Evidence of UK tech ‘smuggled’ through India and China ending up in Putin’s bombs – RUSI

Putin wants to 'destroy Ukraine' says Ukraine's top prosecutor

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The report, titled Operation Z: The Death Throes of an Imperial Delusion, details how companies in India and China have become intermediaries allowing the Kremlin to buy UK-manufactured electronic chips and switchboards, a vital component of Russian cruise missiles. The technology is entering Russia via a legal loophole that allows “material to be brought into Russia without the permission of the owner of the relevant intellectual property”.

Speaking from his official tour of India this week, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson insisted his Government would work to close these loopholes. 

He said: “We want to ensure we keep that tight. We’ll be making sure that we don’t allow any loopholes of any kind.

“We will take steps to make sure that stuff doesn’t go through other routes to Russia.”

The RUSI report contains a detailed study of Russia’s reliance on western electronics to make 9M727 cruise missiles, Kh-101 cruise missiles, 9M949 guided 300-mm rockets, TOR-M2 air-defence systems and Aqueduct radios.

Alongside the UK, technology from the US, Germany, the Netherlands, Japan and Israel is implicated in the report. 

“Almost all of Russia’s modern military hardware is dependent upon complex economics” imported from Western nations, the report found. 

They found that much of the technology is legitimately exported to countries such as India for use in other goods, but is then sold on to Russia where it is used for military purposes.

The report states that, while companies might not have been aware that the Russian military was the “end-user”, the fact remains that “Russia has established mechanisms for laundering these items through third countries”.

The report’s authors, defence experts Dr Jack Watling and Nick Reynolds, wrote: “Western countries must conduct a thorough assessment of where their companies are knowingly or inadvertently supplying Russia and cut off these channels.”

However, it adds that, should the West simply cut off supply and thereby also reduce the access to these technologies for legitimate purposes, it 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”.

The report also serves to analyse Russian failures during the initial phase of the bloody war in Ukraine. 

It concludes that logistical supply issues, limited intelligence and poor use of artillery fire were among the reasons why Putin was forced to abandon his assault on Kyiv.

It states, however, that the appointment of a new commander of the invading forces, General Aleksandr Dvornikov, could mark a dangerous turning point in the Russian operation. 

The authors wrote: “Russia may seize Donbas, but Ukraine cannot accept a ceasefire on these terms, as this would enable a consolidation of Russian gains that would offer Russia the opportunity to annex Ukraine piece by piece.”

The report warns that Putin is preparing the Russian public for “a longer struggle”.

Mr Johnson appeared to corroborate this sentiment on Friday, when he said he agreed with an assessment by Western intelligence officials that the conflict could last late into 2023. 

He also said he believed it was a “sad” but “realistic” possibility that Putin could still “win” the war in Ukraine. 

The RUSI report highlights May 9 – a national holiday in Russia commemorating the defeat of Nazi Germany in World War Two known as Victory Day – as the next vital date to watch. 

Putin wanted to have conquered significant swathes of Ukraine by then, but given his embarrassment over the failed efforts, the RUSI report authors think this could see the Kremlin using Victory Day to mobilise and recruit thousands more Russians into the army.

The report states: “It appears likely that the Russian government will use 9 May as the day on which the ‘special military operation’ is officially framed as a ‘war’.”

The report concludes, however, that the end of Putinism is “plausible”. 

It states: “Failure to defeat the Ukrainian state after relentlessly comparing it to the Nazi regime may have serious consequences for Putin and those around him. 

“To frame a conflict as existential and to lose must necessarily call the suitability of a leader into question among Russia’s political elites.”

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