Will Russia Sanctions Accelerate Inflation, Devalue US Dollar and Strengthen Chinese Yuan?

Russia is a commodities superpower. The nation's Eurasian landmass is rich in all kinds of natural resources from food to fuel to metals. To punish Moscow for invading Ukraine, the US and G-7 nations have imposed sanctions on Russia. These sanctions have effectively removed Russian commodities from the global supply chain, triggering double digit price increases for food, fuels and metals. Will the G-7 actions leave the US dollar much weaker? Will the Chinese currency, backed by commodities, gain strength at the expense of the US dollar and Euro? Will the era of commodity-backed money return? In a note to clients, Credit Suisse investment strategist Zoltan Pozsar has answered some of these questions. He says "this (Russia) crisis is not anything we have seen since President Nixon took the U.S. dollar off gold in 1971". "After this war is over, "money" will never be the same again.....and bitcoin (if it still exists then) will probably benefit from all this,” he adds. 

Map of "International Community" Sanctioning Russia

Post World War II History:

The current global financial system was created in Bretton Woods located in the US State of New Hampshire.  Over 700 delegates representing 44 countries met in Bretton Woods in July 1944. The Bretton Woods System, now referred to as Bretton Woods I, required a currency peg to the U.S. dollar which was in turn pegged to the price of gold. This system collapsed in the 1970s but created a lasting influence on international currency exchange and trade through its development of the IMF and World Bank. Zoltan Pozsar believes it is now time for Bretton Woods III. What is Bretton Woods III? Here's how Zoltan Pozsar explains it:

"From the Bretton Woods era backed by gold bullion, to Bretton Woods II backed by inside money (Treasuries with un-hedgeable confiscation risks), to Bretton Woods III backed by outside money (gold bullion and other commodities)". 

Russia's Commodity Exports. Source: Bloomberg

Commodity Superpower: 

Russia is a vast country. Russian landmass extends from Europe to East Asia. It is one of the largest suppliers of oil, gas, metals and wheat. Russia is also a major exporter of fertilizer. China will likely take advantage of the western sanctions to buy up Russian commodities at lower prices. 

Pozsar argues that while Western central banks cannot close the gap between Russian and non-Russian commodity prices as sanctions lead them in opposite directions, the People’s Bank of China can “as it banks for a sovereign who can dance to its own tune.”

“If you believe that the West can craft sanctions that maximize pain for Russia while minimizing financial stability risks and price stability risks in the West, you could also believe in unicorns,” Pozsar wrote.

Pre-Ukraine War Inflation in US. Source: Wall Street Journal

Bretton Woods III:

Pozsar argues that the Bretton Woods II collapsed when the G7 countries seized Russia’s foreign exchange (FX) reserves, leading to a rise of outside money – reserves kept as commodities – over inside money – reserves kept as liabilities of global financial institutions. 

East vs West Economic Output. Source: Wall Street Journal

"We are witnessing the birth of Bretton Woods III – a new world (monetary) order centered around commodity-based currencies in the East (Chinese Yuan) that will likely weaken the Eurodollar system and also contribute to inflationary forces in the West,” Zoltan wrote. 

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Comment by Riaz Haq on March 13, 2022 at 10:06am

Banning Russia from SWIFT is a big deal. But the real pain comes from sanctions.
Keeping Russian banks from using SWIFT is not the financial nuclear weapon some have suggested.


While the United States might fear the growth of new messaging services in the future, this case isn’t likely to bring significant blowback. Russia is unlikely to use alternative financial channels, because the existing ones all have problems. For example, executing transactions over telephone or fax, or by using credit or debit cards that fuse communications technologies with transactions. That’s outdated and will not scale to the degree Russia would need.

Alternative financial communication networks are either in their infancy or depend on the SWIFT network. The Bank of Russia created a financial messaging system (FMS) after the 2014 Ukraine crisis — but it includes only 400 users and therefore isn’t that useful. China’s Cross-Border Interbank Payment System (CIPS) has about three times FMS’s users — but SWIFT includes nearly 10 times as many users as CIPS. What’s more, CIPS isn’t an alternative to SWIFT; it depends on SWIFT for international messaging.

Russian banks not facing sanctions may turn to CIPS. But China may be reluctant to welcome sanctioned banks, lest it jeopardize its use of SWIFT.


Two days after Russia launched an attack on Ukraine, the United States, Canada and European allies agreed to disconnect a handful of Russian banks from SWIFT, the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication. These “de-SWIFTed” Russian banks would no longer be able to use the financial interface to transfer money.

The long-standing, and controversial, threat to disconnect Russia from the SWIFT network has been touted as a centerpiece of the West’s retaliation. How big is it, really? And how will it affect the United States and its use of financial power in the future?

The limits of de-SWIFTing

SWIFT connects more than 10,000 financial institutions in a communications network where orders are sent and received. This messaging service enables participating banks to settle commercial, financial and foreign-exchange payments. Cutting banks off from SWIFT means they can no longer use the network to exchange information.

But keeping banks from accessing SWIFT is not, on its own, the financial nuclear weapon some suggest. Denying access to SWIFT, for example, does not stop banks from communicating or transacting with the 11,000 financial institutions outside the SWIFT network. Disconnected banks that do not face sanctions are free to use alternative messaging networks to settle payments.

In fact, without sanctions on actual money transfers, denying countries access to SWIFT could undermine the messaging service by encouraging users to rely on other financial communication networks.

Today, SWIFT continues to be dominated by major U.S. financial institutions, with 40 percent of recorded transactions occurring in U.S. dollars. Making the U.S.-centered financial order less attractive is precisely the type of collateral damage the United States seeks to avoid.

Comment by Riaz Haq on March 14, 2022 at 7:35am

To evade western sanctions, #India and #Russia are exploring the possibility of using #China’s yuan as a reference currency to value the #rupee-#ruble #trade, It'll cover #oil purchase from Russia, availability of ships, insurance cover for imports, etc. https://www.livemint.com/industry/energy/india-and-russia-explore-p...

This assumes importance given the Western sanctions on Russia and PJSC Rosneft Oil Co. stating that Indian companies can acquire stakes in Russian projects and purchase Russian crude oil.

Rosneft’s production cost per unit is considered to be among the lowest globally.

“Rupee-ruble trade is very much on the cards. We are working on a currency arrangement to facilitate trade, especially as we also plan to increase oil purchase from Russia," said one of the two Indian government officials cited above, requesting anonymity.

The rupee-ruble trade mechanism will allow Indian exporters to be paid in rupees for their exports to Russia instead of dollars or euros.

Under this arrangement, a Russian bank is required to open an account in an Indian bank while an Indian bank opens an account in Russia.

Incidentally, the rupee-ruble payment mechanism with Russia has been attempted earlier on a small scale for a few items such as tea.

“We can look at a floating exchange rate system. A third currency can be taken as a point of reference, maybe yuan," said the official. He added that the arrangement would not require the exchange rate to be pegged to any currency, especially as the ruble has been depreciating. The ruble has fallen by as much as 39% this year against the dollar.

The local currency trade mechanism is key to resuming trading with Moscow as India buys a lot of defence and nuclear products from Russia, while India exports pharmaceuticals, engineering and agriculture items.

Payments worth close to $500 million to Indian exporters for goods already shipped to Moscow remain stuck.

Meanwhile, the Reserve Bank of India is consulting banks, including UCO Bank, to appoint a third party for facilitating payments. UCO Bank acted as a facilitator when sanctions were imposed on Iran.

Queries sent to India’s ministries of finance, petroleum and natural gas on Sunday remained unanswered till press time. Also, emailed queries to spokespeople for the Reserve Bank of India on Sunday evening wasn’t immediately answered.

Under the currency arrangement, the Russian currency will be converted into rupees at a specified exchange rate, and the money will be deposited into an Indian bank account.

“We are yet to finalize the Russian and Indian banks," said another government official.

Russian oil-related exports to India is close to $1 billion, but the exports are still very small given that the South Asian country imports 85% of its oil and 55% of natural gas requirements.

“Increasing oil purchases from Russia is definitely being considered at a discounted price. But we need to resolve a few issues to make that happen. One is we need to figure out the availability of shipping vessels. The other pertains to the high insurance premiums for imports from Russia," said the second government official. “High premiums will erode all the benefits of the discounted price. Also, the refining capability and cost will need to be assessed as we buy a different blend," the official added.

He added that India need not worry about buying oil from Russia as long as Europe continues to buy from there.

While the European countries have exempted Russian banks involved in energy trade from sanctions due to their heavy dependence on Russian oil, the US has announced a complete ban on the import of all Russian oil products from 8 March.

Oil prices have been elevated since Russia invaded Ukraine last month. On 7 March, Brent touched $139.13 per barrel, the highest since 2008. On Friday, the May contract of Brent on the Intercontinental Exchange closed at $112.67 per barrel.

Comment by Riaz Haq on March 15, 2022 at 7:24am

Saudi Arabia is in active talks with Beijing to price its some of its oil sales to China in yuan, people familiar with the matter said, a move that would dent the U.S. dollar’s dominance of the global petroleum market and mark another shift by the world’s top crude exporter toward Asia.


China introduced yuan-priced oil contracts in 2018 as part of its efforts to make its currency tradable across the world, but they haven’t made a dent in the dollar’s dominance of the oil market. For China, using dollars has become a hazard highlighted by U.S. sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program and on Russia in response to the Ukraine invasion.

China has stepped up its courtship of the Saudi kingdom. In recent years, China has helped Saudi Arabia build its own ballistic missiles, consulted on a nuclear program and begun investing in Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s pet projects, such as Neom, a futuristic new city.


The talks with China over yuan-priced oil contracts have been off and on for six years but have accelerated this year as the Saudis have grown increasingly unhappy with decades-old U.S. security commitments to defend the kingdom, the people said.

The Saudis are angry over the U.S.’s lack of support for their intervention in the Yemen civil war, and over the Biden administration’s attempt to strike a deal with Iran over its nuclear program. Saudi officials have said they were shocked by the precipitous U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan last year.

China buys more than 25% of the oil that Saudi Arabia exports. If priced in yuan, those sales would boost the standing of China’s currency.

It would be a profound shift for Saudi Arabia to price even some of its roughly 6.2 million barrels of day of crude exports in anything other than dollars. The majority of global oil sales—around 80%—are done in dollars, and the Saudis have traded oil exclusively in dollars since 1974, in a deal with the Nixon administration that included security guarantees for the kingdom.


Meanwhile the Saudi relationship with the U.S. has deteriorated under President Biden, who said in the 2020 campaign that the kingdom should be a “pariah” for the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018. Prince Mohammed, who U.S. intelligence authorities say ordered Mr. Khashoggi’s killing, refused to sit in on a call between Mr. Biden and the Saudi ruler, King Salman, last month.

It also comes as the U.S. economic relationship with the Saudis is diminishing. The U.S. is now among the top oil producers in the world. It once imported 2 million barrels of Saudi crude a day in the early 1990s but those numbers have fallen to less than 500,000 barrels a day in December 2021, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

By contrast, China’s oil imports have swelled over the last three decades, in line with its expanding economy. Saudi Arabia was China’s top crude supplier in 2021, selling at 1.76 million barrels a day, followed by Russia at 1.6 million barrels a day, according to data from China’s General Administration of Customs.

Comment by Riaz Haq on March 19, 2022 at 4:32pm

How the West Can Win a Global Power Struggle
In an economic Cold War pitting China and Russia against the U.S. and its allies, one side holds most of the advantages. It just has to use them.


In the years preceding its invasion of Ukraine, Russia set out to sanction-proof its economy by developing local substitutes for key foreign products, such as microprocessors. The only problem: Since it lacks advanced semiconductor fabrication capacity, production of these Russian-designed chips was outsourced, mainly to Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. After the invasion of Ukraine, Taiwan joined the U.S. in banning the export of sensitive technology to Russia. TSMC immediately promised to comply.

Russia may be an energy superpower but Taiwan is a semiconductor superpower, and semiconductors are harder to replace than oil. Therein lies a critical insight about the emerging Cold War between Russia and China on one side and the West—the U.S. and its democratic allies—on the other. This Cold War will be much more of an economic contest than the first, and the balance of economic power favors the U.S. and its allies. And it’s not even close.

Chinese President Xi Jinping likes to boast, “The East is rising, the West is declining.” When the rivalry was limited to China and the U.S., this had some resonance: At current rates of growth, China will surpass the U.S. as the world’s largest economy as soon as 2030 despite U.S. gains in the last year.

But with China partnered with Russia and the West more united than ever, this is turning into a contest of alliances, and Xi couldn’t be more wrong. In this framing, “East” and “West” are not geographic, but geopolitical, labels. If “the East” is defined as those countries with which China is closely aligned (it eschews formal alliances), only China is any sense rising. Russia was a stagnating petrostate even before sanctions eviscerated its economy. The others, such as Kazakhstan, Belarus, Pakistan, North Korea, Cambodia and Laos, are poor, slow-growing, or both. The West, defined as the European Union, the anglosphere (the U.S., Australia, Canada, Britain and New Zealand) and East Asia’s three big, rich democracies, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, may not be growing rapidly, but it is growing and has a gigantic head start. As former U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson said a Chinese official once told him: “You have all the good allies.”

By itself, China accounted for 18% of global gross domestic product at current exchange rates last year, based on International Monetary Fund data. Adding Russia and their assorted allies brings the total to just 20%. The U.S., meanwhile, accounted for 24%, and adding its allies vaults the total to 59%.

While sanctions on Russia demonstrate the West’s control of the global financial system, long-run economic advantage will come from technology and knowledge. In pure science—such as space travel and atomic energy—Russia and China certainly hold their own. But in commercially useful technology, Western companies lead in almost every field, from commercial aviation and biotechnology to semiconductors and software.

“If you have a coherent strategy across the major democracies, you’re in an enormously robust position in terms of financial, economic and technological leverage,” said former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, now president of the Asia Society think tank.

Comment by Riaz Haq on March 19, 2022 at 4:32pm

How the West Can Win a Global Power Struggle
In an economic Cold War pitting China and Russia against the U.S. and its allies, one side holds most of the advantages. It just has to use them.


Of course the East plays a central role in the global economy. As recent market turmoil illustrates, Russia is a key supplier of not just oil and gas but metals such as palladium, used in catalytic converters, and nickel. China dominates manufacturing of countless goods whose value became abundantly clear during the pandemic, when demand for some, such as protective personal equipment, skyrocketed.

To a great extent these strengths reflect Russia’s comparative advantage in geology and China’s in factory labor. The West’s comparative advantage is in knowledge. That’s why Russia and China court Western investment. For example, to develop a complex liquefied natural gas (LNG) project in the Arctic, Russia relied on Norwegian, French and Italian contractors for essential expertise, research firm Rystad Energy notes.

Catching up with the West is no easy task, as semiconductors illustrate. Western companies dominate all the key steps in this critical and highly complex industry, from chip design (led by U.S.-based Nvidia, Intel, Qualcomm and AMD and Britain’s ARM) to the fabrication of advanced chips (led by Intel, Taiwan’s TSMC and South Korea’s Samsung ) and the sophisticated machines that etch chip designs onto wafers (produced by Applied Materials and Lam Research in the U.S., the Netherlands’ ASML Holding and Japan’s Tokyo Electron ).

Russia and China have made efforts to reduce this dependence. Russia developed locally designed microprocessors called Elbrus and Baikal to run data centers, cybersecurity operations and other applications. Though neither has achieved significant market share, they “represent the pinnacle of local design capability,” said Kostas Tigkos, principal at Jane’s, a defense intelligence provider. Russia hoped that they would eventually displace chips made by Intel and AMD, he said. “This would not only have been the foundation for diversifying their installed base, but a stepping stone for exports of those processors to other friendly nations.” But without manufacturers like TSMC to make the chips, Russia is facing “the complete disintegration of their aspirations to develop their own industry.”

China has a much bigger semiconductor industry than Russia, and its partly state-owned national champion, Semiconductor Manufacturing International Co. (SMIC), could in theory make Russia’s chips, but that would take at least a year, Mr. Tigkos said. Moreover, its efforts to catch up to its Taiwanese competitor have been set back by sanctions. In 2020 the U.S. required companies using American technology to obtain a license to sell to SMIC. This effectively limited its ability to acquire advanced equipment from Netherlands’ ASML, which is critical for “any country that wants to have a competitive semiconductor industry,” Mr. Tigkos said.

Why does all this matter to the outcome of the geopolitical contest? Over time economic weight, strength and vitality are what allow countries to sustain military capability, achieve and maintain technological superiority, and remain attractive partners for other countries.

Comment by Riaz Haq on March 19, 2022 at 4:33pm

How the West Can Win a Global Power Struggle
In an economic Cold War pitting China and Russia against the U.S. and its allies, one side holds most of the advantages. It just has to use them.


Yet GDP does not automatically equate to strategic influence. To win a Cold War, it’s not enough for the West to hold the best economic cards, it has to know how to play them. Economic statecraft, as this is called, does not come naturally to the West: Its institutions are built on the assumption that companies are private enterprises, not instruments of the state. They do business wherever it’s profitable, regardless of their home countries’ strategic interests.

No such division exists in Russia and China. Russian President Vladimir Putin used state control of key industries such as natural gas to reward or threaten neighbors. The Chinese Communist Party insists that state-owned and even private enterprises give priority to the state’s interests. In return, China tilts the playing field in those companies’ favor at home and abroad. Chinese state-sponsored hackers steal commercial secrets from Western companies, the U.S. has alleged. China is a master of economic coercion, punishing countries such as Australia or Lithuania or companies that cross its diplomatic red lines by depriving them of access to the Chinese market, knowing other countries and companies will eagerly take their place.

China has also learned how to play companies and countries in the West off against one another—favoring whoever promises to share more of its technology with Chinese partners, or avoids criticism of China.

Western governments, such as Germany, exaggerate China’s economic power and underappreciate their own, said Luke Patey, an expert on China’s international economic strategy at the Danish Institute for International Studies. “Germany has a full house when it comes to geoeconomics but plays like it has a pair of threes,” Mr. Patey said. The West frets that Chinese companies lead in fifth-generation telecommunications equipment—such as Huawei Technologies—and electric vehicle batteries. But, he said, “We sell short the fact that up there with Huawei are Ericsson, Nokia and Samsung,” based in Sweden, Finland and South Korea, respectively. Meanwhile Japan’s Panasonic and South Korea’s LG “are making the most sophisticated electric vehicle batteries in the world.”

For the West to play this game, it will have to more skillfully employ its ample economic assets toward geopolitical ends. The sanctions on Russia show that it can: The West showed a remarkable breadth and unity in its willingness to sustain significant economic discomfort in order to punish Russia. When the Trump administration imposed export controls on China, Taiwan did not join in but its companies were forced to comply because they use U.S. technology. This time Taiwan itself locked arms with the U.S. “Taiwan strongly condemns Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Our country joins the U.S., EU & other like-minded partners in sanctioning Russia,” its Ministry of Foreign Affairs tweeted.

Comment by Riaz Haq on March 19, 2022 at 4:33pm

How the West Can Win a Global Power Struggle
In an economic Cold War pitting China and Russia against the U.S. and its allies, one side holds most of the advantages. It just has to use them.


Still, in one sense this is an easy test. Will the West’s unity persist if Ukraine slips from the headlines and economic pain mounts? More important, could it muster the same effort with China, a critical market and supplier to many companies and countries in the West?

If China attacks Taiwan, which it considers a renegade province, ostracizing it from the global economy would be next to impossible. Nonetheless, Western governments have begun circumscribing business ties with China in response to its more aggressive behavior toward its neighbors and “Made in China 2025,” an economic blueprint for dominance in key technologies. Germany and Italy are applying more stringent criteria to foreign investment in their companies, wary of advanced technology being transferred to Chinese competitors. Japan is now debating an economic security law to safeguard supply chains and screen foreign investment and equipment used in sensitive infrastructure. Companies that had prioritized expansion on China are now boosting their Western presence. TSMC is building fabrication plants in Arizona and Japan while Intel has announced new or expanded facilities in Ohio, France, Germany and Italy.

Western cooperation in such efforts, though nascent, is growing. When the U.S. and European Union settled a long-running dispute over each others’ subsidies to Boeing and Airbus last year, they also agreed to develop a common approach toward “non-market economies,” i.e. Russia and China, on civil aircraft. For example, they agreed those countries cannot make investment in their aviation sectors contingent on “the transfer of technology or jobs to the detriment” of the U.S. and Europe.

Sustaining an economic edge also requires continuous reinvestment. At present, the West holds a comfortable lead. Based on purchasing power rather than current exchange rates, China and Russia spent $570 billion on research and development in 2019, the latest figures available; the U.S. and its largest democratic allies spent more than twice as much, $1.5 trillion, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

When it comes to human capital, the lead narrows slightly: Russia and China have 2.5 million researchers, the U.S. and its allies about 5.2 million. It’s in the future talent pool that the gap really starts to close. China alone awards more science and engineering undergraduate degrees than the U.S., Britain, France, Germany, Japan and South Korea combined. Students in China are more likely to pursue science and engineering than in other countries. This pool of talent is a formidable engine for domestic innovation and a magnet for foreign and domestic investment. The lack of a similar pool constrains American efforts to bring critical manufacturing back to the U.S. In a speech in Taiwan last year Morris Chang, the founder of TSMC, complained that American engineers “don’t want to work in the manufacturing industry…Taiwan’s superiority in this is that it has a large number of excellent and dedicated engineers willing to throw themselves into manufacturing.”

Comment by Riaz Haq on March 19, 2022 at 4:33pm

How the West Can Win a Global Power Struggle
In an economic Cold War pitting China and Russia against the U.S. and its allies, one side holds most of the advantages. It just has to use them.


The West makes up for the shortage of homegrown talent through immigration. A study by the Peking University Institute of International and Strategic Studies earlier this year lamented that 34% of China’s top artificial intelligence talents worked in China while 56% worked in the U.S., whose “relatively relaxed and innovative scientific research environment is…favored by scientific and technological talents.” Tech entrepreneurs are motivated by freedom and wealth, both of which are slipping out of reach in China and Russia.

Thus a key factor in whether the West can sustain its edge is whether it can remain a magnet for talent. Yet the West’s openness to trade and immigration and even its commitment to democracy have come under stress. In the last decade support in Europe and the U.S. has surged for right-wing populists opposed to immigration and free trade, skeptical of NATO, and admiring of Mr. Putin. These include Marine Le Pen, a contender for president in France’s elections this spring, and former U.S. President Donald Trump, who may seek the White House again in 2024. Democracy has backslid in Hungary, Poland and the U.S., according to the think tank Freedom House.

This points to the final and perhaps biggest challenge for Western nations. Having shown how effectively they can sever ties with Russia, can they be equally effective in strengthening ties with each other and unaligned players like India, Brazil and Vietnam—and thus be an attractive alternative to the autocratic East?

After World War II the U.S. used trade to strengthen other democracies and bind allies, and its reward was a democratic and prosperous West. Yet since the 2000s Americans have soured on this model, as expanded trade with the likes of China brought economic turmoil and little geopolitical benefit. Mr. Trump saw trade as a zero-sum game and hit allies and adversaries alike with tariffs. He pulled the U.S. out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership with 11 other Pacific rim countries, a pact covering not just tariffs but investment, intellectual property, data and the behavior of state-owned enterprises, intended as an alternative to China. Mr. Biden has resolved tariff disputes but pushed to expand “Buy American” regulations that penalize imports. He has offered no trade-agreement analog to his expanded military ties with allies in Europe and Asia, although he has promised a less ambitious “Indo-Pacific Economic Framework.”

Comment by Riaz Haq on March 19, 2022 at 4:34pm

How the West Can Win a Global Power Struggle
In an economic Cold War pitting China and Russia against the U.S. and its allies, one side holds most of the advantages. It just has to use them.


Meanwhile, China is fast cultivating its own economic sphere of influence, via foreign investment, its “Belt and Road” infrastructure initiative, and trade agreements, even applying to join the TPP, renamed the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership.

“China has studied very carefully the American postwar model of how their global and regional military domination was augmented by financial and economic domination,” said Mr. Rudd. China, he said, seeks to achieve its foreign policy aims by making countries throughout Asia, including American allies, dependent on its trade and investment, and eventually its currency. Mr. Rudd urged the U.S. to return to the TPP and revive a similar pact with Europe. The U.S. needs to recognize where its strategic advantage lies, “which is through free trade, open commerce and open capital flows.”

Comment by Riaz Haq on March 20, 2022 at 10:13am

Chip Sanctions Challenge Russia’s Tech Ambitions
Losing access to some top-end chips from Asia over the invasion of Ukraine undercuts efforts to develop advanced weaponry, AI, robotics


Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., the world’s biggest contract chip maker, said it is committed to complying with the new export-control rules. South Korea’s Samsung Electronics Co., a leading memory-chip maker and an electronics producer, said this month it has suspended shipment of all its products to Russia because of geopolitical developments and is monitoring the situation to determine its next steps.

Russia’s chip-building technology lags behind that of industry leader TSMC by more than 15 years, said Western semiconductor-industry executives who have studied the state of Russia’s industry. The country’s leading chip maker, Mikron Group, has said it is the only local company capable of mass producing semiconductors with 65-nanometer circuitries—a technology introduced to the industry for mass production around 2006. Mikron didn’t respond to a request for comment.


An international tech blockade threatens to deprive Russia of sophisticated semiconductors needed to power advanced weaponry and cutting-edge technologies like 5G, artificial intelligence and robotics, experts say.

In late February, the U.S. imposed a ban on selling high-tech products including semiconductors and telecommunications systems used by the defense, aerospace and maritime industries to Russia and its ally Belarus, days after Russia invaded Ukraine. The ban also extended to certain foreign items produced with U.S. equipment, software or blueprints.

South Korea and Taiwan, which dominate in high-end chips, and Japan, strong in chip-making materials and tools, have also banned exports of the items that the U.S. has put on its export-control list. Their moves cut off Russia’s access to many top-end chips, and materials and components needed to re-create production of such items locally.

For Russia, the impact from the coordinated sanctions will be significant, said Tom Rafferty, Asia regional director at the Economist Intelligence Unit. “The big export bans are going to be on semiconductors and high-end semiconductors in particular, for which Korea and Taiwan almost monopolize production. So there won’t be supply of that anywhere that Russia can lean on.”

While the sanctions would appear to limit Russia’s access to chip supplies, the actual impact couldn’t fully be determined. Russia’s Ministry of Industry and Trade, and the Ministry of Economic Development didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Russia continues to largely rely on foreign technology to design chips and has limited chip-production capabilities of its own. In 2020, Russia imported roughly $440 million worth of semiconductor devices, including components like diodes and transistors, and around $1.25 billion worth of electronic integrated circuits, or “chips,” built by incorporating various components, according to the United Nations Comtrade database.

While the majority of these imports come from Asian countries that aren’t imposing sanctions, Russia would still be left in the dark on high-end chips or homegrown chips. Taiwan produces most of the world’s cutting-edge semiconductors, with the rest produced in South Korea, data from Washington, D.C.-based trade group Semiconductor Industry Association showed. South Korea also dominates in memory chips, while Japan is a stronghold of semiconductor materials and manufacturing tools, both crucial for chip building.


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