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Have sanctions made it harder to cattle-tag Russians?
Maybe! At least for now.
Have the 10,128 sanctions imposed on Moscow “backfired”? Possibly, but not in the way many people seem to think they have.
A popular meme is that western sanctions have bounced off Russia’s chiseled and muscular economy and now Washington and Brussels are wallowing in a mess of their own creation.
We disagree for two reasons. The first reason being — we thought it was sort of obvious that western governments are actively trying to impoverish their populations and make everyone more miserable and more dependent on carbon neutral bug-burgers? Yes? And secondly, the conclusion that Russia has masterfully judo-chopped sanctions is a bit premature; personally, we think there is already ample evidence that serious economic hardship is a reality for many Russians. (However, it’s important to remember inflationary sadness in 2022 was prophesized by the Bank of Russia back in November. Sanctions likely aggravated this problem but it’s not like it didn’t already exist.)
But we do think there could be a silver lining to western attempts to derail Russia’s economy: maybe this means there are now fewer resources (or lack of necessary imports) for the Russian government to pursue gross projects that nobody wants or needs? Let’s examine the evidence.
Electronic identity cards: Frozen!
First some background:
At the beginning of 2023, it was planned to start issuing digital passports in the form of a smart card and an application with a QR code in three regions of Russia.
Identity cards were supposed to contain information about a person by which he could be identified. Initially, they planned to issue digital passports in Moscow and the Moscow region, as well as in Tatarstan, but they could be used throughout Russia.
In addition to passport data, fingerprints, driver's license data, SNILS [pension-related insurance number] and an electronic signature can be recorded on the digital document.
For those who don’t know: Russia uses an “internal” passport that is required for all sorts of internal things. The idea here, it seems, was to turn this extremely necessary document into a proper digital cattle tag.
But as RIA Novosti reported on June 10, Russia’s Ministry of Digital Development has put this project on hold.
A lack of plastic and chips has been cited as one reason that digital identity cards have been shelved. An alternate theory is that there is an abundance of chips but it’s not known which chips are needed to produce these new digital passports due to a lack of technical documentation about the project.
A third reason given is that a digital ID costs about three times more than an old-fashioned paper one — which could make them untenable in parts of the country where people don’t have the means to splurge on a high-tech cattle tag.
Probably we can conclude that under the circumstances the project was no longer viewed as a top priority. Of course, it’s assumed the Ministry of Digital Development will “circle back” to it, like Jen Psaki would, at some point. But when? Who knows.
For those interested, our friends at Katyusha.org have an excellent writeup about this ongoing saga.
Tangentially related: Diehard fans of Moscow’s Dynamo football club recently announced they would not be attending matches in protest against a new “Fan ID” required for entry to stadiums. They don’t like this completely unnecessary identity card:
At a meeting of representatives of various associations of Dynamo fans, it was decided to stop attending RPL football matches and, in the future, other leagues in which the Fan ID law will be applied. From July 2022, the new system will work at five stadiums, in order to enter them you will need to obtain a so-called “Fan ID”.
We understand that until January 2023 we could go to home matches and visit other arenas where this document is not yet required, but we do not accept the rules of the game, according to which you can enter some stadiums without hindrance, and the rest - only passport!
At the same time, Russia continues to cattle-tag schoolchildren. Which is not good. But hey, baby steps?