Let Slip The Chips Of War

We’re going to go out on a limb and predict that future history books will note that the decision to invade a sovereign nation straight after a worldwide pandemic wasn’t exactly the best timing. Turns out the global electronics shortage the pandemic helped to catalyze isn’t just affecting those of us with peaceful intentions, as the Russian war machine is having a few supply issues with the parts needed to build modern weapons and their associated control equipment.

As you might expect, many of these parts are electronic in nature, and in some cases they come from the same suppliers folks like us use daily. This article from POLITICO includes an embedded spreadsheet, broken down by urgency, complete with part numbers, manufacturers, and even the price Moscow expects to pay!

Chips from US-based firms such as Texas Instruments are particularly hard for the Kremlin to source.

So what parts are we talking about anyway? The cheapest chip on the top priority list is the Marvell ‘Alaska’ 88E1322 which is a dual Gigabit Ethernet PHY costing a mere $7.10 USD according to Moscow. The most expensive is the 10M04DCF256I7G, which is an Altera (now Intel) Max-10 series FPGA, at $1,101 USD (or 66,815 Rubles, for those keeping score).

But it’s not just chips that are troubling them, mil-spec D-sub connectors by Airborn are unobtainable, as are all classes of basic passive parts, resistors, diodes, discrete transistors. Capacitors are especially problematic (aren’t they always). A whole slew of Analog Devices chips, as well as many from Maxim, Micrel and others. Even tiny logic chips from Nexperia.

Of course, part of this is by design. Tightened sanctions prevent Russia from purchasing many of these parts directly, which is intended to make continued aggression as economically unpleasant as possible. But as the POLITICO article points out, it’s difficult to prevent some intermediaries from ‘helping out’ without the West knowing. After all, once a part hits the general market, it is next to impossible to guarantee where it will eventually get soldered down.

Thanks to [Kim Tae] for the tip!

71 thoughts on “Let Slip The Chips Of War

    1. Might want to look at a map and read a paper now and then. Ukraine isn’t in Asia. On the other hand Syria, where the U.S. has been involved in a land war for three administrations now, is in Asia.

      Whatever shortages Russia experiences with be shared by Raytheon, et al. when they try to build replacements for the weapons sold to Ukraine. All one boat.

      We can only hope that Germany has learned its lesson. That lesson is “Don’t be stupid.”

      1. No, Raytheon is not subject to an embargo. They will have a much easier time getting parts.
        As the article states, there are unscrupulous people who will buy parts and surreptitiously sell to a sanctioned country. However, when there are part shortages and strong demand from unsanctioned buyers willing to pay top dollar, illegal sales hold little attraction. Russia both made a poor (and unethical) decision in invading Ukraine and a poor choice in timing.

        1. Western arms manufacturers are under embargo. From China. F-35 production has halted because of this.

          As for getting around sanctions. This isn’t always unscrupulous people. Sometimes it’s people who don’t want Iraqis or Yemenis to starve to death under the weight of the Western boot.

          1. > Western arms manufacturers are under embargo. From China. F-35 production has halted because of this.

            Western arms manufacturers are *not* under embargo. By China. F-35 production has temporarily halted because the US law and DoD regulations prohibit use of certain specialty metals and alloys source from China, Iran, North Korea and Russia. Another source is now being used.

    1. I was surprised this last week when I went looking for Raspberry Pi’s for the first time in awhile. Only option I could find was a local scalper selling Raspberry Pi 3’s for $250 AUD. I decided I didn’t really need that emulation station right now.

    2. Chips scarcity became a thing when everyone and his dog realized that today cryptocurrency mining ASICs are more profitable. This happened well before the war, and isn’t going away until strong regulation will put some limits. Also good for the environment.

  1. If anyone got stuck with quantities of terrible fakes of these parts it would be such an awful shame if they took advantage of this situation by selling them to the most deserving party.

    1. But he should take care when drinking tea or walking near windows. My neighbour with sawmill tried selling wood to Russia. Drivers told him that they won’t drive there again, after some mean looking guys in bmw followed them for most of their way.

  2. Why does everyone care about this war? Did the media-political apparatus forget that normal people aren’t rich enough to launder money through the ukraine? I’ve never even had chicken kiev. Not my war, not my problem.

    1. It might’ve somehow gone past you how many people live in countries bordering Russia (and Russia has long borders) and feel endangered themselves by their imperialistic inclinations, and how many of them meet refugees from Ukraine daily.

      1. You have been misinformed as to what imperialism is. Most of Russia’s neighbours have peaceful, productive relationships with them. It’s only the white countries that don’t.

    2. This is actually a very interesting comment you’ve made. I’m assuming you’re in the US, which is fine …. but what you need to do is open some history books, especially relating to the second world war. The thing with wars is that they can tend to spread very quickly. The big worry that the USA has is that China will take the current unrest as an opportunity to invade / re-patriate / whatever Taiwan, especially if the USA is SEEN to be weak. It’s obviously not quite the same as Pearl harbour, but it’s absolutely vital that the west shows strength, not indecisiveness or passivity. Like Dan alluded to earlier, the solution might be to try work out why Putin invaded / re-patriated / whatever bits of Ukraine in the first place.

        1. The degree of global peace you’ve experienced since WWII is due primarily to a bi- and uni-polar world. The almost constant major wars you and I missed out on were due to a multi-polar world. You may be too young (or too much of a shill) to subjectively plug into the fact that “not my monkey, not my circus” doesn’t make for the super keen geopolitics you seem to think you’ll end up with.

    3. Yeah I’m sure Putin will be totally satisfied once he controls all of Ukraine. /s I’m not saying all the money being sent to Ukraine is the best choice, but there are legitimate reasons to help Ukraine.

    4. I assume your comments are made anonymously because you’re trolling.

      Not your problem eh? I guess then that you don’t put hydrocarbon fuel in your car and you don’t use grid-fed electricity in your house.

      That investment in solar panels and an electric car paid off then.

    5. I lost count of the number of furry artists who I follow who I learned (or was reminded) are Ua or Ru when this all started. Note: I never went out of my way to follow Ru or Ua artists in particular, but there are a lot of Very Skilled Ru and Ua furry artists out there

      Furries Run The Internet.

  3. Looking at the prices in rubles vs. euros, they seem to be ca 60 to 1. I.e. the same conversion ratio google.com gives me for the currencies. If there was a chip shortage, shouldn’t the ‘Moscow price’ be much higher than the currency conversion ratio?

  4. I’ve noticed that certain legacy chips form Altera suddenly became unobtanium about 5 months ago.

    As in “Yeah – they’re not going to make those this year” unobtainum.

    Which seemed pretty weird because the chips are not the leading edge products you expect to be jostling for space on the TSMC calendar, they’re established parts that had their own fab lines that were paid for a long time ago.

    It really only affects people who have to support long-tail designs in small quantities, where it’s not easy to change the product.

    Not that a suspicious person might suggest some connection or anything….

    1. Almost all the fabs hav the capability to do the latest, gratest high-spec chips. Hence they do, as they can sell for much higher prices. The older low spec chips many customers actually want aren’t profitable enough to compete for manufacturing space.

  5. People fall for the war drums every single time. It’s an invariable. They always have to sort one as the big good and the other as big bad without fail—not until decades later do they see that it’s just another racket for arms dealers like Smedley Butler warned nearly a century ago.
    People don’t know or care that Ukraine’s revolution was originally called “the orange revolution” and they know and care even less about what a color revolution implies. I’d laugh if it wasn’t such a crying shame.

      1. Did you know that a Lockheed Martin funded lobby group was the primary reason that NATO expanded into Eastern Europe, against the wishes of basically every senior US foreign policy figure from Kennan, to Kissinger?

        The reason: rearming countries to a NATO standard is very profitable for LM etc.

    1. It’s not like a pandemic just *ends* with a hard stop. It peters out. I think subjectively you could say that it’s over. I personally consider it to be. I agree with the other reply as well that it was like half hysteria and half actual danger.

  6. China makes electronic components, Russia needs electronic components, neither China nor Russia give darn about what the rest of the World thinks. Russia and China are also in an arms agreement. Russia and China share a large border with Ports of Entry not easily monitored by other nations.

    1. Exactly. China is not sanctioning Russia, and Chinese electronics industry is better than ever before. Sure they might be few years behind Taiwan in newest microprocessors, but you don’t put those on 99.9% of your military equipment. US army certainly has some Windows 2000 systems kicking around, if not older.

    2. Just yesterday I was shopping on Aliexpress for electronics, and I came across a listing with big font explaining to Russians how to get around sanctions on credit card payments. Money talks.

    3. Maybe every country typically placing its own economic and big business bottom-line interests foremost may always be its, and therefore collectively our, Achilles’ Heel to be exploited by huge-market nations like China.

      Still, perhaps some securely allied nations, including the U.S., Canada and Taiwan, combining their resources could go without the usual Beijing-bully trade/investment tether they’d prefer to sever, instead trading necessary goods and services between themselves and other interested non-allied, non-China-bound nation economies.

      Or has such an alliance already been covertly discussed but rejected due to Chinese government strategists knowing how to ‘divide and conquer’ potential alliance nations by using door-wedge economic/political leverage custom-made for each nation?

Leave a Reply

Please be kind and respectful to help make the comments section excellent. (Comment Policy)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.