Moscow’s ‘friends’ like India could be helping western military equipment reach Russia: Report

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Russian friendly countries, including India, could be helping Western manufactured components to make their way into Russian weapons used in Ukraine, British defence and security think tank –Royal United Services Institute –claimed in a report.

The report, titled “Operation Z: The Death Throes of an Imperial Delusion”, published two weeks ago, stated the Russian military equipment found in Ukraine contain foreign-made components prohibited under embargoes.

“Russia’s modern military hardware is dependent upon complex electronics imported from the US, the UK, Germany, the Netherlands, Japan, Israel, China and further afield.”

Without an assured supply chain to manufacture more, the Russians are having to retain a large proportion of the stockpile, which would restrict their ability to strike Ukraine in the coming months. But here the Russian military industries face a problem, for Russia’s latest weapons are heavily dependent upon critical specialist components manufactured abroad.

Technical inspection of Russian weapons and vehicles, conducted by the Central Scientific Research Institute for Armaments of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, reveals that there is a consistent pattern across all major Russian weapons systems recovered from the battlefield. The 9M949 guided 300-mm rocket that forms the backbone of Russian precision artillery as a munition for the Tornado-S multiple launch rocket system uses a US-made fibre-optic gyroscope for its inertial navigation.54

The Russian TOR-M2 air-defence system – one of the most potent short-ranged air-defence systems in the world – relies on a British-designed oscillator in the computer controlling the platform’s radar.

This pattern is true in the Iskander-M, the Kalibr cruise missile, the Kh-101 air-launched cruise missile, and many more besides. It is also true of much tactical battlefield equipment.

“An examination by the technical labs of the Ukrainian intelligence community of the Aqueduct family of Russian military radios (R-168-5UN-2, R-168-5UN-1 and R-168-5UT-2), which form the backbone of the Russian military’s tactical communications, for instance, reveals critical electronic components manufactured in the US, Germany, the Netherlands, South Korea and Japan,” the report stated.

The pattern is universal. Almost all of Russia’s modern military hardware is dependent upon complex electronics imported from the US, the UK, Germany, the Netherlands, Japan, Israel, China and further afield.

In some instances these components are civilian dual-use electronics that can be procured commercially.

In many more, however, they are pieces of military or specialised technologies for which there are a small number of regulated suppliers.

Although Russian weapons are full of Western manufactured components, it is not clear that the companies manufacturing them knew that the Russian military was the end-user.

Many components are dual-use technologies. Meanwhile, Russia has established mechanisms for laundering these items through third countries.

Restricting access, therefore, likely means preventing export to countries such as India of goods that are in some instances used for civilian purposes.

“This would, unfortunately, strengthen the Russian argument that the West is prepared to inflict economic pain around the world for the sake of punishing Russia and, in doing so, reduce compliance with Western sanctions. Russia is also prepared to use blackmail to keep these channels open. For example, many of the computer components in Russian cruise and ballistic missiles are purchased ostensibly for civilian use in Russia’s space programme,” the report stated.

Although Russian weapons are full of Western manufactured components, it is not clear that the companies manufacturing them knew that the Russian military was the end-user. Many components are dual-use technologies.

Meanwhile, Russia has established mechanisms for laundering these items through third countries. This channel is now increasingly constrained. But there are many others.

Moreover, there are myriad companies based around the world, including in the Czech Republic, Serbia, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Turkey, India and China, who will take considerable risks to meet Russian supply requirements.

Constraining these supply routes without alienating the governments in these states will be a delicate policy needle to thread. It likely requires a systematic targeting of Russia’s special services tasked with orchestrating these supply chain operations, the report added.

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