US sanctions against Russia will limit its access to technology from overseas

The administration will only allow exports to Russia in rare exceptions.

Leah Millis / reuters

The US government has imposed harsh export restrictions against Russia designed to drastically limit its access to both low- and high-tech goods from overseas. As first reported by Reuters, the Commerce Department has posted a list of expanded licensing policies and requirements implemented in response to Russia's further invasion of Ukraine.

Under the expanded sanctions, US suppliers that want to ship to Russia will have to obtain licenses for goods that didn't require one in the past. Those goods include microelectronics, telecommunications items, sensors, navigation equipment, avionics, marine equipment and aircraft components.

In addition, the US is adding companies designated as "military end users" due to their alleged ties to the Russian military to the entity list. Any company seeking to ship products made abroad to those military end users will have to obtain licenses from the United States if they're using US-made tools, technology and software for their products. The government says these sanctions should "significantly impact Russia's ability to acquire items it cannot produce itself."

The new rules state that license requests will be reviewed "under a policy of denial," which means the Commerce Department will deny almost all of them. The administration will only approve licenses in rare exceptions, such as applications related to aviation and maritime safety, as well as humanitarian needs. Smartphone exports to Russia are also allowed, so long as they're not shipped to Russian government employees and state-owned enterprises.

Former Commerce Department official Kevin Wolf told Reuters that the rules are so complex, many companies might simply stop dealing with Russia completely to avoid mistakes despite the carveouts. However, Cordell Hull, another former official, predicted that the rules would be difficult to enforce.

During a speech announcing the new measures, President Joe Biden said partner countries are adopting or have expressed intent to adopt similar sanctions. The list of partner countries includes 27 members of the European Union, such as Italy, France and Germany, along with Canada, Australia, Japan and the UK, to name a few. "Between our actions and those of our allies and partners, we estimate that we will cut off more than half of Russia's high-tech imports," he said.