Trade between the EU and Russia’s neighbors Kazakhstan and Armenia is booming. The coveted goods: washing machines, refrigerators and electric breast pumps. But EU officials fear the devices are being used in Russia to install the chips in military missiles.
The recent electronic appliance trade between the EU and Russia’s neighboring countries is surprisingly booming – and is causing concern in the West. Russia is succeeding in circumventing western sanctions via its neighboring countries. Even more fatal: some EU politicians and policy advisors fear that Russia will dismantle the electronic devices in order to use the semiconductors for the war machine. Political advisor Nico Lange explains that Russia uses the chips from the washing machines for the post-production of their rocket arsenals.
In the neighboring countries of Russia, washing machines, refrigerators and electric breast pumps are in greater demand than ever: since the beginning of the war, Kazakhstan and Armenia have been importing more of these electrical appliances than in previous years combined, according to the US news agency Bloomberg using data from the EU’s statistical office.
According to this, Kazakhstan had imported refrigerators from the EU worth 21.4 million dollars by August alone. Compared to the previous year, this corresponds to a threefold increase in imports in the same period. Imports of electric breast pumps from the EU to Kazakhstan have also increased by a whopping 633 percent, despite the 8.4 percent fall in the birth rate.
In Armenia, too, more electric breast pumps were imported from the EU in the first half of the year, although the birth rate in Armenia fell by 4.3 percent. A year-on-year comparison shows that imports have tripled.
What is particularly striking is that Russia’s demand for those electrical appliances from Kazakhstan and Armenia has also increased rapidly. Kazakhstan is delivering twice as many electric breast pumps to Russia as it did last year. The export of refrigerators from Kazakhstan to Russia even increased tenfold compared to 2021.
One explanation for the trade boom between the EU and Russia’s neighboring countries: Russia is circumventing Western sanctions in this way and can alleviate the supply bottlenecks for those electronic devices. Also, Russian companies could disassemble the imported electronics to use the semiconductors and other components for civilian purposes.
Western concerns: European politicians are aware of the increased EU exports of electrical appliances to Russia’s neighbors and the detour into the country. They fear that the expanded chips in Russia could increasingly be used for military purposes. As early as September, the European Commission confirmed that Russia uses semiconductors for its military arsenal.
“The Russian military takes chips from dishwashers and refrigerators to repair its military hardware because there are no more semiconductors,” said the EU Commission’s statement Lange, tweeted his suspicions, claiming that Russia “due to technological sanctions is buying refrigerators and washing machines in bulk” to “use the chips they contain for post-production missiles.”
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