Exports of Russian ammunition to the US have hit an all-time high, despite Washington imposing sanctions on Moscow’s arms industries, forcing buyers to exploit loopholes to get their hands on supplies of bullets and shells.
A new report by the US Census Bureau, seen by business daily RBK on Wednesday, shows that American companies bought $157.9 million worth of Russian ammunition in just the first 10 months of 2021, the most since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. The previous record was $148 million in 2016, over the course of 12 months. In 2020, US companies imported $120 million worth of ammo from Russia.
In total, American firms imported more than 7,700 tons of Russian ammunition in January-October 2021.
These record figures came in spite of measures brought by Washington against Russian arms manufacturers. In August, the US State Department announced “a second round of sanctions on the Russian Federation over its use of a ‘Novichok’ nerve agent” in the alleged poisoning of Russian opposition figure Alexey Navalny. The package included restrictions on firearms and ammunition manufactured in Russia.
The US National Rifle Association complained that the sanctions would do more to hurt American businesses than Russia, explaining, “Ammunition exports to the United States are only a small percentage of the GDP of the Russian Federation, but Russian origin ammo makes up a large part of the American ammunition supply.”
Yuri Kapyshtyk, a Russian lawyer, agreed with the NRA’s assessment, telling Izvestia that Russian factories would be able to survive on state orders and other export markets.
However, many US importers were able to bypass the measures thanks to a loophole that allowed them to get two-year licenses for ammunition purchasing in the interval between the announcement of the sanctions and their actual imposition. American businesses that received these licenses will be able to continue purchasing Russian ammo unimpeded until the fall of 2023, RBK reported.