The Biden administration might expand the reach of U.S. sanctions against Russia by using a novel export control if President Vladimir Putin's forces invade Ukraine.
The foreign direct product rule, aimed at blocking the export of cutting-edge novel American-made products, would be used to damage strategic Russian industries, from artificial intelligence and quantum computing to civilian aerospace, administration officials told The Washington Post.
The Trump administration's use of the export control contributed to Chinese technology corporation Huawei suffering a collapse of nearly 30%, its first-ever annual revenue drop.
Administration officials told the Post that the control could be used in a way that would potentially deprive Russian citizens of some smartphones, tablets, and video game consoles.
Employing the control would expand the reach of sanctions beyond financial targets.
NATO on Monday said it was sending additional ships and fighter jets to eastern Europe amid Russia troop build-up near Ukraine.
The New York Times reported that President Joe Biden was weighing sending several thousand troops as well as aircrafts and warships to NATO allies in Eastern Europe and the Baltic states amid growing concerns of a Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Some experts have said that a Russian invasion of Ukraine could be stopped by imposing economic sanctions.
The foreign direct product rule is attractive because virtually anything electronic — from smartphones to jets to quantum computers — includes semiconductors, the tiny components on which all modern technology depends.
Virtually all semiconductors are made with U.S. tools or designed with U.S. software, the Post reported.
The administration also could try to force other international companies from stopping the exporting of such goods to Russia.
"This is a slow strangulation by the U.S. government," Dan Wang, a Shanghai-based technology analyst with research firm Gavekal Dragonomics, said of Huawei, WSJ reported.
The Post reported that officials are working with European and Asian allies to craft a version of the rule that would attempt to affect industries (i.e., civil aviation, maritime, high technology) for which Putin has high ambitions.
"The power of these export controls is we can degrade and atrophy the capacity of these sectors to become a key source of growth for the Russian economy," a senior Biden administration official told the Post.
However, there is a concern by some people that use of the foreign direct product rule could force Russian retaliation.
Also, the rule never has not been applied to an entire country or entire sectors of a country. And it has its limitations.
"It's like a magic power — you can only use it so many times before it starts to degrade," Robert D. Atkinson, president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, told the Post.
"Other countries will say, Oh, man, the U.S. has total control over us. We’d better find alternatives."
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