Russia acquires Western technology for war via Armenia, bypassing sanctions

Western technology is ending up in Russian missiles, raising concerns about the effectiveness of sanctions. Moscow has found ways around them by employing third countries.

Surge in electronic components delivery to Russia

According to the New York Times, US and EU officials detected a “surge” in electronic components being delivered to Russia that was “deemed as critical to the production of weapons, including Russian cruise missiles.”

According to documents from a March 24 meeting acquired by The New York Times, senior tax and trade authorities noted an increase in the sale of chips and other electronic components to Russia via Armenia, Kazakhstan, and other nations. 

According to the sources, they supplied information on the transit of eight very sensitive types of chips and other electronic components that they have judged crucial to the manufacture of weapons, including Russian cruise missiles that have bombarded Ukrainian cities and civil energy infrastructure.

Western microchips are used in Russian cruise missiles

While Ukraine struggles to keep Russia out of its land, the US and its allies are fighting another battle to keep the chips needed for weapons systems, drones, and tanks out of Russian hands.

However, denying Russia access to semiconductors has been difficult, and the US and the EU have yet to declare a definitive success. While Western sanctions have limited Russia’s ability to make weapons, the Russian regime is still acquiring access to many technological components in a roundabout way.

The outcome is devastating: while the United States and the European Union mobilize to provide Ukrainians with anti-missile systems to defend their cities from Russian missile attacks, Moscow uses Western technologies to continue bombarding Ukraine.

The Western states are trying to block ways of sanctions circumvention

Trade records reveal that other nations have stepped in to offer part of what Russia requires. Following a significant reduction immediately following the Ukrainian invasion, Russia’s chip imports gradually increased, mainly from China. 

According to Silverado Policy Accelerator, imports were 50% or above median prewar levels each month between October and January.

As Russia attempted to circumvent restrictions, the Western states tightened their grip, sanctioning hundreds of corporations and organizations in Russia, Iran, China, Canada, and elsewhere. The US has also increased trade prohibitions to cover toasters, hair dryers, and microwaves, all containing chips, and established a “disruptive technology strike force” to investigate and prosecute criminal actors attempting to obtain crucial technology.

However, given the widespread use of semiconductors, the illicit traffic in chips is challenging to regulate. 

Russia purchased Western microchips after the invasion began

Conflict Armament Research, an independent company investigating Russian weaponry retrieved from the battlefield, released a paper on April 18 revealing the first documented example of Russia producing weapons with chips made after the invasion began.

Three similar chips, produced in offshore manufacturing by a US corporation, were discovered in Lancet drones collected from several locations in Ukraine in February and March. The United States imposed limitations on this specific type of chip in September, so these chips were not necessarily an example of an export control violation. According to the study, the chips were created in August and may have been distributed soon after.

According to the documents from the March meeting, US and EU officials are growing concerned that Russia is gaining American and European goods by redirecting them through Armenia, Kazakhstan, and other Central Asian countries.

Armenia increased imports of microchips from the US by 515%

According to one document bearing the seal of the United States Bureau of Industry and Security, Armenia purchased 515% more chips and processors from the United States and 212% more from the European Union in 2022 than in 2021. According to the document, Armenia shipped 97% of those identical products to Russia.

The Bureau of Industry and Security highlighted eight kinds of chips and components deemed vital to Russian weapons development in another paper, including one called a field programmable gate array, which had been discovered in one model of the Russian cruise missile, the KH-101.

Reuters investigation revealed how Russia circumvented sanctions 

Remember that in December, the Reuters investigation revealed how Russia circumvented sanctions. They showed how Western companies continue to supply microchips to Russia despite the sanctions imposed by the US and EU due to Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

From April to November, the US and other European countries supplied Russia with $777 million in semiconductors. And these are not ordinary chips; they are from world-renowned top businesses, which Moscow obtained despite sanctions.

The West needs to penalized countries and companies that help Russia in producing weapons

The information sharing between the US and Europe is part of a new but growing effort to reduce the leakage of such material to Russia.

As a result, Western nations must create methods to promptly identify and penalize corporations and governments that assist Russia in producing weapons. Previously, the EU Council designated sanction evasion as a crime.

Read also: How Russia works around sanctions to procure microchips for missiles

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