עם תחילת ״המבצע המיוחד״ באוקראינה המערב הטיל שורה של סנקציות על רוסיה בשביל לפגוע בכלכלה שלה ובמאמץ המלחמתי שלה. בין השאר הוטלו סנקציות על ייבוא של ציוד טכנולוגי מתקדם לרוסיה, כולל שבבים, לייזרים ומערכות תקשורת. רוסיה צריכה רכיבים מערביים בשביל האמל״ח המתקדם שלה, וסין אינה יכולה להחליף את כל הרכיבים. הברירה היחידה שנותרה לרוסיה? להבריח אותם, כך לפי דיווח ב-Politico:
Six months into its invasion of Ukraine, Russia is being throttled by a severe technology deficit inflicted by sanctions. Kyiv is acutely aware that the outcome of the war is likely to hinge on whether Russia finds a way to regain access to high-tech chips, and is out to ensure it doesn’t get them.
Ukraine is sending out international warnings that the Kremlin has drawn up shopping lists of semiconductors, transformers, connectors, casings, transistors, insulators and other components, most made by companies in the U.S., Germany, the Netherlands, the U.K., Taiwan and Japan, among others, which it needs to fuel its war effort.
At first glance, Russia shouldn’t be able to acquire the most sensitive tech on the lists. With only very basic domestic technology, the Kremlin has relied on key players in the U.S., the EU and Japan for semiconductors as suppliers over the past years and these should be out of grasp thanks to sanctions. Of the 25 items Russia is seeking most desperately, almost all are microchips manufactured by U.S. firms Marvell, Intel, Holt, ISSI, Microchip, Micron, Broadcom and Texas Instruments. Some of the items can be easily found in online electronics retailers, while others have been out of stock for months as a result of the global microchip shortage. Since its latest invasion of Ukraine in February, Western countries have tightened sanctions on Russia, increasingly targeting its supply chains of microchips to decrease its military capabilities.
על אף הסנקציות המערביות רוסיה כנראה תוכל להשיג רכיבים טכנולוגים רבים, מהסיבה הפשוטה שקשה לעקוב אחריהם. כפי שמספר מרוייאנים מספרים ל-Politico, ברגע שהשבב עזב את המפעל קשה לדעת מי המשתמש הסופי שלו:
“Once chips have left the factory it’s very hard to know for sure where they end up,” said Diederik Cops, a senior researcher in arms exports and trade at the Flemish Peace Institute, a research organization linked to the Flemish parliament. Cops said Russian entities supplying the military have various ways to acquire critical goods, ranging from buying them on unregulated online marketplaces to using third-party front shops and post-box companies to smuggle high-tech kit into the country.
“Countries like North Korea and Iran have built up years of expertise to circumvent sanctions. Russia will surely have prepared itself to cope with this in past months … The Russians can also rely on historic expertise to set up such channels: It was routine during the Cold War. And it has long borders with neighboring countries and a large network of allied states to work with,” Cops said.
The controls on chips “are about as tight as a screen door,” said Matthew Turpin, the U.S. National Security Council director for China from 2018 to 2019. “China and Russia share a 4,300-kilometer border. There is absolutely no way we could detect if those chips are passed from China to Russia.”
“Russia’s missiles and processing computers and sensors are built with Russian parts. But the most critical components in them, the highest tech, were Western,” RUSI’s Byrne said. “The Russians have used a lot of their high-end equipment — cruise and ballistic missiles, precision munitions, the latest infantry fighting vehicles. Now, they’re resorting to older equipment they’ve brought out of storage. While the EU, U.S., Japan and other countries have slapped sanctions on Russia, Moscow does have a friend in Beijing, which has already provided the country with off-road vehicle exports for command personnel, as well as drone components and naval engines. But like Russia, China has also struggled to catch up with its competitors when it comes to the most high-tech components Russia needs. “A lot of these [Western] companies, they’re really specialized in the specialized kit, they’ve been making it a long time. The Chinese semiconductor industry doesn’t have capability to make those things,” RUSI’s Byrne said.