Russian interests continue their campaign to insert themselves into U.S. society, and they’ve had a new foothold rolling out in recent months — their 40 percent stake in a massive aluminum plant development led by Braidy Industries in Kentucky. The partnership between that company and the Russian metals giant Rusal emerged after the company had been targeted by tough sanctions in response to Russian meddling in U.S. elections — but by the time the deal came through, Rusal had successfully gotten sanctions lifted via a campaign that included targeting Senate Majority Leader and Republican Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell. The GOP leader claimed that his opposition to continued sanctions was unrelated to the economic developments in Kentucky, but the facts are there, no matter a motive or lack thereof. McConnell helped Rusal establish a foothold in the U.S.
Longtime but currently retired diplomat Daniel Fried grimly shared in response:
‘That’s just what the Russians do. They insert themselves into a foreign economy and then start to influence its politics from the inside.’
Heather Conley, who served as a Deputy Assistant Secretary of State in the Bush administration, shared more details about the issue:
‘You cannot go against them in a policy decision, even though it’s in our national interest, when they have infiltrated you economically. They use our laws, our rules, our banks, our lawyers, our lobbyists — it’s a strategy from within.’
Time Magazine says that as he considered what path lay ahead for his plans for Braidy Industries, the company’s CEO Craig Bouchard “concluded that he had no choice” other than pursuing the Rusal investment, which at present has a value of about $200 million. He told the publication that he “knew it could be controversial, if not outright illegal, to work on a deal with Rusal while it was still fighting to free itself from U.S. sanctions” — but thanks to the political maneuvering of McConnell over the objection of even some of his Republican colleagues, those sanctions soon became a non-issue, even while its targeted head Oleg Deripaska retained some financial stake in the company.
Democratic Kentucky state Representative Kelly Flood shared:
‘The only reason Oleg is here is because Mitch McConnell opened the gate. We are now all aligned with this criminal.’
Even local Republican Congressman James Comer said he “would not have taken the Russian money.”
The plant, which for now is still a vision for the future, stands poised to deliver dramatic economic rewards for those around it in the Appalachia region. According to Braidy, a full 11,000 people have already submitted applications to work there. At one point prior to the Rusal investment, Bouchard himself apparently promised that the plant would “employ 600 full-time workers earning twice the average salary in the region” and help “create 18,000 other jobs across the state.” Of course, these economic rewards make it even harder for authorities to take any kind of potential future political action against those who helped make it happen — the Russians and more specifically, Rusal.
Wildly enough, Bouchard himself has sounded an alarm in the past about the dangers of Russian interests using economic stakes as leverage against the United States. In 2009, he wrote in a book called America for Sale that if “Putin harbors a nasty wish to throw a wrench into the works of the U.S. economy, then he now has acquired the means to do so” with the acquisition of key metals industry interests in the United States. Now, however, even Bouchard has shifted, and asserted to Time Magazine that “the U.S. has nothing to worry about.”
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