There is a spike in exports of household white goods and consumer electornics to former Soviet Central Asia and the neighbourhood. Why is that? The assumption is they are headed by hook and by crook to Russia. What for? It is claimed they are needed for the war. There is something in them Russia needs. Metal for MiGs? Batteries for the drones? Neither. Semiconductors are in desparate need as the war machine expends its guided missles and drones over Ukraine. Russia is importing washing machines, refrigerators and other items via places like Kazakhstan in order to get their mitts on the microchips. I was interested in this example of a rapidly emerging illicit trade.

It is a nice story about an everyday item suddenly becoming vital due to the bitter war. But as reporting by Tegler shows, not likely not to be true, or if true, not very significant. Drones, missiles and other items being expended in the war create a thirst for microchips. However the kind of chips you get in household items are not critical to these weapons, and though they are useful they are of a kind that is widely available. Higher imports might just be due to good old fashioned need, as domestic industry is throttled or forced to turn to war production. There is however a trade in far more useful microchips being washed through third countries. China is likely a big supplier.

What sanctions have done is highlighted how so many aspects of life in a modern economy rely on microchips. Want to shift to a non-Western payment system? You will need lots and lots of microhips. So household appliances are vital to the war because households rely on them, not because they are a form of secondary war production.

Tegler E (2023) Is Russia Really Buying Home Appliances To Harvest Computer Chips For Ukraine-Bound Weapons Systems? Forbes. Available at: (accessed 18 April 2023).