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You’re grounded, Russia! New U.S. sanctions could take Russia's toys away.

The Biden administration is reportedly considering sanctions that would strike at the heart of Russia's technology sector, hurting the production of phones, weapons and more.


You know how parents sometimes suspend their kids' technology privileges as punishment? The Biden administration is reportedly considering a similar tack to discourage Russia from invading Ukraine.

According to a new Washington Post report, the Biden administration is debating a policy that would punish Russia by curbing the country's ability to purchase and obtain semiconductors, the tiny chips used to power all sorts of tech-based products, including smartphones, some military equipment, game consoles, vehicles and more. American software and machinery are used to produce a large portion of the world’s semiconductors.

Though Russia isn't solely reliant on the U.S. for these parts — Taiwan and South Korea have the led world in semiconductor manufacturing in recent years — the Biden administration could reportedly use the new policy to try to force companies in other countries to stop exporting the chips to Russia.

(If you’re confused about what semiconductors do, here’s a quick explainer on semiconductors and how a shortage of them is hurting global industries.)

Photo Illustration: A hand reaches for a cellphone
Semiconductors power all sorts of tech-based products, including smartphones, some military equipment and game consoles.

If the administration goes forward with the plan being discussed, it would use "export control" — essentially an economic sanction in this case — to restrict Russia’s access to semiconductors, much like the Trump administration did to cripple the Chinese technology company Huawei in 2020

This is a thread to follow, because companies and countries without access to semiconductors effectively have to postpone their technological future. In the U.S., the global chip shortage has delayed everything from PlayStation 5 sales to the installation of 5G networks, which are the foundation for emerging technology.  

That’s why the awesome power to bar Russia — or an institution — from accessing the tools to participate in this future should not be underestimated. 

Rest assured, that power is being compared to the Death Star for a reason. Stay tuned.

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