America’s Hidden Tool is Hobbling Russia’s War Machine with Multilateral Impact

Today, the US Commerce Department continues to take action against Russian war enablers in Russia and Ukraine. We added trade sanctions to seven Iranian entities involved in Iran’s drone program for supporting Russia’s war effort and attempting to use US materials to do so. They will join the list of more than 370 units where the department has taken action from February 24, 2022. Nearly a year after Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, now is the time to look back and ask: What impact did the United States have?

In response to the invasion, American support for Ukraine was immediate and unwavering, providing billions of dollars in security aid to counter Russian aggression. Together with allies and partners, we have imposed severe economic costs on Russia to hobble its war machine.

Central to this effort are the unprecedented “export controls” we have put in place at the US Department of Commerce. One of the main areas of their influence on the Russian defense industry is the resulting technological shortage. Export controls have hampered Russia’s ability to maintain, repair and resupply its weapons.

Export controls are one of the most powerful national security tools you’ve probably never heard of. They are trade restrictions that help keep us safe by preventing adversaries from acquiring American products and using American innovation against the United States, our allies, and our values. Export controls are a policy tool developed by the US government over decades. But in 2022, export controls took on new strategic importance. The US government has deployed more export controls with greater speed, precision and multilateral coordination than ever before. These controls play an important role in ensuring the national security of the United States and our partners around the world.

Unprecedented measures

The story of these export controls begins at the Department of Commerce, where I lead this effort. The Commerce Department develops, implements, and enforces export controls on “dual-use” products (items with both commercial and military uses) and certain items with military uses. Export controls allow the US government to protect access to US-made goods and technologies and certain foreign-made goods that contain US content or are produced with US software, technology, or equipment.

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They work like this: After an export control rule is promulgated, exporters must assess whether their products or transactions are subject to the new restrictions and require authorization from the US government. That evaluation may include reviewing their products’ technical specifications and customer lists. There are many details to the process, such as reviewing compliance procedures for new regulations, but this is the basic idea.

On February 24, 2022, when Russian tanks rolled into Ukraine’s capital, we in the Biden administration knew we had to support the brave people of Ukraine, impose significant economic costs on Russia, and limit the Kremlin’s ability to succeed on the battlefield. Ukraine. Export controls were a critical part of that effort.

Through export controls, we significantly build on our already existing controls in Russia with a combination of Russia-wide and entity-specific restrictions. We have begun to block primarily commercial items that could be used to sustain Russian weapons systems. This included low-level semiconductors, lasers, sensors, and marine and aerospace parts such as fasteners and bearings to help degrade Russia’s military and defense industrial base. We applied these measures to Belarus because of its complicity in Russian aggression.

We also used our entity list. The seven Iranian entities mentioned above have been added to this list of restricted parties. These Iranian entities are now subject to additional trade restrictions, through the use of our Foreign Direct Products Rule, which imposes controls on foreign-made goods produced using certain US equipment. This means that it is not just US-made products that they are barred from acquiring. The Foreign Direct Product Rule affects Iran’s ability to obtain many foreign-made electronic components that can be used in drones.

More importantly, the US government has worked with international allies and partners to coordinate export controls with 37 other like-minded nations to amplify their influence. Never before in the history of export controls has the speed and depth of multilateral alignment against Russia occurred. The United States and our allies and partners worked together for months to release the rules, essentially in lockstep.

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The Commerce Department has undertaken a massive effort to help the public understand and comply with the new rules. If necessary, the Department of Commerce has pursued enforcement action to address potential violations of the regulations. We have our own enforcement division that works closely with other branches of the US government, including the Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the State Department, the Treasury Department, US embassies abroad, the Department of Defense and the intelligence community. . Additionally, we collaborate and coordinate with international partners.

Effect of export controls

Due to export controls, Russian semiconductor or chip imports, the lifeblood of Russia’s armaments, are down nearly 70 percent in 2021 compared to the same period. Russia does not produce its own advanced semiconductors, so it relies heavily on outside sources.

As a result, Russia has struggled to maintain, restore and replace many of its weapons systems, including more than 6,000 pieces of military equipment such as tanks, armored personnel carriers and infantry fighting vehicles that were destroyed in the past year. In a way, this effect is hard to notice, because no one hears dogs that don’t bark. Weapons that cannot be repaired or replaced cannot be used. But imagine if there were no US export controls.

These efforts have made it difficult for the Russian military, as evidenced by how long it has taken to find microchips. Hungry for microchips, the Russian military is cannibalizing semiconductors from dishwashers, refrigerators and electric breast pumps to repair its military hardware. Internationally, Russia has turned to pariah states like North Korea and Iran to acquire artillery shells, rockets and drones manufactured with black market components. But these are not a good substitute for US- and US partner-made parts.

Russia’s changed behavior is evidence that our controls are restricting Russia’s ability to change its military hardware.

Recent reports have highlighted US- and US partner-made components among Russian weapons found in Ukraine. Of course, Russia had a stockpile of weapons before our export controls went into effect. Analysts agree that the majority of US- or US partner-made components found in Russian weapons in 2022 date back to 2014. He also acknowledged that some of the components may be counterfeit and may be US- or US-partnered in the first place.

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Missed in these discussions is the larger point of Russia’s lack of access. As one news outlet rightly noted, “It’s difficult for an entire economy to run on smuggled goods, especially when some of them are scarce everywhere.” The same can certainly be said of the military. Russia’s two largest domestic microelectronics manufacturers temporarily halted production due to a lack of critical foreign technologies Russia relies on for advanced microelectronics. At a meeting of Russian technology entrepreneurs last year, participants from a Russian federal research institute listed on the Entity List spoke. He told Russian President Vladimir Putin – who was in attendance – that his institute’s equipment would be used for measurements at Novaya Zemlya, the site of Russia’s hypersonic missile tests, according to news reports. He continued: “As a developer, I am very concerned about our microelectronics.” “Frankly, sincerely,” Putin replied, according to a Kremlin transcript of the meeting.

Continued action for a safer world

Russia’s supply chain woes are a direct result of American export controls. The Commerce Department will continue to act as necessary, including enforcing sanctions already in place. Last November, the US government dropped charges against seven individuals for their involvement in a global smuggling ring to supply sensitive technology to the Russian government. In December, we announced a new rule targeting a Russian company promoting war in Ukraine.

Export controls link US technological innovation capabilities with national security imperatives. When our adversaries seek to use American products and technology to undermine our national security, they allow us to protect and defend ourselves, our allies, and our democratic values.

In their joint press conference in December, US President Joe Biden stood in solidarity with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky as they articulated the global need to protect democracy and sovereignty. “We all know what’s at stake,” President Biden said. Through export controls, we at the Commerce Department have an effective tool for realizing a safer, more democratic world.

Don Graves 19Th Deputy Secretary of the US Department of Commerce.

Image: Wikimedia Commons


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