US officials have quietly warned Russia that a swath of high and low-end technology and resources may be withheld, even if manufactured by foreign entities.

The warning comes amid the raft of sanctions imposed on Russia from the US, the UK, Japan and European nations, after Moscow on Monday recognised the separatist Ukrainian regions of Donetsk and Luhansk as independent states, and then sent in Russian combat troops as “peacekeepers”.

Global sanctions against Russia so far focus on targetting Russian financial institutions including banks and wealthy oligarchs. But the US is warning that a whole swath of tech restrictions are being held in readiness.

Wider sanctions

The limited sanctions imposed so far could therefore be considered a shrewd move, as it keeps in reserve far more punishing and wide ranging sanctions the West could employ, if Russian President Vladimir Putin decides to escalate matters and expand his Ukraine invasion.

The measures are part of a suite of export control penalties that the United States has prepared to damage Russia’s economy, targeting everything from lasers to telecoms equipment and maritime items.

This makes what deputy US Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo said on Wednesday, even more significant.

He said the United States is prepared to respond to further Russian aggression by withholding technology and resources, Reuters reported.

“President Putin clearly has the ability to do much more than he has done so far,” Adeyemo was quoted as saying in an interview with CNBC.

In response, the Biden administration could deprive Russia of a vast swath of low- and high-tech US and foreign-made goods.

Tech sanctions

This could include commercial electronics and computers, to semiconductors and even aircraft parts, people familiar with the matter told Reuters.

“The key thing that President Putin needs to consider is whether he wants to ensure that Russia’s economy is able to grow, that he has the resources he needs to be able to project power in the future,” said Adeyemo.

“If he chooses to invade, what we’re telling him very directly, is that we’re going to cut that off,” said Adeyemo. “We’re going to cut him off from Western technology that’s critical to advancing his military, cut him off from Western financial resources that will be critical for feeding his economy and also to enriching himself.”

This is no idle threat, as Putin will have witnessed the reach of the United States when it chose to deny Chinese firms such as Huawei and ZTE access to American technology, even if it came indirectly from non-US firms.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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