The Helsinki Summit: Reaction from the Digital Realm

In Helsinki on July 16, President Trump flummoxed American officials and lawmakers by showing extreme deference to President Putin and calling into question the assessment of US intelligence agencies that Russia interfered in the 2016 election. Predata analytics captured the following takeaways from the digital reaction to the summit.

1. Americans are considering impeachment and Trump’s Russia ties. Interest in several web pages related to efforts to impeach President Trump, the Trump Organization’s reported business projects in Russia, and the concept of kompromat all jumped dramatically in response to the summit. This is noteworthy because usually these signals tend to only respond to developments in the Mueller investigation, either indictments, arrests, or media reports. The summit itself seems to have driven Americans to research interference in the election and the ties between the Trump Organization and Russia to a greater degree than any of the developments in the actual investigation.

2. Russians feel emboldened. Patriotic Russian YouTube videos, some dating back to the 2014 invasion of Crimea, with titles such as “Putin: We Are Not Afraid of NATO”, saw sudden increases in activity after the meeting.

3. Policy-wise, little is likely to change. Signals that predict changes in the US sanctions regime, the war in Ukraine, and Russian and NATO military posture showed little reaction to the meeting. Thus, although the summit may have undermined the Western-led international order and raised questions about Trump’s interests, at least in the short term it seems unlikely US military and foreign policy toward Russia will substantively change.