Last December Russian finally obtained WTO membership. A reader of TFB explains how this could open the floodgate for Russian arms imports into the USA …
First a short backgrounder on why some russian guns and ammo are sold in the US and others are not. Back in 1998 the US and Russia signed a Voluntary Restraint Agreement which said only certain firearms and ammunitions could be imported for commercial purposes. The Voluntary Restraint Agreement doesn’t expire and was mutually agreed by both the US and Russia. It’s why you don’t see huge amounts of russian parts kits, true russian surplus ammunition (the stuff marked russia comes from Ukraine), or even Russian SKSes (which are also banned from import but were previously allowed prior to 1998, but you do see saigas, VEPRs, some models of Mosins, commercial 5.45, 7.62×39, and 7.62x54R. Russia still has a tremendous stockpile of soviet era ammunition and firearms. Not surprisingly they had nearly 10 times as much compared to many of the satellite states.
Now recently I remember seeing that despite how for several years there has been impasse Russia finally got approval to join the World Trade Organization in December of 2011 after lots of wrangling between them and Georgia, who was already a member. I didn’t think much of it then but it turns out the WTO requires the nullification of all voluntary export restraints (which includes the US-russian Voluntary Restraint Agreement) but allows each member country one exemption in a given industrial sector. It is unlikely that Russia will choose firearms/defense as their industry exemption because they can already create restrictions on it utilizing the state’s national security infrastructure, much like how we do the same thing in the US with ITAR. It’s more likely they’ll put trade restrictions on things like energy, chemicals, steel, heavy industry that kind of thing. The very reason why the WTO is such a big deal is because it allows foreign corporations to sell goods and services within Russia without the previous barriers to entry.
All of this is to say that depending on who “owns” the old soviet era stockpiles of guns and ammunition we could very well see a flood of Russian milsurp ammo and parts kits that will make Yugoslavia and Romania’s import of ammo and kits back in the early 2000s look minuscule. It’s likely that Saigas and VEPRs would still be imported but at the same time I suspect Izmash Legion will leverage old gun stockpiles and get into the parts kit business, importing kits for every gun they sell and working with K-var or other US companies to make 922r compliant non-sporting rifles.
Now I would suspect if any of this does happen it will be 3+ years out, but none the less it will have significant impacts on the AK and AK ammunition markets, surplus 5.45, 7.62×39, and 7.62x54r will all go down considerably, perhaps even back to the era in the late 90s when you could buy tins for a little more than a nickel a round.
[ Many thanks to Daskrolator for the explantion. ]