NATO countries sell military technology and equipment to Russia despite sanctions restrictions


As Russian military operations continue in Ukraine, more and more dual-use and military sanctions violations are coming to light. During the analysis of destroyed and captured Russian war material, the facts of the use of foreign components in Russian weapons produced after 2014 were established. These very facts confirmed the violation by European companies of the sanctions against the anti-Russian military-industrial complex imposed by EU Council Decision 2014/512/CFSP of 31 July 2014. Furthermore, it could signal agreements clandestine between the Kremlin and certain European countries. governments and for the procurement of military and dual-use goods.

For example, a Russian optical-electronic night rangefinder binocular produced in 2019 is equipped with a compass from the Swiss company Vectronix, recently purchased by the French defense company Safran. The product’s thermal imaging matrix was manufactured by Ulis Pico 540046. In addition, Russia purchased a batch of this matrix for use in the Orlan-10 drone.


Safran also supplied infrared imaging systems for Ka-52 helicopters.

After the complete dismantling of the Russian military reconnaissance drone and artillery gunner Orlan-10 (manufactured in 02.20220), captured in eastern Ukraine, a modern thermal imaging array was found in its suspension dual-use Lynred PYCO-640-046 (Ulis) made in France. This component is responsible for the main tasks of Russian weapons such as the identification of live targets for their subsequent disposal. A number of Orlan-10 models are equipped with the US-made FPGA chip.

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The serial number on the matrix will help identify sanctions evasion schemes and the companies involved in the business.

The Russian Sych-3M thermal camera is also equipped with a French Ulis balometer.

The Russian infantry combat system “Ratnik” uses a civilian high-precision computer tablet (geodetic equipment) manufactured by the German company Leika CS25. Based on the differences in color and material of the case, we can say that a modified batch without the device logo was delivered to Russia as military equipment. This fact may indicate that the Kremlin wants to hide evidence of supplying European components for the benefit of the Russian defense industry.

The French company Thales supplied a wide range of thermal imaging devices for Russian tanks and armored vehicles. For example, the BMD-4 is equipped with thermal imaging systems and guidance systems. At the same time, the company’s production facility was organized at a plant in Vologda (Russia), where France supplied individual components and authorized them during the sanction period.

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According to the French publication Disclose, during the period 2015-2020, France sent military development, including infrared detectors for combat aircraft and thermal imagers for tanks, amounting to more than 152 million euros. France accounts for 44% of European arms exports to Russia. Since 2015, France has given the green light to the export of military equipment in the “bombs, missiles, torpedoes, explosive devices” category, as well as “equipment, aircraft with their components”. The French Ministry of the Armed Forces confirmed that France had authorized the execution of certain contracts concluded before 2014. The embargo allowed countries to fulfill contracts they had signed with Russia before 2014, giving France and others EU states until 2020 to supply Moscow with its military ammunition. .

In addition, the French exported “thermal cameras for more than 1,000 Russian tanks, navigation systems and infrared detectors for fighter planes and attack helicopters”. The semi-public companies Safran and Thales supplied the equipment mentioned.

After the increase in sanctions pressure caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, French President Macron called on these companies to suspend their activity but to remain in Russia. The number of licenses issued by France jumped in 2015, immediately after the embargo imposed. Germany has also authorized the export of weapons to Russia for an amount of 121.8 million euros. The export list includes rifles and special armored vehicles, labeled simply as “dual purpose” vehicles. The analysis shows that France started issuing more licenses to Russia just after 2014, and the peak of licenses dates back to 2015. Thus, Paris had the opportunity to move part of the production to Russia and to circumvent the sanctions. During 2014-2016, Macron served as France’s economy minister, and his office was supposed to deal with license sales.

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In particular, the French export of “chemical agents”, “biological agents”, “radioactive materials, equipment, components and related materials” deserves special attention. Paris could not control the further use of these materials in Russia; this means that these agents could be used in the production of prohibited weapons.

In 2015, Henri Proglio, president of the defense group Thales, was a member of the board of directors of ABR Management, a subsidiary of Russian Bank Russia, which is subject to American sanctions against Russia. According to Le Monde, he also sat on the boards of two companies linked to Rosatom.

Thus, the license and the components sales offers, circumventthe 2014 punishments, were carried out in parallel with Russian radiation officers‘the infiltration in French defense companies.

Moreover, a factor of corruption may also play the game, since the French government of Emmanuel Macron holds significant stakes in French defense contractors such as Thales and Safran.

Foreign-made microcircuits are also used in Russian cruise missiles. For example, some of them are equipped with programmable Altera Flex chips.

According to the Council on Conventional Arms Exports (COARM), despite clear official statements, at least a third of the 27 EU countries continued to supply sanctioned materials and equipment during the period 2015-2020. Most of them used a loophole allowing the performance of “contracts concluded before August 1, 2014 or ancillary contracts necessary for the performance of these contracts” (article 2, EU 2014/512/PESC UE 2014/512 /CFSP).

The use of loopholes in sanctions restrictions and the deliberate circumvention of sanctions gave European producers the green light to boost Russia’s military potential, improve the combat performance of Russian equipment and supply Moscow with technologies to counter the ‘West.In the event of an armed conflict between Russia and the NATO countries, Europe will have to fight against Russian armaments, sophisticated with Western equipment.


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