Back in 2019, then Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocked a bill to keep sanctions in place on Russia’s largest aluminum producer.
In January, as the Senate debated whether to permit the Trump administration to lift sanctions on Russia’s largest aluminum producer, two men with millions of dollars riding on the outcome met for dinner at a restaurant in Zurich.
On one side of the table sat the head of sales for Rusal, the Russian aluminum producer that would benefit most immediately from a favorable Senate vote. The U.S. government had imposed sanctions on Rusal as part of a campaign to punish Russia for “malign activity around the globe,” including attempts to sway the 2016 presidential election.
On the other side sat Craig Bouchard, an American entrepreneur who had gained favor with officials in Kentucky, the home state of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Bouchard was trying to build the first new aluminum-rolling mill in the United States in nearly four decades, in a corner of northeastern Kentucky ravaged by job losses and the opioid epidemic — a project that stood to benefit enormously if Rusal were able to get involved. [..]
By the next day, McConnell had successfully blocked the bill, despite the defection of 11 Republicans.
Within weeks, the U.S. government had formally lifted sanctions on Rusal, citing a deal with the company that reduced the ownership interest of its Kremlin-linked founder, Oleg Deripaska. And three months later, Rusal announced plans for an extraordinary partnership with Bouchard’s company, providing $200 million in capital to buy a 40 percent stake in the new aluminum plant in Ashland, Ky. — a project Gov. Matt Bevin (R) boasted was “as significant as any economic deal ever made in the history of Kentucky.”
That earned McConnell the nickname “Moscow Mitch,” which, to this day, he hates.
Now, with a new administration in town that is willing to hold Russia accountable for its interference in US elections and threatening sanctions, Rusal has pulled the plug on the deal:
According to a Bloomberg report, Rusal, the formerly blacklisted Russian company with a major stake in the 10-figure project, is suspending its investments while it awaits word that its U.S. partners have raised the necessary funds. So far the company has sunk at least $65 million in the proposed mill, to be built by Unity Aluminum, previously known as Braidy Industries.
The news is only the latest twist for the troubled project, which has been plagued by fundraising questions and the ouster of the CEO formerly overseeing the venture. Rusal’s involvement has been controversial from the start, after it was revealed that the company had been subject to sanctions.
Kentucky pledged $15 million in taxpayer dollars toward the project under former Gov. Matt Bevin, but current Gov. Andy Beshear has repeatedly vowed to get the money back if the mill project doesn’t materialize.
Backers have touted the plant, which was slated for completion last year, as one that could create up to 550 jobs.
I guess now that the other guy and Moscow Mitch can’t protect him, Deripaska has no reason to invest in the US.