A Faustian bargain is a pact whereby a person trades something of importance for some material benefit, such as knowledge, power or riches.

The term refers to the legend of Doctor Faustus, a character in German folklore, who traded his soul for unattainable knowledge.

In my April 24 column, “The Russians are Coming,” I assigned Mitch McConnell the moniker, “Moscow Mitch” to emphasize the strong evidence that McConnell had made a Faustian bargain with the Russian oligarchs who controlled Rusal, the aluminum conglomerate, to win political points in Kentucky for his re-election campaign. The moniker went viral and continues to rightfully threaten “Moscow Mitch.”

Additionally, U.S. Rep. James Comer (R-Ky), publicly criticized McConnell’s fellow conspirator Gov. Matt Bevin – or “Muscovite Matt,” as I like to call him – who promised to build the aluminum mill in Ashland by getting an UNUSUAL $15 million of state funding. That was a cute move by Bevin, ensuring that if Democrats or Republicans killed the deal, they would be blamed for hurting fellow Kentuckians who are desperate for jobs.  

We must now refer to “Muscovites Matt and Mitch” for their Faustian bargain with Rusal, the Russian oligarchs, shady lobbyists and the $200 million offered by Rusal to sweeten the deal. Kelly Flood, a Democratic Kentucky House member, has said that when Bevin asked the legislature to appropriate $15 million of taxpayer dollars as an incentive for the project, he misrepresented 11th hour House Bill 482. She told Rachel Maddow of MSNBC she had “buyer’s remorse” because that money is being used to partner with Rusal, Braidy Industries and Oleg Deripaska, who is alleged to have “bribed a government official, ordered the murder of a businessman, and had links to a Russian organized crime group,” according to the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control.

According to an Aug. 13, 2019, TIME magazine story, critics of the deal from both parties say it gives Moscow political influence that could undermine national security. A TIME investigation found that Rusal “used a broad array of political and economic tools to fight the sanctions, establishing a foothold in U.S. politics in the process.”

In the TIME story, Heather Conley, who served as a Deputy Assistant Secretary of State under President George W. Bush, said, “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.”

In a previous 2017 interview with TIME – quoted in the more recent story – billionaire Dmitry Firtash, a Ukrainian longtime ally of the Kremlin, described how the Russian strategy works: “What is a factory in a one-factory town? It’s what all life revolves around. We don’t just pay wages. We provide the social safety net. So, people believe us.” When he and his factories put their support behind a political cause or candidate, “that influences people. That’s what ensures electoral support.”

The CEO of Braidy Industries, Craig Bouchard, knows the risks of doing business with Russian oligarchs. In 2009, Bouchard even co-wrote a book, “America for Sale,” which warns that foreign investors pose a threat to America’s economic and national security.

He concluded 10 years ago that if “Putin wishes to throw a wrench into the works of the U.S. economy, then he now has acquired the means to do so,” also saying that when it comes to industries vital to defense, like steel and aluminum, “the bottom line is that we believe it is risky business to trust Russian oligarchs.”

It makes you wonder why this respected U.S. entrepreneur would not follow his own advice. Vladimir Putin now has Bevin and McConnell helping him do it, and money and power over country is right out of their playbook.

Robert Carpenter, the desperate judge executive of Greenup County says, “Rusal is a company, not a country. That kind of an investment, I don’t care who it’s with.” A classic Faustian bargain.

By refusing to recognize and combat this Russian threat, has Kentucky now been “captured” by the Russians?

Last week in Murray, Briggs and Stratton announced the closing of its local plant. Six hundred-plus jobs and $20 million are lost economic activity.

Hopefully, Murray will be able to resist a Faustian bargain to replace those lost jobs.

Marshall Ward is a Murray resident who is a member of the Democratic Party. He may be reached at josephmarshallward@gmail.com.

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