With tensions rising over a possible further Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Biden Administration is laying out potential sanctions it could impose against Russia, up to and including export controls on American-made technologies including AI-enabling and other software products, according to a senior administration official.

Those types of export controls would be combined with financial sanctions, with the measures designed in tandem to maximize the potential economic impact should Russia decide to invade Ukraine. Among the technologies mentioned by the administration official as potential targets were AI, quantum computing, defense and aerospace technologies, in addition to U.S.-origin software.

“You’ve no doubt heard us talk about how the United States, alongside allies and partners, continues to prepare a range of severe economic measures to impose on Russia if it further invades Ukraine, a senior administration official said on a press call today. “And, to repeat, we are prepared to implement sanctions with massive consequences that were not considered in 2014.

“That means the gradualism of the past is out, and this time we’ll start at the top of the escalation ladder and stay there.  We’ve made efforts to signal this intention very clearly.”

“If you step back and look at the global dominance of U.S.-origin software, technology, and tooling, the export control options we’re considering alongside our allies and partners would hit Putin’s strategic ambitions to industrialize his economy quite hard,” the administration official said.

The Biden administration expects such sanctions to have “minimal impact on global supply chains” because the goal would be to deny Russia access to technologies that effect its own ambitions in various tech sectors such as aerospace, defense, robotics, quantum, AI and more.

The allied sanctions that the United States is preparing for would target tech that Russia cannot easily replace with any alternates or through domestic production.

“In many instances, if Russia wants to develop these sectors, it needs to import technologies and products that only we and our allies and partners produce,” another senior administration official explained. “And so that would lead to an atrophying of Russia’s productive capacity over time.  It would deny Russia the ability to diversify its economy.  And, for us, from our perspective, that gives them a very weak strategic hand over the medium term.”

While the administration has listed targets such as American- and ally-made AI, defense, aerospace, and quantum tech and software, administration officials warned that’s not an exhaustive list and said, “All options are very much on the table.”

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Lamar Johnson
Lamar Johnson
Lamar Johnson is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.