The campaign to starve Russia of technology by denying them access to electronics such as iPhones, Airbnb listings to defence electronics is an unprecedented experiment that risks pushing Vladimir Putin further into China’s orbit.
The United States has led the way in establishing a Tech boycott in Russia, driving the nation of access to popular digital and social media platforms. The US went as far as to deny Russia access to tech components it would need for high-end industry and advanced weapons, ensuring Putin felt the pain.
While a tech isolation at this scale has not been done before, at the same time, the US also takes the risk of driving Russia closer to its biggest rivals, China.
According to Bloomberg News, Russia’s 145 million people are yet to respond and that cutting Russia from the various online services may undermine pro-democracy activists who are campaigning against the war.
US military strategist Peter Singer said it’s hard to think of a historic parallel to the events and sanctions currently taking place, but that the US has always always attempted to control an enemy’s supply chain.
“What’s different today in the digital era is you’re reaching into the components — the chips and other pieces of it,” he said.
Singer added that restricting online services brings a dilemma in that it further carves up the internet and threatens to make censorship and disinformation worse.
Meanwhile, a senior Biden administration official told Bloomberg that no one knows how everything would eventually “play out in terms of the details,” and acknowledged the experimental nature of the tech assault.
The administration added that the tech ban as well as sanctions from its allies would cut off more than half of Russia’s high-tech imports which ultimately keeps $50 billion worth of US items out of the country for the next three years.
US allies who have joined in the tech ban include the UK, Australia, New Zealand and Japan. South Korea who is a key supplier of smartphones to Russia also joined the effort.
“You’re taking the Huawei rule and applying that to an entire country, an entire economy,” said former senior CIA officer Martijn Rasser.
Furthermore, deputy US commerce secretary Don Graves added that the tech export controls are not expected to have an immediate impact, however, in the coming weeks and months Russia’s aerospace and maritime sectors will begin to “feel the pain”.
Taiwan who is another supplier of semiconductors has already agreed to supply Russia which leaves the door open for Shanghai-based Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp as a key source for advanced chips. And, while China’s chip industry is smaller to its counterparts, it is Russia’s biggest supplier of electronics such as computers and smartphones.