March 8, 2023
International human rights and anti-corruption organizations explain in a new report how the products of major Western microchip manufacturers reach Russia through a network of mediators.
Last fall, the Kremlin was busy restoring its combat capability. Active military operations, massive missile attacks, and sensitive losses in aviation forced the Russian leadership to think about how to fill up their stocks of high-tech equipment used in the creation of military materiel.
In Sept. 2022, U.S. political news outlet Politico published data which was obtained thanks to a leak from a secret Russian report. It was about the most necessary components for the creation of military equipment, which the Kremlin selected for itself. The list includes 106 different pieces of equipment, including microcircuits and chips from leading manufacturers such as Cypress Semiconductor, Marvell, Texas Instruments, and others.
After a while, the facts of deliveries of microelectronics to Russia were confirmed. So, in Nov. 2022, it became known that U.S. company Trimble Navigation continues to produce parts for the Russian GLONASS navigation system. And in December, the Royal Joint Institute for Defense Research said that in the seven months (including until Oct. 31), Western computer and other electronic components in the amount of at least $2.6 billion were shipped to Russia, including almost a third of which were used in Russian weapons systems.
In this way, the army of the Russian Federation actively uses Western products. For example, components from U.S. company Texas Instruments were found in the Russian Kalibr missiles, which are used to shoot at Ukrainian cities, and the parts manufactured by Cypress Semiconductor were found in the famous Iskander missiles.
In the opinion of military expert Oleksandr Kovalenko, such supplies are vitally necessary for the Russian military industry, because they allow for the restoration of lost military potential. According to data from Dutch open-source military analytical group Oryx, which specializes in military operations and weapons research, the Russian army has already lost almost 10,000 units of military equipment.
“For example, we can talk about rockets,” says Kovalenko.
“It is no longer a secret that problems with the production of missiles, removing them from storage, as well as difficult logistics, force the Russians to extend the time between mass missile strikes every time. That is why Western components are so desired in Russia.”
The data from the report of the International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR) and the Independent Anti-Corruption Commission (NAKO), a Ukrainian independent organization
within the framework of Transparency International, testify to the fact that microcircuits from leading manufacturers in Europe and the U.S. are ending up in Russia. Analysts also confirmed that components produced by Western companies were actively supplied to Russia via Hong Kong and Turkey over the last year.
Svitlana Musiyaka, head of research at NAKO, explains that after the full-scale invasion, Western companies did not reduce trade with Russia.
Imported microelectronics gets to the hands of Russian military equipment manufacturers through a complex network of subsidiary companies and distributors. Musiyaka named Harting, which continues to export electronic components to companies in the Russian Federation through Russian and Lithuanian divisions. In this way, the company has supplied goods to Russian enterprises to the tune of more than $16 million since Feb. last year.
At the same time, Russian company Prosoft, which is the official distributor of Harting products, additionally delivered almost 900 batches of products from other leading companies – Trimble, TE Connectivity, Texas Instruments, and Infineon Technologies.
Other Western manufacturers also continue to cooperate with the Russians: in 2022, U.S. company Trimble sent products worth $2.4 million, and TE Connectivity – $1.8 million. The deliveries were made through suppliers in Turkey, Taiwan, Morocco, and India.
At the same time, Musiyaka claims that some components found in Russian military equipment are not considered military, so it cannot be reliably said that certain prohibitions were violated. The situation is complicated by obscure supply schemes through intermediaries.
However, doing business with an aggressor country after a full-scale invasion is wrong, notes Musiyaka. That is why the newest package of sanctions from the G7 and the EU included enterprises of the Russian military-industrial complex that were not previously listed.
“On the other hand, it is necessary to conduct an additional analysis of how the Russians are trying to buy such valuable electronic components for them in order to introduce new sanctions,” says Musiyaka.
“And, of course, a responsible Western business must monitor carefully the chain of buyers through which their products go. As our report shows, the Russians who commit crimes against humanity are getting the electronics that allow them to continue their terrible war.”