Sanctional isolation of Russia and Its consequences: Where Russia is moving, and what propaganda says in this regard

Sanctional isolation of Russia and Its consequences: Where Russia is moving, and what propaganda says in this regard

On October 6, the European Union adopted the eighth package of sanctions against Russia due to the attempted annexation of Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhia, and Kherson regions 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 Center 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 investigated the Kremlin’s anti-sanctions narratives, disseminated in the pro-Russian channels operating in 11 European countries June through August 2022. Among them: Europeans were threatened with the “cold and hungry future,” told that “sanctions did not harm Russia, and even making it stronger,” and the United States was accused of the “strategic goal to weaken Russia, in particular through sanctions.” The latter of these narratives was echoed by Sergey Lavrov in September, when he stated 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, even for propaganda media, to conceal the real consequences of Russia sanctions. Although Kremlin propaganda is still trying 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 spin two sentiments — either the imaginary increase in the “prestige” of the Russian market and organizations, or the “betrayal” of some countries in favor of the West through the support of Russia.  

Who does Russia develop international relations with amid sanctions and isolation?

While Europe and the United States appear in Russian media only in the context of their “demonization,” some countries are portrayed by the Kremlin-run media as partners and allies.

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

China in the Russian media is a “reciprocating political partner.” If Vladimir Putin talks about “friendly relations with China,” then reports appear praising “China’s support for Russia.”

“Yuan is the new dollar”

As the first set of sanctions was imposed on Russia due to the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Moscow started talking about the use of alternative currencies, labeling the currencies of “unfriendly countries” as “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 while 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, terminated their operations in Russia.

After the sanctions were slammed on Russia in 2014 over the holding of 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,” Russia’s own payment system.

However, in 2022, even those countries that had previously accepted Russia’s Mir cards also began to refuse to support them amid fears of U.S. sanctions. 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 full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine, car sales 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 for Chinese cars that still remained on their market.

And while there is an ongoing campaign in national Kremlin media on the “positive effects of sanctions” for the development of the automotive industry, some regional Russian media outlets still complain about 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 the full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Russia tried to import iPhone and MacBook through “parallel import,” that is, without the manufacturer’s permission, but the problem is that such devices would have no technical support. Devices based on eSIM technology, for example, iPhone 14, do not work in the networks run by Russian telecom operators.

“Russia will see the largest crops in the country’s history”

Vladimir Putin’s “record crops” statement is nothing new as he put forward the same “assumption” in the spring of this year after the full-scale invasion. Here it is worth paying attention not to “how much,” but “how” the Russian president is set to have the crops harvested this year.

Since 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 across Ukraine, and damaging granaries.

Currently, as per First Deputy Minister of Agrarian Policy and Food Taras Vysotskyi, Ukraine lost up to 10 million tonnes 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 only after the captured territories are de-occupied. Thanks to the reports collected through satellites, the loss of 500,000 tonnes of grain has been confirmed.

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

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

Center for Strategic Communication and Information Security

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