KSE Institute & Yermak-McFaul Sanctions Working Group Present a Joint Study on Russia’s Military Capacity and the Role of Imported Components

21 June 2023

KSE Institute, together with the Yermak-McFaul International Working Group on Russian Sanctions, are releasing a joint study, ‘Russia’s Military Capacity and the Role of Imported Components’, examining the effectiveness of military and dual-use goods export controls. Despite a decline in Moscow’s overall military capabilities, the study’s findings point to a continued ability by Russia to import foreign components that could play a key role for its military production.

International sanctions have impacted Russia’s ability to manufacture key weapons systems due the critical importance of imported components. However, Russia continues to be able to produce equipment that allows for a continuation of its brutal war in Ukraine – including missiles. The evasion of export controls restrictions likely plays a key role in this context – pointing to a need for stepped-up enforcement.

The study uses as a starting point an analysis of Russian weaponry found in Ukraine. 1,057 individual foreign components were found in equipment ranging from tanks to drones and missiles to electronic warfare systems. Predominantly, these are microchips and processors, indicating a heavy reliance on Western high-tech goods. 

Next, the study utilizes a comprehensive dataset on Russian trade activities to identify how such items that can be used in military production – “critical components” – continue to reach Russia. The analysis shows that in most cases, this is done through intermediaries, including in China and Hong Kong. Importantly, most of these goods are, however, produced in third countries on behalf of major Western technology companies. In fact, among others, components from Analog Devices, Texas Instruments, Microchip Technology, Intel, and AMD were found in Russian weaponry. While some of these transactions may have taken place before the start of the full-scale invasion – and some of the items may not be under export controls – trade with what we consider key input for Russian military production continues. Not only that, imports have more than recovered from their initial drop in March of 2022.

Building upon the study’s findings, a series of policy recommendations are presented to enhance the effectiveness of export controls:

1. Improve information exchange and cooperation.

2. Utilize financial sanctions and anti-money laundering frameworks.

3. Engage with specific companies and urge them to address the issue of potential export controls violations.

4. Undertake investigations, particularly those that target high-profile players.

5. Align and broaden export control regimes to cover broader categories and close loopholes.

6. Tighten documentary evidence requirements to ensure proper due diligence.

7. Target third-country intermediaries to prevent the shipment of critical components to Russia.

8. Expand the export controls coalition to strengthen cooperation.

By adopting these recommendations, the international community can significantly improve the export controls regime, prevent sanctions violations, and curb Russia’s ability to continue its war of aggression in Ukraine.

The full version of ‘Russia’s Military Capacity and the Role of Imported Components’ is available via link