Published On: Fri, Mar 29th, 2024
World | 4,545 views

NATO allies helping Russia stock up on explosive ingredient in huge blow to Zelensky | World | News

Despite international sanctions aimed at hampering Russia’s wartime production, recent trade data revealed a surge in the country’s imports of nitrocellulose, a crucial component for artillery ammunition.

This increase has been facilitated by companies from various Western countries and allies, including the United States, Germany, Taiwan, and Turkey, dealing a significant blow to Ukrainian President Zelensky’s efforts, according to the Wall Street Journal.

In 2022, amidst Russia‘s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, imports of nitrocellulose witnessed a staggering 70 percent surge. By mid-2023, these imports had almost doubled compared to 2021 levels, reaching 3,039 tons. Nitrocellulose, a highly flammable cotton product, serves as a central ingredient in the manufacture of gunpowder and rocket propellants.

While only a few countries produce nitrocellulose due to stringent international trade restrictions, Russia‘s limited domestic production has forced it to seek supplies abroad, notably from NATO allies.

According to US officials and analysts, this influx of nitrocellulose has played a pivotal role in Russia‘s military operations against Ukraine.

Bradley Martin, a veteran of the US Navy and head of Rand’s National Security Supply Chain Institute, emphasised the significance of nitrocellulose in artillery production, highlighting its role in causing battlefield casualties. Despite its civilian applications in products like inks and paints, analysts believe that the recent surge in imports is primarily intended for military purposes, given Russia‘s reorientation towards wartime production.

Oleksandr Danylyuk, from the Centre of Defence Reforms in Kyiv, attributed the surge in demand to Russia‘s military needs. He pointed out that the demand is either for direct production of projectiles or to substitute for nitrocellulose originally produced by Russian factories.

China, in the wake of US and EU sanctions, increased its supplies of nitrocellulose to Russia. However, companies from the US, Germany, and Taiwan have also been involved in supplying nitrocellulose to Russia, raising concerns about circumvention of sanctions.

Despite assurances from some companies that their products are not intended for military use, the possibility of civilian-use nitrocellulose being converted to military grade remains. Michelle Pantoya, a professor at Texas Tech University, highlighted the versatile nature of nitrocellulose in ordnance systems.

Furthermore, revelations about the involvement of Western companies in supplying nitrocellulose to Russia have prompted responses from governments and regulatory authorities. The German government affirmed that such exports violate EU sanctions against Russia, and efforts are underway to curb such activities.

As NATO countries grapple with a global shortage of nitrocellulose, efforts are being made to restrict Russia‘s access to critical materials necessary for its military endeavours. The US Commerce Department and Treasury Department have taken steps to tighten control over exports and target entities facilitating Russia‘s war effort.

The assistance provided by NATO allies in Russia‘s nitrocellulose imports presents a significant challenge to President Zelensky’s efforts to counter Russian aggression in Ukraine.

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