Monday, March 8, 2021

New Western Sanctions Hit Russian Military Industry and Broader R & D Activities Far Harder than Earlier Ones

Paul Goble

            Staunton, March 6 – The new sanctions the United States has imposed on Russia because of Moscow’s abuse of Aleksey Navalny not only symbolize the West’s outrage at the latest Kremlin moves against the opposition leader but are going to have a far broader impact on Russian military industry and the country’s research and development sector.

            That is because they impose significant restrictions on the ability of Russian firms to purchase Western equipment that could be used to produce chemical weapons of mass destruction even if the Russian firms in question are primarily involved with non-military activities and resell such US equipment to universities and research institutions.

            That is the conclusion of Aleksandr Yermakov, a Fontanka journalist, on the basis of his analysis of the firms involved, the way in which the firms play an essential role in both military industry and basic research because the equipment that they may be banned from importing has “no competitive analogues” produced in Russia (

            He offers a detailed discussion of the firms involved, the kinds of US-produced equipment they purchase and often resell, and the ways in which purchases that look innocent if they go to one final user look anything but if one concludes that they are going to another. And he points out that Washington will make decisions on a case-by-case basis.

            According to officials at these firms, people in Russian military industry and others in the research and development communities, “about 75 percent” of the equipment that Russian firms purchase from the US and then use or resell have no competitive counterparts that are produced in Russia. Thus, banning exports of them to Russia will hit Moscow hard.

            As one company representative speaking on condition of anonymity points out, with equipment of this kind “you can’t make sausage and you can’t mine gold,” let alone engage in more complicated scientific research and development. If the Americans do impose all the restrictions the new sanctions allow for, Russia will be in difficult, he says.

            Two years ago, more than 400 instructors at higher educational institutions and workers in research institutes were asked about the origins of the equipment they relied on to do their work, Yermakov says. A third said they used “exclusively foreign equipment.” Another third said they used foreign equipment “more than half of the time.”

            “Only 40 percent of the respondents” were ready to use domestic production even if it was absolutely identical in quality and price,” the journalist continues. And that reflects the marketplace for such goods. In Russia today, there are 503 models of chromatographs, for example,

            Of these, “more than 100” are of Soviet origin, with about the same share produced by Russian firms. But 134 are American, 48 German, and 33 Japanese. And of the chromatographs most recently registered in Russia, the majority are from the US, and “only 13 are of Russian origin.”

            If Washington applies the new sanctions rules as fully as possible, Russian military industry and Russian research in many key areas will be crippled, if not immediately than over time because Moscow won’t be able to produce the needed substitutes for Western products it can no longer purchase.


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