The Era of Sanctions Warfare

By increasing awareness, strengthening export control of microelectronics, the West can secure its technological edge and deter the Russian and Chinese military capacities

How the West can deter the Russian and Chinese military through their reliance on Western microelectronics

Long gone feels “glasnost”, “perestroika” and “winds of change”. Let’s hope it will come back, but in the meantime, we have obligations to adhere to because the race for technology is on. If the West is to retain its technological edge, we must secure and export critical technology and knowledge in a responsible manner and avoid it ending up in countries we worry about for security interest.

Cathrine Lagerberg, fagprofil i UTSYN, MSc og Senior Manager, Intelligence Services & Cyber Risk i Deloitte AS

Since before the Cold War, the Soviet Union has relied on advanced Western technologies for its weapons and military programs. Similarly, while “Made in China” has been a blessing for industrial mass production and international trade, China has also lagged behind in certain areas critical for their military programs due to quality inconsistencies and lack of knowhow. Chinese manufacturers are ahead the West in some technologies, but still face criticism for product quality, intellectual property theft, espionage, and unauthorized copying of technologies. Russia has been working on improving their domestic capabilities for decades, but has failed due to historical weaknesses within governance, innovation, and industry. Although both Russia and China have made significant advancements in technology, inadequate current domestic series-production has forced both countries to rely on Western components for several years to come.

As geopolitical tensions have spiked after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, we see an increasingly fractured world with disturbing disputes over sharing and access to energy resources, technology, and raw materials. Sanctioned countries are closing in on weapons trade and negotiations, some African countries are kicking out the West and opening their arms to Chinese infrastructure development or Russian military forces, and even North Korea has entered the theater as Russia is getting more and more desperate for weapons.

De- or anti-globalization and increased use of sanctions have led to a race for technological supremacy. Those who master technology, will also master weapon or military development. These matters are nation-state priorities on highly strategic level. Access to friendly or unfriendly nations’ knowledge and technology is crucial for development of military and defense platforms, for both naval, army, and air force. Militaries worldwide are competing and racing against each other about the most advanced technology. Adversaries are studying, spying, and gathering intelligence about other nations weapons, equipment, and tactics to enhance their own military capabilities and prepare for future military operations.

This trend away from technology and knowledge sharing, is hindering our cooperative efforts in vital areas such as health and wealth development in poor countries, green transformation to face climate crisis, pandemics, and other potential and unforeseen global events. Nevertheless, besides sustainability, national security is now likely the most dominant challenge companies and countries must tackle. And it starts with our companies. Awareness must be built, and export control tightened. Only then can proactive managers take the appropriate measures necessary to save critical values not only for the business interest, but also for the security interests.

Russia depends on microelectronics for their weapons production and military programs which they must obtain illegally through transit countries. China is also restricted from buying the best semiconductors due to a risk of it being used military against the United States and the West. Companies are our first line of defense and must be supported and encouraged to restrain exports of microelectronics, and dual-use products built on this, to a much broader list of potential transit countries. Further, by lowering the list of items that must be export controlled to include more low-tech and commercial items, the West can further empower the use of sanctions and deter these countries military development.

The Race for Technological Supremacy

No country in the world is self-sufficient when it comes to technology. Sanctions, restrictive measures, and limited access to high-end technology is nothing new between alliances and rivals. North Korea, likely the most isolated country in the world, still manage to circumvent sanctions and illegally import Western commodities for production of critical systems. Russia, which has been under export control for decades and now massively sanctioned due to both invasions of Ukraine, evades control measures and get hold of Western technology by using both sanctioned and non-sanctioned countries that are pro-Russian, such as Iran, China, Turkey, “stan-countries”1 and even NATO-friendly countries. Iran has supplied hundreds of one-way attack drones to Russia according to the White House2. These drones are made up of Western components that have found their way to Iran through circumvention of the sanctions or illegal and evasive methods. Even China is now limited from getting some of the best semiconductor products due to increased tension with the United States and the West, causing both sides to invest in emerging and disruptive technologies in search of competitive military advantage.

The Future is Autonomous

There is little doubt that modern and future warfare will be increasingly robotized. Technology has changed the battlefield and there is an ongoing superpower contest to develop weapons and systems that can operate crewless, remotely, and autonomously. Whether it is aerial drones, unmanned surface vessels (USVs), autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs), or remotely operated underwater vehicles (ROVs) or underwater drones. UAVs could be launched from USVs or AUVs, or AUVs are launched from submarines or larger unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs). Although several of these concepts are not fully ready or tested, those who will master these type of delivery systems will have great advantages in future military warfare. Compared to strategic conventional assets like submarines, frigates, helicopters, fighter jets etc., such systems are less expensive, put less people directly in the line of fire and can be modified or updated significantly faster with different sensors or payloads depending on purpose or target. They could be used for both reconnaissance, intelligence collection, defensive or kinetic offensive purposes. The systems are cheap in comparison to other military delivery systems and weapons, and often more readily available in large numbers as they are increasingly built on commercially available technology. As a result, the importance of innovation, adaption and commingling of civilian and military technology and cooperation have increased.

Ukraine has developed and used USVs loaded with explosives towards Russian strategic naval assets with significant success. In addition to these uncrewed kamikaze vehicles, Ukraine, as well as other countries, is developing and testing unmanned underwater vehicles3 designed to map or attack strategic naval assets and enemy targets, that are also adaptable to transport cargo either for military or civilian purposes. The advantage of USV delivery systems compared to conventional missiles or aerial weapons is the amount of explosive payloads they can carry compared to a vehicle flown through the air, and how they can strike. Swarms of USVs approaching with high speed from several angles can be difficult to detect, track, and target effectively. Current AUV/UUVs have more limited payloads and ranges, however their covertness travelling under water might substitute for lack of this.

In war, quantity, production, and technology are bound together, as ability to innovate and adapt, manufacture, resupply and maintain endurance have conventionally and historically been recipes for success. Russia had an enormous amount of weapons when it invaded Ukraine, but on the battlefield, they have demonstrated that they have invested in quantity over quality, as evidenced by scarce navigation control, poor maintenance, and old equipment. By increasing weapon navigation, targets are more easily hit, number of weapons and cost can be reduced, civilian casualties kept to a minimum, and logistics and after supplies minimized.

The degree of autonomy and precision in autonomous systems and navigation depends on the quality of the inertial navigation systems (INS) and the microelectronic and processing components constituting the INS. Whether it is submarines, drones, or aircrafts, the more advanced the microelectronics and INS, the more reliable, accurate and secure the operation of these vehicles become. If such a system must integrate lower grade components, it will have consequences for navigation accuracy and safety. For crewed systems like airplanes or submarines this can have severe or fatal outcomes. For weapons and delivery systems, lower grade or second-best sensors will deteriorate target precision and lead to greater likelihood of civilian casualties.

With modern electronics, navigation systems and satellite communications, autonomous or semi-autonomous platforms can navigate over long distances and find targets with much higher precision. Technology will continue to enhance robotics and combat for decades to come, whether it is AI or quantum computers. The future of technology will have numerous fantastic civilian applications that will benefit many sectors and have endless applications. At the same time, these emerging technologies can be applied in highly destructive ways. Therefore, it is essential to secure these technologies for security interests and future forces’ advantages, as there are countries looking to exploit these opportunities fast and uncritically.

Western countries, including Norway, Denmark, France, Germany, the UK, and the US are world leading within maritime, underwater, acoustic, navigation, communication, sensor, and autonomous technology. It naturally follows that these nations are highly capable withing some areas of emerging technologies. These technologies are not only critical for NATO and Allies’ defense systems, but also technologies which China and Russia and other sanctioned countries rely on for their weapon systems, autonomous vehicles (underwater, sea, land, air), surface vessels, submarines, aviation, or other military capacities needing precision navigation systems. The threats against leading Western companies are increasing. Not only for manufacturers of critical technology, but also for research environments and businesses that have information, know-how, and knowledge with military transfer value. This entails increased responsibility for such companies and organizations as they must be proactive to secure values that are not only critical for the company, but also critical for security and defense interests.

Deterrence of Military Development: It All Comes Down to Microelectronics

All modern sensors, systems, platforms, and production are based on advanced microelectronics found in semi-conductors and microchips, ranging from cheap off-the-shelf versions to advanced components produced in only a few countries and regulated by export controls. Consequently, as all weapon systems and modern militaries rely on microelectronics for either manufacturing, navigation, precision or safe operations, limited access to these will have severe consequences in the long term. Sanctions and export restrictions therefore force nations to get the best technology from rivals through different means. So, why are microelectronics so difficult?

Microelectronics are manufactured on highly advanced fabrication sites and the production process is very complex. The most advanced microchips are patented by the United States and produced in Taiwan. In October 2022, the United States restricted export of the most advanced microchips and manufacturing equipment to China, concerned by China’s potential military use of US technology. The US export restrictions also limited the sale of semiconductor equipment to China produced by foreign companies built on US technology. One of the key technologies that China needs is Dutch extreme ultraviolet lithography (EUV) machines. China likely has the know-how to manufacture the best microelectronics, however they are unable to build it due to the complicated production process and restricted access to the most advanced chip equipment.

As for the Russians, Soviet dependence on Western technology for military research and development date back for decades, and the Soviet Union was denied access to the best US/Taiwan microelectronics already after the Second World War. Due to export restrictions, the Soviet Union started lagging behind the West already in the 1970s in advanced electronics, processing technology and precision manufacturing techniques. This was to a large degree a result of the decoupling from international trade with the establishment of Coordinating Committee for Multilateral Export Controls (COCOM) in 1947 since COCOM’s main task was to deny the Soviet Union and its allies’ items that could enhance their military capabilities. Therefore, while Western countries befitted from the global markets, collaboration and technological exchange with international partners, the technological isolation made it difficult for the Soviet Union to compete with the West. Instead of compensating for the isolation by developing certain critical technologies like microelectronics themselves, the Soviet Union obtained this from the West through illegal procurement channels4 and sophisticated spying and intelligence operations, rather than spending resources on development and domestic production.

The Soviet Union and her successor have made several attempts to tighten these technological gaps through various import substitution programs in the last decades, yet none has been very successful. Fear based culture and industrial inefficiencies affected innovation in the Soviet Union. More recently, Russia has managed to produce indigenous technology and sensors for their military capabilities, although rarely on parity with Western analogs when it comes to size, weigh, series production and consistency.

Even with limited access to the international market, international awareness programs, export controls and control regimes, Western components always finds their way through various channels and backdoors past these control mechanisms, be it to Soviet programs since the 1950, to current North Korean missile programs, or to Iranian produced drones used by Russia against Ukraine.

Why Arctic Must Not be Forgotten

As we watch the Russian Army struggle with weapons production, with precision targeting and significant destruction of equipment, we must not forget that their Navy and naval assets are likely more or less intact. These include submarines, surface vessels and other underwater capacities. As per December 2023, there are several naval surface assets and one submarine known to have been destroyed or made inoperable by Ukrainian forces, but this is currently only in the Black Sea.

The Northern Sea Route, the Arctic and Svalbard are highly prioritized for Russian long term strategic goals. The Svalbard archipelago is strategically important not only due to its location, but also for its “economic, scientific, political, and security implications” for countries in North, the US, and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) alliance5. Russia’s military activity in the Arctic is “necessary for reliable control over the region and protection of interests there. […] and part of the economic strategy6”. Russia is developing high speed nuclear-powered, deterrent, and potentially fatal underwater capabilities, such as the underwater nuclear weapon “Poseidon”. In addition, Russia has for decades developed their secretive deep-water GUGI (Russia’s Main Directorate of Deep-Sea Research) capabilities, consisting of manned and unmanned underwater assets for underwater sabotage operations like the destruction of underwater infrastructure, such as the cutting of transatlantic cables and possibly also for other underwater systems related to energy or power.

All these systems rely on precise acoustic navigation, mapping, positioning, and communication technology, which in turn relies on high quality inertial navigation systems and microelectronics. Despite having a strong legacy within underwater technology and research and submarine design, most of the Russian naval fleet including submarines, academic and hydrographic research vessels, deep-sea submersibles, and autonomous systems and weapons, have all been constructed with and are dependent on Western microelectronics, sensors, and components to some degree. It is not likely that Russia and China are on parity with leading Western manufacturers within these types of technologies.

The result of this technology lag is that Russia is unlikely to get sufficient items of the best quality versions needed for their more strategic assets. Whereas navigation and communication with drones and uncrewed assets is relatively easy on and near land such as in Ukraine, this is not the same in the North and the Arctic. Here, navigation is much more challenging due to the latitude and vast areas of open ocean. Naval delivery systems rely on precision navigation systems to reach their targets, the same yields other surface vessels and or underwater vehicles that need reliable underwater maps or position updates. Due to the difference in quality, as well as compatibility, hardcoding licenses etc., the vast majority of these systems cannot be replaced by Chinese components. Well-developed export control for dual-use and military technology was implemented long before the 2022 invasion of Ukraine, but businesses need further guidance and support to continue successful export control as the complexity of sanctions increases.

One area where underwater capabilities come to fruition is in operations in international waters. Such operations may initially appear to be accidents that may lead to attribution, and make warfare appear like a game between nation-states. The use of these tools by bad faith actors and adversarial nations must not underestimated. If the Nordic pipelines supplying gas to Europe were to suffer similar damage as Nord Stream, the result would be devastating, especially for the UK and Germany. Due to its coverage, the inaccessible nature of underwater infrastructure means that it can never be fully monitored and secured. But by enforcing stricter export control routines, the risk of critical components circumventing sanctions can be limited, and thereby hinder sanctioned states from developing naval equipment and completing their naval platforms, as well mapping and gathering intelligence of critical infrastructure or underwater topography for military planning. Such components include most acoustic technology like sonars and echo sounders, oceanographic sensors, underwater positioning- and communication systems, ROVs, AUVs, INS and microelectromechanical systems (MEMS).

If the West can continually develop, expand, and tighten the sanctions regime, thereby catching potential loopholes in the regulations, the effects of the sanctions can be significantly strengthened. In so doing, the sanctions can be highly effective against the readiness and development of the Russian Navy. The effect of sanctions is on display on the battlefields of Ukraine. The Russian Army is struggling with weapons precision, likely in part due to lack of access to guidance systems. Russian airlines are struggling with operations and safety as sanctions have limited access to critical and urgently needed equipment. With an effective sanction’s regime, the Northern Fleet and Russian Navy will sustain setbacks, modification and repair issues, and significant safety and navigation issues. The same also applies for the other Russian Navy’s fleets, the Baltic, Black Sea, the Pacific and the Caspian Flotilla fleet.

On September 15th 2023, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu proclaimed that the Russian Navy would receive 12 vessels by the end of 2023. Shoigu also bragged about the Ministry’s ongoing programs for robotic systems, unmanned underwater vehicles, and multipurpose nuclear submarines. According to the Russian sources, Shoigu has also ordered the use “maximum production capacities to complete the repairs and modernization of submarines”. The only way for Russia to maintain and operate her naval assets at maximum capability, is by procuring Western technology, either covertly or illegally. Obtaining these technologies amidst heavy sanctions is highly resource intensive, and therefore the requirements can never be fully met. Delivery and replenishment of critical items will be too slow, too late, too little, and too few. Even if Russia manages to procure and circumvent sanctions, the likelihood that all the components are of high enough quality is low. It is even less likely that the components are successfully assembled and integrated into vital systems, erring in such procedures can have fatal results.

Russia is not alone in pursuing scientific and strategic interests in Arctic involving access to potential resources, shipping opportunities, and scientific research. China also has stated interests which they are aggressively pursuing in the region. The magnitude and scope of Chinese-Russian cooperation is not truly known, but it is very likely that both countries are mutually sharing information and technology benefiting the other nation’s military programs through intelligence gathering, underwater mapping, satellite, and picture intelligence, or through transfer of dual-use equipment or knowledge. Given the current geopolitical climate, private companies are therefore forced to evaluate exports, acquisitions, and research risk with the Chinese-Russian comradeship in mind. As long as China is not sanctioned by EU, they can more freely procure the technology they need. But as long as China needs certain goods and technologies themselves, it is likely that they will not prioritize circumvention of export control regulations. But if they manage to procure and access more of certain goods than their own domestic needs dictate, it is highly likely that they will circumvent sanctions on behalf of Russia. Because despite the West being aware that China is delivering dual-use goods from their countries to Russia, the consequences are not yet too severe. Western trade deals and interests often survive security politics towards China. Still.

The Sanctions are Working – Ever Complicating Export Control

Despite the significant improvement of national and multi-lateral export control organs, adversaries will always find a way to procure equipment covertly or illegally. Evasion methods include license falsification and false end-user documentation, wrong customs declarations, dummy firms, shell companies and transit countries, use of foreign agents, freight companies and brokers, and undesirable knowledge transfer through bi- and multilateral research and science exchange programs. The list goes on.

Russia’s missile and shell production was recently reported by The New York Times 7to exceed pre-war levels, while NATO is struggling with their own ammunition stock and production. “In cases where Russia needs millions of a component, export controls can grind production to a halt. But the chips needed to make a couple of hundred cruise missiles would fit into a few backpacks, which makes evading sanctions relatively simple”, Mr. Alperovitch said in the same article. This is only possible by routing trade through transit countries and then to Russia.

There are quite a few countries and entities who willingly act as transit countries or middlemen for Russia. When Russian government needs critical items, the easiest way by far is through third countries as export control is often weaker than non-sanctioned or NATO-friendly countries. As a lot of the goods are not dual-use listed/ITAR regulated 8and are often considered “just commercial shelf goods and not that risky” to sell, they become easier to transport through these countries. Sanctioned countries falsify end-user statements to procure technology for military end-users, which makes export control extremely challenging. The likelihood of getting caught has been low and equally the risk of severe consequences. But there are increasing examples of entities being arrested and charged for illicit procurement to Russia and other sanctioned countries.

There are ample examples that demonstrate willingness and ability to circumvent sanctions. One of these is that of the two Singaporeans who faced sentencing and fines for having falsified an end-user statement 9in 2018 to procure a dual-use sonar system from Norway for the sanctioned Myanmar Navy. In an example from August 2023, the US Commerce Department arrested and charged a Russian-German national for export control violations, by taking part in an illicit Russian procurement network procuring US made microelectronics10 by sending them via Cyprus, Latvia or Tajikistan11.

China is not subject to sanctions as Russia, although there are unilateral sanctions from e.g. US on certain items, and can therefore more legitimately import dual-use goods and critical items. However, the attitude towards China is changing as their partnership with Russia, spanning trade, military and possibly also intelligence sharing, is growing. The West is therefore slowly reviewing export policies and the way they perceive China as a business partner and strategic partner. While China has made significant progress in developing her own sensors, autonomy systems, and other emerging technologies, there are still areas where they will rely on Western suppliers for the foreseeable future. Especially as pertains to microelectronics, where they just like Russia, also need high precision underwater, autonomy, navigation, and communication technology. China can play the long game and use other methods to achieve their goals. These may include foreign investments, company acquisitions, knowledge acquisition through research programs or bilateral exchange programs. China will approach research communities developing relevant technologies and any other field that might be transferable for Chinese military research and technology.

Companies Unaware of Their Dual-use Values

Dual-use items are restricted through multilateral export control regimes such as the Wassenaar Arrangement, Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) or International Trade and Arms Regulations (ITAR). However, some more low-tech consumer or industrial products could fall outside specifications and still be critical items and wanted for military use. These are often referred to as non-ITAR, No License Required (NRL), EAR9912, not classified or non-listed. These items might not have any export control classification number and are treated as not subject to export control. Many companies lack export compliance competency and will too quickly assess low tech items as non dual-use or not classified. It is also likely that many companies fail to look for export restrictions as this can be complicated and tedious.

Low-tech and non-listed items could be subject to export control if items are exported to: a) heavily sanctioned destinations, b) there is reason to believe an item is intended for certain sensitive end-uses like weapons or military programs, or c) there is a high risk that the item could be re-sold via a transit country to a sanctioned end-country.

There’s no list or definition that determines if an item requires export license if it is originally not listed or classified as dual-use. It is an analytical process that requires training and interpretation of the regulations, and knowledge about its real world uses. Such technology could be due to its specific performance characteristics, qualities, or designed-end use. Microelectronics and semiconductors are great examples of this. These technologies are often off-the-shelf and far off classifications and specifications. However, this is technology that Russia does not domestically produce at satisfactory quality and needs for weapon production and industrial operations. These items should therefore be treated under export control despite being low grade and not “dangerous” as they have military applications. Therefore, a multi-disciplinary effort consisting of different subject matter experts is usually required within compliance and export control teams.

Regardless of classification, any product that can be used in military applications should therefore be considered dual-use no matter the specifications, and treated similar to export of classified and listed items. Export control is complex and requires ongoing vigilance, intelligence sharing, and coordination among companies and countries to effectively counter these illicit activities.

There are several companies that produce components, that are critical for nation state military programs, be they non-ITAR or off-the-shelf. However, there is a wide disparity between organizations in regard to how informed they are about applicability of their products. Businesses cannot wait to get incorporated under laws governing security or even for security clearance to receive classified information to get adequate decision support. Only a very few organizations can actually interpret and assess the relevance of the annual threat and risk assessments published by their national security and intelligence services.

The threat landscape is more complex than ever. Due to increased digitalization and travel restrictions because of sanctions, it is likely that intelligence increasingly will be collected remotely through cyber, open sources, scraped internet data and other big data compilations. Procurements and investment will be done through non-sanctioned third parties, transit countries, complicated supply chains and hidden ownerships. The result of this complexity is that it is not sufficient for companies to limit themselves to the bare minimum of due diligence in countering unwanted knowledge transfer, unintended violations of sanctions, or safeguarding their own companies against insider threats. Only organizations that stay updated on geopolitics, open-source investigations, and evolving sanctions, will be able to build a dynamic compliance environment that is resilient and prepared for the constantly changing threat landscape. Businesses must receive threat assessments that are current and company specific. Otherwise, businesses will not fully comprehend how their research and knowledge, services or technology can have dual-use value. This leaves companies vulnerable to make poor assessments and business strategies, and potentially undermining national security policy. The screening of end-users is complex procedure that requires updated awareness about adversaries, modus operandi, technology gaps, and geopolitics. The absolute authority for dual-use and export control is the national government. However, responsible agencies suffer from a lack of personnel and an overwhelming workload, therefore businesses must understand that the responsibility also rests on them. Most companies, at least small and medium sized businesses, are unlikely to have the resources to build this competence inhouse. When that is the case, companies must leverage non-governmental and private expertise from people with a defense and intelligence background, civil-military cooperation can be bridged, and awareness, understanding and results obtained faster.

Lack of companies taking responsibility, management deprioritizing security investments and a culture of acting reactively and not proactively are main causes for why items slip through export control and sanctions screening. Profit does very often dominate compliance considerations when the consequences are not entirely understood, or because the penalties are so low it is worth the risk. Currently it does not have huge consequences for a company to turn its blind eye to when exporting to end-users in third countries, brokers or middlemen procuring on behalf of Russian end-users. Because mostly they are following written laws, regulations and procedures. However, sanction non-compliance can be punishable even if the responsible screening party thought they were acting according to regulations. They can be found guilty if a court concludes that it was not reasonable or that the screening and end-user verification were not adequately conducted. This is exactly what is sought targeted in the last European Union’s sanction packages – to prevent circumventions via third countries and make it punishable to assist in such procurements.

Companies are our First and Last Line of Defense

We must not underestimate the power of sanctions. But, as US Assistant Attorney General for National Security Matthew G. Olsen, said in March 2023, when talking about the collective effort to enforce export sanctions and export control laws:

“Companies are our first line of defense”

We need to start with the companies, they must understand their responsibilities, their values and how to navigate the threats and fall pits out there. Enforcing stricter sanctions and export control can never eliminate all risk of diversion. Yet if we manage to build knowledge, increase awareness, and support organizations with dual-use values that other state-nations seek for their military programs, this can accelerate the power of the sanctions and enhance our own defense and military capabilities instead. Whether it is information, knowledge and cutting-edge science and R&D, maps and information about critical infrastructure, as well as technology production and manufacturing know-how.

The geopolitical situation mirrors a pressing need for even more enhanced cooperation among allied nations. New public-private and civilian-military partnerships must be made to advance and secure domestic and allies dual-use industry. Fortunately, like NATO’s Defence Innovation Accelerator for the North Atlantic (DIANA), NATO Innovation Fund (NIF) and several other private initiatives, there is a positive surge of innovation programs around the world with purpose to accelerate, support and fund development and adaption of dual-use technologies and commercial technology that can have military or defensive purposes.

If the West is to retain its technological edge on critical technologies and R&D, we must secure it or risk it falling into the hands of countries of concern. We need to support and secure businesses that develop important design and production know-how instead of just regulating the final products. Risk-reducing measures, knowledge of export control, safety culture and threat understanding must be implemented at the source of production, and not just at the national borders in customs.

The role of technology is shaping geopolitics, and never before have business security, trade and strategies, been more intertwined with defense and security interests. And vice versa. Never have defense and security programs been more dependent on private companies taking responsibility and understanding how crucial securing critical technology and knowledge is. Whether it is reputation or security interests that are the biggest risk, it should not pay to put financial interests first.

Autocratic regimes are not sleeping – we must react. They are studying the West’s cutting edge R&D and technologies, and planning how to use this for future advantages and conflict. As rapid technology development usually benefits autocracies who more rapidly take advantage of new technologies for their militaries, democracies spearheaded by US and NATO need to respond urgently to secure critical knowledge and technology for allies and friendly countries.

By combining awareness, continuously enhance export control and not treat compliance as routine, be proactive and stay updated on advisory and recommendations, businesses will be better equipped to make the right decisions. Through understanding of how potential risks and consequences of negligence can affect more than business crown jewels, organizations are likely to prioritize and take proactive measures to safeguard values critical for both companies, and national and allied security interests.

When companies developing critical technology that adversaries need and rely on, understands the real power of export control and strict enforcement of sanctions regimes, their countries, with their national and allied forces, have tremendous power.

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