Six months into the war, Russian goods continue to flow into the United States, with trade volumes reaching billions

The Associated Press found that since February, when Russia began launching missiles and airstrikes against its neighbor, more than 3,600 Russians have arrived at US ports. shipments of wood, metals, rubber and other goods.

This is significantly less than during the same period in 2021. the period when about 6 thousand were brought shipments, but that still amounts to more than $1 billion. dollar trade volume per month.

In fact, no one concerned expected that trade would be stopped after the invasion. Banning the import of certain goods would probably do more damage to the US than to Russia.

“The introduction of sanctions may disrupt global trade. So our job is to think about what kind of sanctions have the most impact while also enabling global trade,” Ambassador Jim O’Brien, who heads the State Department’s Office of Sanctions Coordination, told the AP.

Experts say the global economy is so interconnected that the scope of sanctions must be limited to avoid raising prices in an already volatile market. In addition, bans from the European Union (EU) and the United Kingdom (UK) create confusing trade rules.

For example, the Biden administration and the EU have issued separate lists of Russian companies banned from exporting, but as the AP found, at least one of those companies, which supplies the Russian military with the metal used to make the fighter jets currently dropping bombs in Ukraine, is still sells millions of dollars worth of metal to US and EU companies.

Some US importers are looking elsewhere for alternative materials, but others say they have no choice. Shipping containers of Russian goods—grits, weightlifting shoes, cryptocurrency mining equipment and even pillows—arrive at US ports almost daily.

A breakdown of Russian imports shows that some are apparently legal and even encouraged by the Biden administration, such as more than 100 shipments of fertilizer that arrived after the invasion.

Products that are now banned, such as Russian oil and gas, have been arriving in US ports long after the sanctions were announced because of “wind-up” periods that allow companies to terminate existing contracts.

In some cases, it may be difficult to determine the origin of products shipped from Russian ports. US energy companies continue to import oil from Kazakhstan through Russian ports, although this oil is sometimes mixed with Russian fuel.

Trade experts warn that Russian suppliers are unreliable, and the opaque corporate structures of many large Russian companies make it difficult to determine whether they are linked to the government.

Metals

Russia is a major exporter of metals such as aluminum, steel and titanium. Ending that trade could lead to steep price hikes for Americans already struggling with inflation, said Jacob Nellis, an economist at Morgan Stanley.

“The basic idea behind sanctions is that you try to act in a way that causes more pain to the other side and less pain to yourself,” he said.

Most US metal trading companies have long-standing relationships with Russian suppliers. Such trade, especially in aluminum, has practically not stopped since the beginning of the war.

The AP found that more than 900 shipments totaling $264 million have been shipped since February. tons of metals. Russia is one of the largest producers of crude aluminum outside of China and a major global exporter, but the war has affected this global market as well.

“Like all manufacturers,” said Matt Meenan, spokesman for the Aluminum Association, “we’ve experienced supply chain impacts related to increased energy costs and other inflationary pressures that have been exacerbated by the invasion.”

American car and airplane parts, lemonade cans and cables, ladders and solar panel racks are made from Russian aluminum. The largest US buyer in 2022 was initially a subsidiary of Rusal, a global aluminum giant owned by Russia.

In April, Rusal America senior executives bought the US-based part of the company and renamed it PerenniAL. In July alone, “PerenniAL” imported more than 35 thousand tons of aluminum from Russia. The company did not respond to requests for comment.

In addition, private companies that source materials from Russia include US government contractors supported by federal taxes. The world’s largest aerospace company Boeing in 2021. signed a federal contract worth up to $23.8 billion dollars; in June, it imported 20 tons of aluminum from the Kamensk-Uralsk metallurgical plant.

In March, the US banned exports to Kamensk-Uralskij because it supplies metals to the Russian military, but did not impose any import restrictions. A Boeing spokesman said the company made the decision to end trade with Russia in March and explained that the June shipment was purchased four months ago.

Another importer of the metal, Tirus US, is owned by the Russian company VSMPO-AVISMA, the world’s largest titanium producer. VSMPO also supplies metal to the Russian military for the production of fighter jets. Tirus US also sells titanium to more than 300 companies in 48 countries, including a variety of US buyers, from jewelry manufacturers to aerospace companies.

The company only said that due to the severe difficulties in the US, it is working with several US companies to mitigate supply chain issues.

wood

Russian forests are among the largest in the world. After Canada, Russia is the second largest exporter of wood and has several of the only sawmills that can produce the strong birch plywood used in the US for flooring.

This year, the Biden administration began imposing tariffs on Russian lumber exports, angering Nevada-based lumber merchant Ronald Liberatori, who sells Russian-grown Baltic birch to all major U.S. furniture, construction and flooring manufacturers.

“The problem is that Russia is the only country in the world that produces this product,” he said. “There is no alternative source.”

He said that, in addition to the customs fee, he had to submit 800 thousand. USD deposit, which further increased the prices.

“Who pays for this?” What? You and every other person in the United States, he said. We are so disappointed in what Mr. Biden did. This is a question of Government versus Government.”

R. Liberatori said that decision-makers must consider who will suffer more from them before imposing tariffs.

Another wood and paper importer told the AP that while it halted any new orders in February, it had a large amount of wood in Russia that had already been paid for, so the last shipment arrived in the U.S. in July.

Energetics

March 8 Mr. Biden announced that the United States is banning any import of Russian oil, gas and energy “directed against the main artery of the Russian economy.”

“This means that Russian oil will no longer be accepted at US ports, and the American people will deal another powerful blow to Putin’s war machine,” he said.

A few hours later, reports appeared that a ship carrying 1 million barrels of Russian oil to the US, changed course to France. But many other ships sailed on.

About a million barrels of Russian oil arrived at the Port of Philadelphia that week, destined for Delta Airlines’ Monroe Energy refinery. Meanwhile, a tanker with approximately 75 thousand barrels of Russian tar oil entered the Port of Texas, Texas, after a long journey across the North Atlantic, bound for Valero’s refineries, according to trade data.

The shipments went on to Valero, ExxonMobil and other companies. ExxonMobil media manager Julie King told the AP that the oil delivered in July was of Kazakh origin and was not subject to sanctions. She said Exxon “supports internationally coordinated efforts to end the unprovoked Russian attack and complies with all sanctions.”

Monroe spokesman Adam Gattuso said the company has not received any more Russian fuel and “does not anticipate doing so in the near future.” Valero did not respond to requests for comment.

Dutch fuel exporter Vitol’s spokeswoman Andrea Schlaepfer said that from April 22 all of its oil and gas shipments came from Kazakhstan, where pipelines and rail networks run from the landlocked country’s oil fields and refineries to ports in neighboring Russia.

Russia receives about 10 million annually for the use of its port infrastructure, berths and taxes. dollars.

A. Schlaepfer said that US Customs and Border Protection agents are reviewing and checking her shipments to the US for Russian products. But CBP did not respond to repeated questions about how it handles sanctions and bans on Russian goods.

A CBP newsletter says it plays an “important role” in enforcing import bans, but a spokesperson repeatedly referred AP to the State and Treasury departments.

Other goods

This year, almost 4 thousand were also brought to the USA. tons of Russian bullets, where they were distributed to gun shops and ammunition dealers. Some of them were sold to US buyers by Russian state-owned companies, while others came from at least one sanctioned oligarch. After April, the delivery of these shipments slowed down significantly.

The AP also tracked shipments of millions of dollars worth of radioactive uranium hexafluoride from Russian state-owned UAB Tenex, the world’s largest exporter of primary nuclear fuel cycle products, to Westinghouse Electric Co. in South Carolina. Nuclear materials are not subject to sanctions.

Westinghouse spokeswoman Cathy Mann said that as part of the nuclear fuel production process, the enriched uranium product from their fuel plants is processed into fuel pellets. She said Westinghouse does not own the uranium from which the fuel is made. This material belongs to customers operating nuclear power plants around the world.

“This puts our customers in charge of where and from whom they source their materials — some of which are sourced from Russia or enriched by Russian companies,” she said. “Westinghouse condemns the Russian invasion and the resulting hostility and loss of life.”

In addition, some products sent from Russian ports to the US continue on to Mexico and Canada. Last month, for example, Toyota auto components were brought to New Orleans for a Mexico plant operated by the auto company’s sales arm, Toyota Tshusho.

Radioactive materials sent from Russia to the United States are transported north of the border to sterilize packaged medical supplies used throughout North America.

While some food imports, such as seafood and vodka, have been restricted, the Treasury Department issued a newsletter last month reiterating that U.S.-Russian agricultural trade is still allowed.

The chocolate factory “Red October” stands in front of the Kremlin in Moscow. Today it is a tourist attraction with apartments, shops and restaurants. However, Krasnyj Oktiabr still produces and sells candies and other traditional treats at a factory on the outskirts of Russia.

At Krasnyj Oktiabr Inc.’s U.S. office in Brooklyn, New York, Grigoriy Kacura said they continue to import delicacies that are childhood tastes for Russian immigrants. “Of course they’re used to it,” he said.

And so every few weeks shipments from Russia arrive at their warehouse: buckwheat, dried fruit and chocolate.

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