US chips keep finding their way into the Russian military

US-made microchips and other tech is being rerouted to Russia by countries that are not allied with Ukraine.
Ameya Paleja
US made semiconductors continue to make way into Russian military equipment
US made semiconductors continue to make way into Russian military equipment

Dragon Claws/iStock 

An analysis conducted by the analytical center of the Kyiv School of Economics has found that recently recovered Russian military equipment consists of more than 1,000 foreign-made components, most of which are semiconductor technology used in the West, CNBC reported. This sharply contrasts the intentions behind sanctions that the US imposed after the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Within days of the Russian aggression in February 2022, the US and its allies moved to impose sanctions to isolate Russia and prevent it from using the money generated from trade for waging a war. Since Europe remains dependent on Russia for its energy needs, the move was not expected to have a significant impact until Europe completely switched off Russian oil and gas.

An added approach included limiting technology access to Russia, a move aimed at strangling Russia's aerospace industry and its military for want of foreign-made spares. The Russian airplane industry felt the jolt immediately, but the military has been working with any hiccups, and now we know the reason why.

What's exempt from sanctions

Not all products produced in the West make up the list of sanctioned items for the Russian military. For instance, food and medicine are exempt from the sanctions even if routed to the invading Army. Many items dubbed "dual use" also fall outside the scope of the sanctions.

Microchips ubiquitous in electronic appliances these days are also used in military tools like drones. It is difficult to ascertain if a chip sent to Russia will be used for civilian or military purposes.

The study found that more than two third of the components used by Russia in its military equipment either originated from companies in the US or its allies such as Japan or Germany. It is unclear whether the companies were aware of where their goods were heading.

Rerouted supply of parts

Global trade often involves selling and reselling goods by legitimate businesses in various countries. Even though the US and its allies have imposed some sanctions, other countries across the globe continue to trade with Russia. The country is leveraging its trade relations with neutral nations in the Russia-Ukraine war to get its hands on Western tech.

US chips keep finding their way into the Russian military
Global trade involves sale and resale of goods multiple times before it reaches the destination

China alone supplied 87 percent of Russian semiconductor imports for Q4 2022, when just a year ago, its share was 33 percent. Interestingly, more than half of these goods were not even made in China but only made a stop en route to Russia.

Along with China, European nations such as Georgia and Armenia have also stepped in to cater to Russia's needs increasing their trade with the UK and the EU as well as Russia at the same time.

Semiconductor supply chains are already complex to track, given their wide applications. Nevertheless, in June this year, the EU released a list of 87 companies in China, Armenia, and the United Arab Emirates, acting as Russian intermediaries alongside 15 items that have been a part of Russian military equipment in Ukraine.

It remains unclear if even a detailed strategy such as this will bear the intended results. As the US supports Ukraine militarily in the war, its technology is neither out of Russian reach.

Though unintended, US tech is fueling the fight on both sides.

Add Interesting Engineering to your Google News feed.
Add Interesting Engineering to your Google News feed.
message circleSHOW COMMENT (1)chevron
Job Board