Sanctions workRoman Tsymbaliuk
The main task of propaganda is to save Russian society from any will to ask questions "why" and "for the sake of what". Masses must be sure that they live in the best country in the world, while everyone else is just envious. That’s for no one to have any doubts that the course of the Party and Putin, who always think and care about the people, is right.
The second task of this brainwashing machine is to make people forget how to draw the lines between the cause an effect. At the same time, any inconvenient topic is clogged with "white noise". I think, no special instructions are required to this end as the mechanism of "truth" is so well established and the response of propaganda masterminds works as their primary instinct.
One of their favorite topics is the consequences of sanctions and the grounds for their introduction. Even the obvious fact that the restrictions were introduced in several stages - after the invasion of Crimea and Donbas - is being perverted in every way possible. Usually, the situation is described as follows: the West in has long been degrading Russia, and relations began to deteriorate long ago, while the attack on Ukraine is only an excuse for imposing sanctions.
For the fourth year in a row, Moscow has retained a "stone face" and pretended that sanctions cause no harm and that all losses are mutual because counter-measures were also introduced. The topic is so unpopular that in the minds of some Russian citizens, it is not the Kremlin that has imposed an embargo on food supplies, it’s those vile Europeans who refused to supply food to Russian stores. On the other hand, there’s no surprise here because Russian supermarkets are not really empty. The range, quality, and choice of products has changed but the shelves are seemingly full, just as they were in early 2014. Now cucumbers come from Iran, bananas – from Belarus, cheeses from Latin America, and camembert – from Armenia... Still, these products taste like embargoed goods.
For the fourth year in a row, Moscow has retained a "stone face" and pretended that sanctions cause no harm and that all losses are mutual because counter-measures were also introduced
Prices have doubled and real incomes have fallen but the victory of a refrigerator over the TV is still too far a prospect, and indeed it may not be the case after all. On the television side, there is the FSB and fighters with extremism from the Investigative Committee and other uniformed comrades, as well as countless political scientists, economists, sociologists, and freshly-minted experts in international relations. It should be noted that often the qualification of local experts is such that they got into the TV precisely thanks to today’s realities – the demand for notorious propaganda delusion.
However, Moscow, the very source of propaganda, is still getting by rather well. The life across the regions is much worse, but voices can hardly be heard from there anymore. Not a single squeak, although official Russian statistics show millions living below the poverty line and some polls show that one-third of the country’s population is forced to cut on food expenditures, struggling from paycheck to paycheck. That’s as in that old joke about an alcoholic father in the family: "Dad, will you drink less?" - "No, son, you'll just eat less." The authorities only used sanctions to tighten the belts of their citizens.
But the mysterious Russian soul allows the masses to adapt to the realities. After all, the country is in the ring of enemies. This thesis really works well. And, in the end, it gives the chance to continue to prefer classifying spending articles of the military-industrial complex and to feed Rogozin's fantasies "to become the first nation to fly to Mars", instead of investing in education and healthcare.
Moscow entrusted the issue of promoting the dangers of sanctions to its populist friends from decent European countries, who nevertheless fell under Moscow’s spell (most likely – financial one). These comrades have formed a small circle of adepts of the "Russian world" and occasionally visit the occupied Crimea and militant-held parts of Donbas. Then these individuals, having posted selfies in front of the monuments to "polite people" [aka Russian spec-ops troops], go back home and start talking about the success stories of the Russian occupation authorities. As a solution, they propose to urgently lift sanctions that "are failing or ineffective."
Moscow entrusted the issue of promoting the dangers of sanctions to its populist friends from decent European countries, who nevertheless fell under Moscow’s spell (most likely – financial one)
In fact, the sanctions are very effective. According to various estimates, the sanctions regime annually costs Russia in losses ranging from 0.5% to 1.5% of GDP. This share could be compared with defense budgets of some European countries and cannot be painless for the Russian Federation.
Sanctions in practice mean the reduction in the number of tanks and combat aircraft. It is clear that Russia still has enough money to wage wars in Ukraine and Syria but nevertheless, they spill a cold water bucket on those hot heads of supporters of the theory that "the entire world is Russia, except for Kosovo. Kosovo is Serbia". The most painful thing is the restrictions for Russian banks to take cheap loans in the West and a ban on the supply of technologies for the production of hydrocarbons. Unpleasant, but not deadly, indeed. After all, this is not a lock-out from SWIFT and not some embargo on Russian oil and gas.
On the other hand, sanctions force Russia to close from the rest of the world, firmly step on its own "special path" and move toward isolation.Not everyone enjoys such an approach. Besides, there’s this "Kremlin list" drawn up in Washington, which made respected and very wealthy Russians potential personas non grata and simply toxic partners. It is clear that the oligarchs will not rush to the Kremlin to oust Putin, but the situation increasingly resembles the Soviet stagnation, which once resulted in a "geopolitical catastrophe" as the Kremlin calls it.
On the other hand, sanctions force Russia to close from the rest of the world, firmly step on its own "special path" and move toward isolation
Sanctions remain an important tool for deterring Moscow. After all, whatever they say, the elite is willing to buy real estate in "decaying Europe", be treated in best clinics, send their children to Oxford and Sorbonne, and most importantly - to retain an opportunity to have their hands shaken and be respected in the West. At the same time, they keep showering the West with dirt, trampling on human rights, property rights, and other achievements of the civilized world.
It would be a big mistake to think that if the chains of sanctions are broken, the situation can be reversed to "business first". Russia will accept this unambiguously. Moscow will see this as if the West has recognized a new Russian paradigm: there are no rules, and only those are right who have no restrictions on the use of force.
Russian "bear" cannot be tamed or calmed down with the game of giveaway. Any slightest weakness will lead to the "little green men" being deployed to set up "referendums" further West.
Roman Tsymbaliuk, Moscow