By MARK WOHLANDER
Wow, who would have known that when Governor Bevin announced a partnership and the investment of $15 million of Kentucky’s tax dollars with Braidy Industries, that Kentuckians would trade away millions of tax dollars and millions of dollars of tax incentives not only in exchange for the promise of 600 so-called high paying jobs in America, but also, thousands more high paying jobs in Russia. Yes, you read it correctly, thousands of high paying jobs which will be generated in Russia where Braidy’s announced partner, United Company RUSAL, a partner which will own a 40-percent stake in a billion-dollar company, all for the discounted price of $200 million, is headquartered.
One is left to ask the rhetorical question of why should anyone care about this Kentucky/Russian partnership which was crafted in the dead of night and announced with little fanfare? Well, for starters, the answer to the rhetorical question could be as simple as knowing why the Bevin administration wanted this partnership to remain under the radar until it was too late to change course?
Fortunately for Kentuckians, a little-known senator from Oregon, Senator Ron Wyden, decided to ask for answers not to just a few rhetorical questions, but rather, to several hard questions regarding a partnership which does not stop at the headquarters of Braidy’s proposed partner Rusal, a company headquartered in Moscow. Instead, as a result of Senator Wyden’s tenacity, and that of several other members of Congress, it is now clear that the Braidy/Rusal partnership extends well beyond Rusal’s headquarters and extends all the way to the Kremlin and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Consider for a moment just a few words from Senator Wyden’s letter to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, words which should set off alarms and raise red warning flags not just for Kentuckians, but for everyone who has concerns over our national security, and the thousands of American jobs which will be lost if this partnership is approved. In the words of Senator Wyden,
“Accordingly, we were deeply alarmed to learn of the efforts…[of] Rusal…to jointly construct and operate the Braidy Atlas flat-rolled aluminum rolling plant in Ashland, Kentucky. Rusal will invest $200 million in Braidy Atlas for a 40-percent stake in this project, with the remaining ownership held by Braidy. Braidy announced that it is applying to the U.S. Department of Energy and the German National equipment finance programs to fund the debt portion of its capital structure. Public reports indicate the plant will make “unspecified materials for the Department of Defense,” ‘among other products.’”
Have we completely gone mad? The real question which Kentuckians and all Americans need to ask is whether we are actually going to allow a Russian company with ties to the Kremlin to own a 40-percent stake in an American company, a company funded with Department of Energy dollars, a company which produces flat-rolled aluminum which is vital to America’s infrastructure and defense industries, to have any interest in Braidy, let alone a 40-percent interest in this vital company.
Worse yet, as part of its partnership with Rusal, Braidy Industries has casually announced that its sole supplier of aluminum will be United Company RUSAL. In a recent press release the company claimed that, “No U.S. producer of prime aluminum is able to supply low-carbon, high-quality aluminum at this scale.” So what happens to the thousands of other jobs in the aluminum industry when Rusal becomes the sole supplier of aluminum for Braidy? What happens to the 300 employees at Century Aluminum, the aluminum smelter in Hawesville, Kentucky which just recently returned to work as a result of the tariffs on aluminum, tariffs which allowed Century to reopen, invest $115 million for new technology, technology which will eventually increase Century Aluminum’s production by 60-percent.
As we consider the Braidy/Rusal partnership, take a moment to consider the words of Ronald Reagan when he said, “But if history teaches anything, it teaches that simpleminded appeasement or wishful thinking about our adversaries is folly. It means the betrayal of our past, the squandering of our freedom…. So, I urge you to speak out against those who would place the United States in a position of military and moral inferiority.”
There is another common sense saying that Kentuckians can apply to this ill-conceived partnership, a saying which while not as eloquent as the words of Ronald Reagan, echo his words, and that common sense saying which is used in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky is that very simple saying of “that dog won’t hunt.” If this partnership is allowed to move forward, Kentuckians will be able to look back and remember this time in history as “Russian collusion, Kentucky style.”
What needs to happen before it is too late, is that all Kentuckians should join in a request, no not just all Kentuckians, but also all Americans, should join in not just a request, but a demand, for the Treasury Department, the Department of Energy, the Department of Defense, and the Department of Justice to immediately open up investigations and halt this insanity before it is too late. It is time to not only protect Kentucky jobs, including those at Century Aluminum, but it is also time to protect thousands of other jobs at aluminum plants across America. More importantly, it is time to protect our national security which relies on a vibrant aluminum industry.
In the end, if Braidy really is interested in building a flat-rolled aluminum plant which will benefit America, then Braidy can partner with an American business, a business which will not only produce 600 high-paying jobs in Eastern Kentucky, but also hundreds of additional high-paying jobs for others in the aluminum industry; a business which will also protect our national security and those “unspecified materials for the Department of Defense.”
Oh, and, by the way, there is one last rhetorical question which necessarily needs to be asked and answered, and that rhetorical question is just exactly when will Kentuckians get back the $15 million which Governor Bevin gave to Braidy to build an aluminum plant in Ashland, a plant which would benefit Kentuckians, not Russians.