The FBI and the U.S. Commerce Department launched a joint investigation into how U.S. chips made their way into Russian weapons systems in potential violation of laws banning certain electronics sales to Russia, The Washington Post reported Wednesday.
A team from independent investigative group Conflict Armed Research (CAR) identified electronic equipment, including chip processors, in military radios, airborne defense systems and cruise missile debris that traced back to Western companies in May, according to a CAR report. The FBI and the Commerce Department also initiated joint visits to U.S.-based manufacturers to determine how Russia was able to obtain U.S. components after Commerce levied stricter controls on exports to Russia in 2014, The Washington Post reported, citing people familiar with the matter.
“Our goal is to actually try to track that back, all the way back to the U.S. supplier,” a Commerce Department official told the Post on condition of anonymity.
The official clarified that, at this point, the FBI has not accused any business of wrongdoing.
“Just because a chip, a company’s chip, is found in a weapon system doesn’t mean we’ve opened up an investigation on that company. What we’ve done, though, is we’ve opened up an investigation on how that company’s chip got into that system,” said the official.
Many of the components identified were produced after 2014, when Russia annexed the Crimea and the U.S. tightened restrictions on electronics exports Russia, according to CAR. Some have 2020 production dates, while others had their identification marks deliberately obscured, Damien Spleeters, a CAR investigator, told the Post.
“It’s significant for me because it shows that even after Russia took Crimea and the first package of sanctions were taken against them, they still managed to acquire critical technology, critical components for important pieces of equipment that they are now using against Ukraine,” said Spleeters.
CAR began tracing the components as of June 10, according to an update on the group’s original report. It was not clear from the Post’s reporting at what point the FBI and Commerce initiated their joint investigation.
“The evidence gathered so far demonstrates that the Russian Federation has relied on a steady, unabated supply of parts from European and American companies in its recent manufacture of advanced weapons and equipment that it subsequently used against Ukraine. CAR continues to investigate these components’ exact chains of custody to the Russian defence industry,” CAR said in a statement.
Global semiconductor production has fallen short of U.S. demand since early 2020. U.S. companies and politicians have advocated for more domestic chip production to increase U.S. competitiveness against global adversaries, including China.
The FBI declined to comment on the matter. The Commerce Department and CAR did not immediately respond to The Daily Caller News Foundation’s requests for comment.
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