On April 6, the United States announced new sanctions against Russian oligarchs and businesses. The measures have wrought economic havoc in Russia. The ruble fell 5 percent against the dollar and Russian equities are down 12 percent.
U.S. sanctions rarely resonate among the Russian population writ large. But Predata digital indicators suggest this time may be different. After April 6, as the economic consequences began to bite, Russian online audiences began paying greater attention to web pages about the sanctions. Ten days later, interest remains elevated. That Russians are more interested in the sanctions than English-language audiences is a significant deviation from the typical post-sanctions trend. In March, for instance, sanctions against Russian entities indicted in Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation provoked a surge in English-language interest but were met with indifference by Russians. (Subscribers can view the signals in the Predata system here).
Other Predata signals show that in the wake of the stock market's fall, Russians are expressing their economic anxiety by researching past Russian financial crises. Notably, past U.S. sanctions failed to drive Russian online interest in subjects that reflect economic anxiety. And though the Kremlin managed to invoke the Russian spirit of self-reliant patriotism in the face of past sanctions-prompted financial downturns, it is yet to be seen how the public will weather this economic shock and who will be blamed. (View those signals here).
Separately, a Predata signal that anticipates Trump Administration sanctions announcements dropped off dramatically after spiking ahead of the April 6 sanctions. That suggests the risk for additional U.S. sanctions against Russia is reduced in the next month. Just yesterday, the White House walked back U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley's weekend insinuation that further sanctions were likely to be announced this week as part of the administration's response to the chemical attack in Syria. (View the predictive signal here).