Taiwan Export Ban Restricts Russia and Belarus to Chips Under 25MHz

In short: While Taiwan still allows Russia and Belarus to buy processors from businesses in the East Asian country, there are a few major caveats: their clock speeds cannot exceed 25 MHz and performance is limited to 5 GFLOPS.

DigiTimes reports that the Taiwanese Ministry of Economy (MOEA) published this week a list of strategic high-tech goods banned from export to Russia and Belarus. The latter country is included because the DOE believes it can help Russia import such goods.

The list, corresponding to categories 3-9 of the Wassenaar Arrangement, covers not only modern microcircuits, but also technologies that can produce or reverse-engineer them, including lithography equipment, scanners, and scanning electron microscopes.

As for the chips that Russia and Belarus can buy from Taiwan, there are a lot of restrictions; they must not have a performance of 5 GFLOPS or higher. By comparison, the Nintendo 3DS has a peak performance of 4.8 FP32 GFLOPS.

In addition, exported chips cannot have ALUs greater than 32 bits wide, greater than 144 pins, a base gate delay time of less than 0.4 ns, or an external connection with a data rate of 2.5 MB/s or greater. Plus, their operating frequency should not reach 25 MHz or higher.

Sanctions imposed on Russia because of the war with Ukraine hit its supply of chips hard: Intel, AMD and IBM stopped sales shortly after the invasion began. The situation has led Russia to allow the import of counterfeit chips and even the repurposing of components from household items.

The government has invested $38.3 billion in the Russian microelectronics industry in hopes of ramping up production using the current 90nm node and 28nm chip production by 2030, but Taiwan’s new restrictions are likely to affect those plans. In connection with the imposition of sanctions, Russia may start using Chinese Zhaoxin x86 chips, which are practically not used for anything other than office work.

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