans more autonomy and then took it away again. It brushed Catalan complaints aside. It pooh-poohed Catalan warnings and threats only to overreact when they finally went too far. Russia had nothing to do with that.