How Sanctions Have Affected the Russian Economy and Public Opinion

Doceniasz tę treść?

Sanctions have not taken their full effect yet but eventually, they will be felt by every Russian. The longer that Russia is separated from the global economy, the worse the conditions in the country will become. Putin continues to assure his people that the country can handle these sanctions and the impact is not as bad as it seems. In a recent televised address, Putin announced to his cabinet, “We can already say with certainty that the politics of sanctions against Russia have failed.”[1] However, this propaganda can only go so far; the numbers don’t lie and tell a much different story.

The Consequences of Western Sanctions So Far

  • Inflation has reached its highest level in the country since 2002 standing at 17,6%. As a result, prices have rapidly increased for typical consumer goods such as medication, electronics, food products, cars, appliances, and the like. Inflation could become as high as 23% this year.
  • Consumer prices jumped 2% during the first week of the war, food prices are among those goods that have seen the greatest rises. Social media has exposed pictures and videos of Russians fighting over basic goods such as sugar and salt since sanctions have left some supermarket shelves deserted. Based on the nationwide average, prices for the following popular consumer food products have increased accordingly since December of 2021: cabbage 77.88%, onions 71.07%, carrots 56.08%, sugar 52.98%, bananas 45.45%, tomatoes 40.24%, apples 25.33%, potatoes 22.34%, rice 21.23%, salt 20.54%, buckwheat 17.12%.[2]
  • Luxury brands and major foreign companies are shutting down operations in Russia. Big-name brands such as Apple, Nike, McDonald’s, IKEA, and Starbucks have all joined forces to completely suspend business operations in Russia. Extensive long lines formed outside of these popular companies before the last day of operation so consumers could stock up on products that will possibly never return. One Russian citizen Daria in the market for an Apple laptop states, “At the beginning of February they cost about 70,000 rubles [$730; £560] but by the end of the month they had gone up to 100,000 rubles, which is what we paid. They then went up to 140,000 before they all sold out in Moscow.”[3]
  • Over 750 companies have already suspended business with Russia to a degree beyond the requirement posed by international sanctions.[4] Yale School of Management has created detailed, helpful charts explaining the degree of sanctions, if any, that over 1,000 companies have placed on Russia. The charts are categorized on a grade scale from A-F depending on the severity of the sanction and are updated on a continual basis.
  • As major foreign companies throughout Russia shut down, business owners struggle on deciding how to move forward. Hundreds of thousands of employees are already suffering from losing their jobs and livelihoods or will in the near future. By the end of the year, the number of unemployed could reach 2 million people. Major companies such as IKEA and Zara can suspend business while still paying their employees; however, smaller brands do not have this luxury.
  • Russian companies have also been forced to shut down due to not receiving “appropriate amounts of capital and parts or supplies over time.” [5] One tank manufacturer in the country has already stopped production from the lack of available parts. In addition, Lada auto plans have shut down. “Lada models made up 21% of all new cars sold in Russia.” All of this will only contribute to the increasing unemployment rate which, worst-case scenario, could reach 8%.
  • In late February Russia raised interest rates to 20% in an attempt to save the ruble, as of recently Russia has cut its rate down to 14%.
  • As of May 1st, 2022, one Russian Ruble is equivalent to 061 Polish Złoty, 0.014 U.S. Dollar, and 0.013 Euro. The value of the Russian Ruble is at a record low.

 

According to the IMF the Russian economy is still projected to shrink by 8.5% this year. This could result in a recession that hasn’t been witnessed since the days of the Soviet Union. As of now, it is evident the sanctions have worked economically but not politically. Whether Putin will put his own citizens above the war remains undetermined; however, historically, Russia has not valued its people. The needs of the state always come first.

 

Sanctions Have Not Changed Russian Public Opinion on the War

Despite these despairing numbers, recent polls signal that Russian public support of both Putin and the war appears to remain high. Perhaps these feelings of support will change as sanctions start to affect Russian households more intensely. However, sanctions could just as easily have the opposite effect and cause Russians to embrace their leader more intensely. The Kremlin propaganda runs deep in the country and has already convinced Russians for years that the West is against them, these current sanctions only amplify this argument. One Russian woman named Ira was asked, “Who do you hold responsible for the economic problems that Russia faces?” She responded with, “The people responsible for these economic problems are the people who impose the sanctions, our government is responsible for the fact we didn’t probably find substitutes for foreign products, we should pay more attention to this now.”[6] Based on recent polls measuring Russian support, views such as Ira’s seem to be quite common.

Regardless of the source, all surveys to date have reported that the majority of Russians support the war. One month after the invasion, press secretary of the Russian Federation, Dmity Peskov stated that based on recent statistics and polls, over 75% of Russians support the state’s military “operation.” [7] State-controlled media also supports these numbers, two polling companies known as WCIOM and FOM reported 74% support of the “operation” in Ukraine and 65% believe that “Russia’s launching of the “military operation” was the right decision.”[8] Perhaps state-controlled media can be considered unreliable and not reflective of true public opinion. However, Levada, “Russia’s most reputable” independent polling firm reported similar results.[9] According to their survey, “some 53 percent or Russians strongly support, and 28 percent somewhat support their country’s military operation in Ukraine.”[10] This means an overwhelming majority of 81% of Russians support the war in some form.

The London School of Economics wanted to challenge Levada’s results and conducted a “list experiment” that is reported to be more accurate and “solves the problem of preference falsification.”[11] In the experiment, respondents are given a list of four social policies to which they must respond by indicating how many of these policies they support, not which ones they support. For example, the social issues in this experiment included: “same-sex marriage, abortion restrictions, the war in Ukraine, and cash welfare.”[12] Out of the 3,000 surveyed, half were given a list with all four these policies while the other half were given a list of only 3 of these social policies with the Ukraine question excluded. The respondents were also given the direct question, “Do you support the war?” To this yes or no question 68% of Russians said yes, they do support the war. The results from the list experiment showed a sharp decrease and indicated that only 53% support the war.[13]

In the end, The London School of Economics concluded that these results do not reflect the respondents’ real feelings as “the fear of repression can lead to preference falsification” and that people will not respond truthfully if they are “hesitant to reveal these preferences in the first place.”[14] A new law in place that states anyone who speaks up against the war is spreading “fake news” and can be punished up to 15 years in prison or fined up to $45,000.[15] This penalty can be incurred simply by joining an anti-war protest, holding up a blank poster in public, or posting a simple tweet about the war which the government deems as fake. Since the war began, records show that police have detained around 15,000 Russians who participated in anti-war protests. Those who chose to speak out have also reportedly “been fired from jobs or been kicked out of universities for expressing criticism.”[16] Although it is not clear how many Russians do not approve of the war or of the actions of Putin, it is likely to only be a minority of the population.

 

Why is Russian support so high?

The accuracy of the recent polls can be questioned; however, they are not surprising nor implausible. The results reflect that the majority of Russians have given into the media’s disinformation and propaganda campaign. Their emotionally-charged narrative states that Russia is actually the nation under threat, and the Russian state must go forth with their special “military operation” or “military action” in order to protect “fellow Russians and Russian speakers in Ukraine.”[17] Therefore, Russia must “denazify” Ukraine to do so. In addition, Kremlin propaganda pushing the narrative that Ukraine is not a real country and that Ukraine is a hostile force that must be stopped has been heavily spread since the 2014 annexation of Crimea. Overall, propaganda claiming that Russia is the victim has been present for decades, whether it is the victim of Ukraine, the West, NATO, or the United States. This is the way the media can mobilize patriotic Russians to unite and stand together.

Support for the war could also be so high due to the fact that Russians are not getting the full story of what is happening. Independent and Western media are banned, words such as “war” and “invasion” are not used in state media outlets, and the real numbers of Russian soldiers’ casualties are not being accurately reported. Russia’s most recent report from March 25 claims only 1,351 troops have died. NATO estimates somewhere from 7,000 to 15,000 deaths and Ukraine has reported that number to be 21,900 troops. Therefore, whatever Russians are supporting, most have a different version in their mind of what is happening. In addition, support among Russians varies with age, the younger the generation, the less support, the older the more support.[18]

 

Loyalty to Putin No Matter the Cost

As seen in nations such as Iran, the impact of sanctions either further amplify support for the war and their leader or they have little effect on changing the public opinion. In the case of Russia, it seems as if the country is clinging closer to its leader. The Russian independent polling, Levada, which found that 81% of Russians support the war in some form also discovered that Putin’s approval rating has now reached 83%.[19] However, support for Putin is reported to be unconditional regardless of what is going on in Russia. Director of the independent Levada polling firm, Denis Volkov, is quoted saying:

I think it is important to bear in mind that there is not monolithic support, like with this military operation, like with Putin. About half support, half of Russians support him more or less unconditionally, and about one-third, they have some doubts, like sometimes respondents say: ‘I don’t like what is happening, but you should be patriotic in such situations“[20].

Perhaps once sanctions reach their full potential or the truth of Russian war casualties is revealed, public opinion could start to change. Regardless, these political sanctions have failed to force Putin to change his plan or actions. Russian leadership has shown no signs of backing down and seems committed to adapt to its new reality. Still, how much longer can the Kremlin propaganda sell its people this illusion that sanctions are a “gift to Russia’s domestic producers” and this situation became the perfect opportunity to redirect trade to the East and China?[21] However the state-controlled media decides to continue to portray this situation, the impact of sanctions on the Russian economy is there to stay. Chief of Russia’s central bank, Elvira Nabiullina, said, “Russia has no choice, but to embrace what a structural perestroika, a full restructuring of the economy and a new way of doing everything.”[22]

 

What should Europe do next?

This is still only the beginning and economic conditions for Russia will only continue to get worse as Putin continues his senseless war in Ukraine. Europe collectively agreeing to ban Russian oil would have the largest hit on the Russian economy and correspondingly halt the major source of income being used to fund this war. Even with limited to no business from Britain and the U.S., Russia still manages to receive “$850 million a day from Europe for its oil and gas.”[23] Still, it is undetermined if all countries in Europe can reach a unanimous decision on the ban. Germany and Hungary in particular remain the most hesitant to move forward. Other nations in Europe such as Austria, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, and Bulgaria are worried that banning Russian oil and gas would end up creating a worse effect for EU economies than for the Russian economy since Russia will still have the possibility to sell its oil to other states.[24]

Although Russia is used to exporting more than half to its oil to Europe, China is Russia’s second largest customer who accounts for 20% of all exports.[25] If Russia can replace its European market with countries in Asia, then the ban could indeed end up having a worse effect for Europe than for Russia. Regardless, as of now banning Russian oil and gas imports is the only effective option. The longer the world waits and dreams of coming up with diplomatic solutions with Putin, the more innocent lives will be lost. As stated by Mateusz Morawiecki, “Criminals are not debated with or negotiated with. Criminals must be fought.”[26] The West must continue to impose sanctions on Russia and end business deals until there is no money left for Putin to fund this war.  If the US and the EU do not do all they can now to stop Russia, then the world could potentially see this war happen to a NATO member country in a few years. It is critical to do everything possible today to prevent another war from Russia in the future.

 

Bibliography

The Associated Press. “Sanctions Hit Russian Economy, Although Putin Says Otherwise.” Fortune. Fortune, April 23, 2022. https://fortune.com/2022/04/23/sanctions-hit-russian-economy-although-putin-says-otherwise/.

Axios, “Russians Rally to Putin, Who Hits 83% Approval,” Axios, April 2, 2022, https://www.axios.com/russians-putin-approval-rating-ukraine-3630a377-3c9c-47f8-96be-002bd753c4fc.html.

Barber, Tony. “Do Russians Really Support the War?” Financial Times. Financial Times, April 23, 2022. https://www.ft.com/content/8a2ca6bc-72e9-4cc1-890b-7b3b0688d3cc

BFM.ru. “Песков: в России Мало Тех, Кто Не Поддерживает Спецоперацию На Украине.” BFM.ru – деловой портал. BFM.ru, March 22, 2022. https://www.bfm.ru/news/495821.

Chapkovski, Philipp, and Max Schaub. “Do Russians Tell the Truth When They Say They Support the War in Ukraine? Evidence from a List Experiment.” LSE, April 6, 2022. https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/europpblog/2022/04/06/do-russians-tell-the-truth-when-they-say-they-support-the-war-in-ukraine-evidence-from-a-list-experiment/.

Cooban, Anna. “Europe Turns Its Back on Russian Coal. Is Oil next?” CNN. Cable News Network, April 8, 2022. https://edition.cnn.com/2022/04/08/business/russia-coal-eu-oil/index.html.

Eckel, Mike. “Polls Show Russians Support Putin and the War on Ukraine. Really?” RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty. Polls Show Russians Support Putin And The War On Ukraine. Really?, April 7, 2022. https://www.rferl.org/a/russia-support-ukraine-war-polls-putin/31791423.html.

Gilbert, David. “Russia Can Now Jail People for 15 Years for Tweeting about the War on Ukraine.” VICE, March 4, 2022. https://www.vice.com/en/article/xgdmdn/russian-law-fifteen-years-jail-tweeting-ukraine-war.

Khvostunova, Olga. “Do Russians Really ‘Long for War’ in Ukraine?” Foreign Policy Research Institute, April 11, 2022. https://www.fpri.org/article/2022/03/do-russians-really-long-for-war-in-ukraine/.

Maynes, Charles. “Russians Are Feeling the Impact of Sanctions, but the Worst Is Still Yet to Come.” NPR. NPR, April 22, 2022. https://www.npr.org/2022/04/22/1094390348/russians-are-feeling-the-impact-of-sanctions-but-the-worst-is-still-yet-to-come.

Moens, Barbara, and America Hernandez. “EU Closes in on Russian Oil Ban – but How Tough Will It Be?” POLITICO. POLITICO, April 21, 2022. https://www.politico.eu/article/eu-closes-in-on-russian-oil-ban-vladimir-putin-ukraine/.

Polish PM Calls for More Russia Sanctions. YouTube. YouTube, 2022. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mg6W1OnkVnQ.

“Putin’s Warning to Anti-War Russians Evokes Stalinist Purges.” NPR. NPR, March 17, 2022. https://www.npr.org/2022/03/17/1087287150/putins-warning-to-anti-war-russians-evokes-stalinist-purges.

Russian Citizens Starting to Feel Squeeze of Sanctions. YouTube. YouTube, 2022. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MKpuk5Nzyh0&list=LL&index=4.

Shamina, Olga, and Jessy Kaner. “Russia Sanctions: How the Measures Have Changed Daily Life.” BBC News. BBC, March 13, 2022. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-60647543.

Statista Research Department. “Russia: Food Inflation by Product 2022.” Statista, April 26, 2022. https://www.statista.com/statistics/1298802/russia-food-inflation-by-product/.

Sonnenfeld, Jeffery. “Over 750 Companies Have Curtailed Operations in Russia-but Some Remain.” Yale School of Management, May 1, 2022. https://som.yale.edu/story/2022/over-750-companies-have-curtailed-operations-russia-some-remain?company=mcdonalds&country=.

Sullivan, Emily, Dina Smeltz, Lily Wojtowicz, Stepan Goncharov, and Denis Volkove. “Russian Public Accepts Putin’s Spin on Ukraine Conflict.” The Chicago Council on Global Affairs. The Chicago Council on Global Affairs, April 12, 2022. https://www.thechicagocouncil.org/research/public-opinion-survey/russian-public-accepts-putins-spin-ukraine-conflict.

 

[1] Charles Maynes, “Russians Are Feeling the Impact of Sanctions, but the Worst Is Still Yet to Come,” NPR (NPR, April 22, 2022), https://www.npr.org/2022/04/22/1094390348/russians-are-feeling-the-impact-of-sanctions-but-the-worst-is-still-yet-to-come.

[2] Statista Research Department, “Russia: Food Inflation by Product 2022,” Statista, April 26, 2022, https://www.statista.com/statistics/1298802/russia-food-inflation-by-product/.

[3] Olga Shamina and Jessy Kaner, “Russia Sanctions: How the Measures Have Changed Daily Life,” BBC News (BBC, March 13, 2022), https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-60647543.

[4] Jeffery Sonnenfeld, “Over 750 Companies Have Curtailed Operations in Russia-but Some Remain,” Yale School of Management, May 1, 2022, https://som.yale.edu/story/2022/over-750-companies-have-curtailed-operations-russia-some-remain?company=mcdonalds&country=.

[5] The Associated Press, “Sanctions Hit Russian Economy, Although Putin Says Otherwise,” Fortune (Fortune, April 23, 2022), https://fortune.com/2022/04/23/sanctions-hit-russian-economy-although-putin-says-otherwise/.

[6] Russian Citizens Starting to Feel Squeeze of Sanctions, YouTube (YouTube, 2022), https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MKpuk5Nzyh0&list=LL&index=4.

[7] BFM.ru, “Песков: в России Мало Тех, Кто Не Поддерживает Спецоперацию На Украине,” BFM.ru – деловой портал (BFM.ru, March 22, 2022), https://www.bfm.ru/news/495821.

[8] Olga Khvostunova, “Do Russians Really ‘Long for War’ in Ukraine?,” Foreign Policy Research Institute, April 11, 2022, https://www.fpri.org/article/2022/03/do-russians-really-long-for-war-in-ukraine/.

[9] Tony Barber, “Do Russians Really Support the War?,” Financial Times (Financial Times, April 23, 2022), https://www.ft.com/content/8a2ca6bc-72e9-4cc1-890b-7b3b0688d3cc.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Philipp Chapkovski and Max Schaub, “Do Russians Tell the Truth When They Say They Support the War in Ukraine? Evidence from a List Experiment,” LSE, April 6, 2022, https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/europpblog/2022/04/06/do-russians-tell-the-truth-when-they-say-they-support-the-war-in-ukraine-evidence-from-a-list-experiment/.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Ibid.

[15] David Gilbert, “Russia Can Now Jail People for 15 Years for Tweeting about the War on Ukraine,” VICE, March 4, 2022, https://www.vice.com/en/article/xgdmdn/russian-law-fifteen-years-jail-tweeting-ukraine-war.

[16] “Putin’s Warning to Anti-War Russians Evokes Stalinist Purges,” NPR (NPR, March 17, 2022), https://www.npr.org/2022/03/17/1087287150/putins-warning-to-anti-war-russians-evokes-stalinist-purges.

[17] Emily Sullivan et al., “Russian Public Accepts Putin’s Spin on Ukraine Conflict,” The Chicago Council on Global Affairs (The Chicago Council on Global Affairs, April 12, 2022), https://www.thechicagocouncil.org/research/public-opinion-survey/russian-public-accepts-putins-spin-ukraine-conflict.

[18] Olga Khvostunova, “Do Russians Really ‘Long for War’ in Ukraine?,” Foreign Policy Research Institute, April 11, 2022, https://www.fpri.org/article/2022/03/do-russians-really-long-for-war-in-ukraine/.

[19] Axios  “Russians Rally to Putin, Who Hits 83% Approval,” Axios, April 2, 2022, https://www.axios.com/russians-putin-approval-rating-ukraine-3630a377-3c9c-47f8-96be-002bd753c4fc.html.

[20] Mike Eckel, “Polls Show Russians Support Putin and the War on Ukraine. Really?,” RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty (Polls Show Russians Support Putin And The War On Ukraine. Really?, April 7, 2022), https://www.rferl.org/a/russia-support-ukraine-war-polls-putin/31791423.html.

[21] Charles Maynes, “Russians Are Feeling the Impact of Sanctions, but the Worst Is Still Yet to Come,” NPR (NPR, April 22, 2022), https://www.npr.org/2022/04/22/1094390348/russians-are-feeling-the-impact-of-sanctions-but-the-worst-is-still-yet-to-come.

[22] Ibid.

[23] The Associated Press, “Sanctions Hit Russian Economy, Although Putin Says Otherwise,” Fortune (Fortune, April 23, 2022), https://fortune.com/2022/04/23/sanctions-hit-russian-economy-although-putin-says-otherwise/.

[24] Barbara Moens and America Hernandez, “EU Closes in on Russian Oil Ban – but How Tough Will It Be?,” POLITICO (POLITICO, April 21, 2022), https://www.politico.eu/article/eu-closes-in-on-russian-oil-ban-vladimir-putin-ukraine/.

[25] Anna Cooban, “Europe Turns Its Back on Russian Coal. Is Oil next?,” CNN (Cable News Network, April 8, 2022), https://edition.cnn.com/2022/04/08/business/russia-coal-eu-oil/index.html.

[26] Polish PM Calls for More Russia Sanctions, YouTube (YouTube, 2022), https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mg6W1OnkVnQ.

Inne wpisy tego autora

Should Poland Build Refugee Camps?

The number of Ukrainians who are fleeing to other countries and who will become displaced will only continue to increase as the war wages on