Sanctional Isolation of Russia and Its Consequences: in What Direction Russia Is Moving, and What Propaganda Says about It Now

On October 6, the European Union adopted the eighth package of sanctions against Russia due to the attempted annexation of the Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia, and Kherson oblasts of Ukraine.

Meanwhile, Russia is still trying to justify the effect of sanctions and isolation “by developing its own economy and establishing international relations.” The Centre for Strategic Communication and Information Security analyzed the publications in the Russian media on international relations and industry in September, collected through machine learning of the Attack Index monitoring system, in order to find out how sanctions affected Russia, and what is actually included in the narrative about “sanctions making Russia stronger.” The monitoring service determines the number of publications/news/posts based on the similarity of text arrays and combines them into a story.

Earlier, we already investigated the Kremlin’s anti-sanctions narratives, which were disseminated in the pro-Russian channels of 11 European countries during June-August 2022. Among them: Europeans were threatened with the “cold and hungry future,” told that “sanctions did not harm Russia, and even made it stronger,” and the United States was accused of the “strategic goal to weaken Russia, in particular through the application of sanctions.” The last of these narratives was repeated by Sergey Lavrov in September, stating that “the West wants to remove strong competitors, such as Russia and China, with the help of sanctions.” 

Nevertheless, over time, it becomes more difficult to hide the real consequences of sanctions for Russia, even for propaganda media. Although Kremlin propaganda still tries to construct a narrative about “Russia being a country of great opportunities,” sanctions limit the choice not only in everyday life, but also in what is left to be written about.

Interesting are the features of the presentation of news publications, which mostly spread two sentiments — either the imaginary increase in the “prestige” of the Russian market and organizations, or the “betrayal” of some countries in favour of the West through the support of Russia.   

Who Does Russia Develop International Relations with after Sanctions and Isolation?

If Europe and the United States appear in Russian media only in the context of their “demonization,” then some countries in the Kremlin media are posed as partners and allies.

During the analysis of news publications in September, it was found that Russia often kept Latin America and China in its media field, although the rhetoric regarding them was slightly different. If with China, as Russia shows, everything is “established” and simply “everything goes according to plan,” then Latin American countries are used as “betrayal” with a referral to the West.

China in the Russian media acts as a “reciprocating political partner.” If Vladimir Putin talks about “friendly relations with China,” then publications appear with “gratitude for China’s support of Russia.”

“Yuan Is the New Dollar”

Even with the first sanctions against Russia due to the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Russia talked about the use of alternative currencies, and called the currencies of “unfriendly countries” “toxic.”

The Ministry of Finance of the Russian Federation stated that “it is the dirham of the United Arab Emirates and the Chinese yuan that will help the Russians replace the unreliable dollar and euro when devaluing the banking sector of the Russian Federation.” And the point “the yuan is a new dollar” was increasingly repeated and its “prospects” for Russia were analyzed by Russian financial analysts.

Mir Promo Cards

In March 2022, the world’s largest payment systems, Visa and Mastercard, reported the termination of operations in Russia.

After the sanctions against Russia in 2014 for holding a pseudo-referendum in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, due to fears that Visa and MasterCard would disconnect Russian cards from their systems, the Bank of Russia and the National Payment Card System launched the “Mir” Russian payment system.

However, in 2022, even those countries of the world that had previously accepted Russian Mir cards also began to refuse to support them due to fears of sanctions by the United States. Banks of Kazakhstan, Vietnam, and Armenia, which previously accepted Mir cards, ceased to work with the Russian payment system following the banks of Turkey. Instead, Russian media save their relations in cooperation with Turkey and talk about seemingly new partners in working with the Mir card. 

“Import Substitution and Parallel Import”

Since the beginning of the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine, sales of cars have been suspended by a number of key automakers, including: Audi, Jaguar, Land Rover, BMW, Mercedes, Citroen, General Motors, and Skoda. 

Russian media immediately began to praise their own automotive industry, emphasizing their “history and focus on the future.” 

And in order not to set the mood of complete isolation, the media later launched a so-called advertising campaign of Chinese cars that still remained in their market.

And while there is a campaign in national Kremlin media on the “positive effects of sanctions” for the development of the automotive industry, some regional Russian media still complain about an inadequate choice and high prices. Thus, in September, some regional Russian media had to state the fact that “the choice of new cars was narrowed to Russian and Chinese manufacturers. There are new models only among the Chinese brands.” 

Similar is the situation with smartphones, only here “import substitution” is not even the case, so the choice is narrowed only to Chinese products. On March 1, Apple Inc announced the cessation of sales of all its products in Russia in response to Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Russia tried to import iPhone and MacBook through “parallel import,” that is, without the permission of the manufacturer, but the problem is that such devices do not have any technical support, and devices based on eSIM technology, for example, iPhone 14, do not work in the networks of Russian telecom operators.

“Russia Will Collect the Largest Harvest in the History of the Country”

Vladimir Putin’s “record harvest” statement is not new, he put forward his “assumption” in the spring of this year after the beginning of the full-scale invasion. Here it is worth paying attention not to “how much,” but “how” the President of Russia is harvesting this year.

Since the beginning of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Russia has been stealing Ukrainian grain, blocking ships in the Black Sea region designed to transport grain and other food, setting fire to fields in Ukraine, and damaging granaries. 

Currently, according to the First Deputy Minister of Agrarian Policy and Food Taras Vysotskyi, Ukraine lost up to 10 million tons of potential harvest in 2022 due to the temporary occupation of Ukrainian territories. However, the Deputy Minister noted that the final losses could be calculated after the de-occupation of the territories. Thanks to the information collected through satellites, the loss of 500,000 tons of grain is certain.

Previously, analysts of the Centre for Strategic Communication and Information Security talked about how sanctions against Russia actually worked, and what consequences they caused to the economy and food of Russia.

So, despite all the Kremlin’s efforts to discredit the impact of sanctions on Russia, stories about their “positive impact on Russia” turn out to be useless when it comes to the real state of affairs. 

Centre for Strategic Communication and Information Security
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