Western Funding Supported Russian Scientists Connected to the Military-Industrial Complex

Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 21 Issue: 33

Source: Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation)

Executive Summary:

  • The Russian military-industrial complex has seen an increase in the output of military equipment in recent months despite a general downward trend in the country’s industrial sector.
  • The increased productivity is in part due to the work of scientific institutions and universities that are, or were, connected with and supported by the West.
  • As Moscow has been preparing for this war for a long time, past and present Western support for Russian scientific innovation has directly benefited Moscow’s military-industrial complex.

On February 24, Russia’s war against Ukraine entered its third year. After more than 700 days of war, the Russian Federation has managed to find ways to circumvent sanctions and, thanks to its mobilized economy, to become a computerized society. According to Rosstat, the state statistics agency of Russia, there was very little industrial growth in June­–December 2023, and the industrial production index had a weak downward trend. The rapid growth of military equipment production, however, was particularly impressive. For example, the production of computer and electronic products grew by 33 percent in 2023 and 55 percent in January of this year. Russia has primarily seen an increase in the output of military equipment (Rosstat, accessed March 4). The growth in the production of military equipment is also the result of the work of several scientific institutes and universities, which are still connected with the West.

Kazan National Technical Research University is one institution that works closely with the Russian military-industrial complex. The university conducts research in the interests Russia’s arms production and with private enterprises. Most of the companies it cooperates with in Russia are under sanctions. The most striking example of this is the connection between the Zelenodolsk branch of the university and the Volzhsky Electromechanical Plant. This plant is a part of the Almaz-Antey Air and Space Defense Corporation, a Russian state-owned company that produces anti-aircraft weaponry and missiles for the Russian military (Interfakc-Agenstvo voennykh novostei, June 9, 2023). Japan recently announced that its new sanctions list includes this organization (RIA Novosti, March 1). The Volzhky Electromechanical Plant produces radar, navigation equipment, and remote-control equipment, all of which Russian forces have used Ukraine (Novyi oboronyi zakaz.strategii, accessed March 4; Almaz-antey.ru, accessed March 4). The Elabuga branch of the university is closely connected to the Elabuga Plants, which produces a licensed version of the Shahed-Geran kamikaze UAV drones (Gazeta.ru, April 1, 2023; Nastoyashchyeye vremya, July 6, 2023; Kazan National Technical Research University, accessed February 28). Additionally, the university partners with numerous Russian oil companies, including Gazprom, which is funding militias fighting in Ukraine (The Moscow Times, May 29, 2023; Kazan National Technical Research University, accessed February 28; see EDM, March 3).

The university’s Department of Radio Photonics and Microwave Technologies produces product patents directly related to the Russian military-industrial complex that uses Western technology. One device developed at the university, which conducts a method for generating an image signal using charge-coupled matrix devices, uses diffraction gratings SH.10G08-DO-RDG-RP sources from Shvabe Holding, which has sub-companies in Switzerland and other countries and can receive equipment to produce quality optics (Yandex.ru/patents/, March 15, 2022). Another device patented at the university determines the Doppler measurement of the frequency of a reflected radar signal, which is used in radar systems that are often utilized as a navigation aid for aircraft (Yandex.ru/patents, June 21, 2022).

St. Petersburg Polytechnic University (SPbPU) is another institution closely related to the Russian military-industrial complex. The university is heavily involved in the “special military operation” (SVO), actively promoting its role in developing devices used in the military and providing technical support to the Russian military (SPbPU, April 5, 2023). On February 26, the university welcomed soldiers from the Ukrainian front, emphasizing the ongoing collaboration between SPbPU and the Russian Armed Forces (SPbPU, February 26). SPbPU has top programs for materials science and microelectronics, which contribute to many products in the military-industrial complex. The university also closely cooperates with the Special Technology Center, an organization that works domestically and internationally to develop software and hardware for telecommunications equipment as well as cellular and satellite communications. It also developed the Orlan-10 UAV, which has played a significant role in Russian strikes on Ukraine’s critical infrastructure (Meduza, December 15, 2022; SPbPU, March 22, 2023; Special Technology Center, accessed March 4). The Special Technology Center is currently under US and EU sanctions (Sanctions.nazk.gov.ua, accessed March 4).

The Laboratory for the Synthesis of New Materials and Structures at SPbPU carries out complex scientific research that contributes to developing the military-industrial complex. This research is aimed at developing new powder materials for additive technologies, adapting these materials to modern additive manufacturing machines, studying the properties of products obtained by additive technology, and studying the microstructure, phase composition, and mechanical properties of the materials. The scientists at the laboratory, who continue to have their work featured in Western publications, carry out direct military orders and orders to support Russia’s mobilization of the economy to a war-footing. The laboratory developed technologies for manufacturing products from ceramic materials using additive technologies for ODK-Klimov, a company that manufactures equipment for transport aircraft. Additionally, the laboratory developed a plant for the direct growth of metal products using additive technology for the Baltic Industrial Company, which works closely with Rosatom. This Russian state corporation specializes in nuclear energy, non-energy goods, and high-tech products to produce machine tools (Laboratory for the “Synthesis of New Material and Structures”, accessed March 4).

SPbPU is affiliated with the World-Class Scientific Center for Advanced Digital Technologies (NCMU), which oversees scientific and technological breakthroughs in Russia. An example of an SPbPU project that has support from NCMU is The Scientific and Technological Center for Neuroprediction of Materials and Technologies of the Electronic Industry. This project developed “SmartFoil,” a microelectronics soldering method that reduces time and costs. As open sources show, the laboratory would not have achieved this without Western technology (IEEE Xplore, October 2018; Youtube.com, April 23, 2021; NCMU, accessed March 4). According to Olga Kvashenkina, head of the project, the developers actively continue to increase their market in China, as well as receive large orders in Russia (Krasnaya vesna, August 15, 2017; Dzen.ru, January 9). This method of producing electronic boards contributes to creating products used in the military-industrial complex.

The list of scientists and institutes that have contributed to the development of Russia’s military-industrial complex is extensive. Many of the scientists have received Western grants and continue to publish in foreign authoritative journals and participate in conferences (see Trap Aggressor, February 5 for a comprehensive list).

 Many of these developments and connections between the West and Russian scientific institutions were established before Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Moscow, nevertheless, has been preparing for this war since before the illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014. The scientific breakthrough Russian scientists made before the war significantly contribute to the current maintenance of the military-industrial complex. If the West truly hopes to hinder Russian military development, it must go to the source—namely, the researchers and scientists who produce the science and technology used by the Russian military and the institutions that support them. Bereft of support, these scientists will be unable to make the discoveries and advancements needed to improve Russia’s weapons systems. The West should minimize the flow of Western funds and scientific advancements into Russian innovation as an effective means of stalling Moscow’s military modernization and arms production.