America’s Blood Timber: Russian Plywood Surges as Kyiv Faces Bombs

Timber products now make up more than 50% of trade between the United States and Russia.

Tue 09 Jul 24


As Russian forces rain missiles down on cities across Ukraine, including Kyiv’s Okhmatdyt paediatric hospital, where thousands of children undergo cancer treatment, the United States – Ukraine’s top benefactor – is importing 40-foot containers of Russian plywood by the boatful, used to make furniture, construction materials, wall sheathing and roofing.

That is, according to new data from the United States Department of Agriculture, which reports that Russian imports of plywood in May are up more than 44% (to 32,000 cubic metres) over the same time last year.

Russia is now America’s fifth-largest market for plywood imports, behind just Brazil (15.8% or 62,300 cubic metres), Vietnam (China’s new plywood proxy), Canada, and Indonesia. For what it’s worth, the trade-in plywood is tightly controlled by Alexei Mordashov, Russia’s richest man and one of Vladimir Putin’s staunchest allies.

United States imports of plywood by supplying countries in May 2024

In April, Wood Central reported that timber accounts for more than 50% of Russian products entering the United States, leading ENGOs to speculate that the US reliance on lumber could inadvertently fuel the conflict.

At the time, they alleged that the Russian military “directly controls an area of forest twice the size of New Jersey,” with the army profiting from the sale of timber transported from Russia through Eurasia. They then urged that the Biden administration “add Russian timber imports to the next round of US sanctions on Russia.”

Vladimir Putin and Alexey Mordashov 2018 02 21 fotor 20240223135821 1024x632.jpg 4
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Alexey Mordashov, Russia’s richest man, who has profiteered off selling plywood into the North American market. (Photo Credit: Wiki Commons, under Creative Commons)

The United States (and Australia) have some of the softest compliance actions against Russian timber across the Western world, with the Biden administration refusing to follow the UK, EU and more than 130 global ENGOs in introducing a sanction on all timber imports after the Ukrainian Parliament asked all “friendly countries to sanction Russian timber.

Since March 2022, more than US $2 billion worth of timber has been imported from Russia, with two of the country’s wealthiest oligarchs profiting from the United States’ lapsed sanctions. This has seen traders rely on Russian imports to make up for Chinese imports.

United States imports of plywood by supplying countries in May 2024 1

And despite America being flooded with lumber, plywood continues to enter US ports from all parts of the world. According to the data, plywood imports are up at the same time 12 months ago, with more than 395,300 cubic metres entering American supply chains – up from 375,214 cubic metres last year.


  • Jason Ross

    Jason Ross, publisher, is a 15-year professional in building and construction, connecting with more than 400 specifiers. A Gottstein Fellowship recipient, he is passionate about growing the market for wood-based information. Jason is Wood Central's in-house emcee and is available for corporate host and MC services.


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