Kemp, Ralston vow to end Georgia investment in Russia amid crisis
House Speaker David Ralston received a bipartisan standing ovation on Monday when he announced he’d seek to end state pension business with Russia.
Last week, Russia launched a large-scale military attack on Ukraine, its neighbor to the southwest. According to Ukraine’s government over the weekend, more than 350 civilians have been killed.
Republican leaders condemned Russia’s actions and Ralston said he aims to take their harsh words a step further.
He announced to his chamber that he directed the House Budget and Research Office to report on any investments the state holds in Russian equities and assets — noting specifically the state’s employee and teacher’s retirement systems.
“I don't know about you all, but I don't want one penny of a Georgian’s money going to subsidize Vladimir Putin,” he said. “While our role in international affairs is limited, we make clear that our people stand with those who want to live in peace.”
The speaker’s office has asked state agencies that may have ties with Russia to report investment with the country and potential opportunities for divestment. The office has yet to hear back on specific examples.
Gov. Brian Kemp's office also said in a statement that the governor, too, supports dissolving Georgia investments with Russia.
“Last week, our office began reviewing and taking actions to ensure Georgia taxpayer dollars are not being used to subsidize Russia," said Katie Byrd, director of communications for Kemp. "Upon identification, we will fully divest the agreements. So far, there has been one instance, and we will be fully divested from that agreement by mid-week.”
The state also has economic ties with the country in terms of trade.
According to the Georgia Department of Economic Development, in 2021, the state totaled more than $146 million in exports to Russia and brought in more than $234 million in imports.
Top exports to the country were commercial aircraft, cars, scrap metal and engines. Among Georgia’s top imports from Russia were oil and plywood.
It’s unclear yet how the crisis unfolding in Europe will affect Georgians, but the state’s legislative leaders have pledged allegiance to the people of Ukraine.
“They continue courageously defending their nation against an unwarranted and unprovoked invasion by the Russian Federation,” Ralston said. “...It’s interesting to note that even Russia's own citizens have turned against their government's incursion, protesting in the streets and being detained as a result of their protest and not cheering on this senseless, barbaric violence.”
Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, too, slammed Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday.
“Vladimir Putin is a selfish, brutal dictator, and anybody who would tell you otherwise is lying,” he said. “I call on this country, I call the state, I call on this chamber to stand in support of the Ukrainian people as they fight for freedom.”
Cogdell Republican State Sen. Russ Goodman also took to the podium in the chamber to condemn Americans who support Russia and its attack on Ukraine.
“It is unfathomable to me that any American that calls himself an ‘American,’ with what's going on in the world today, can chant: 'Putin’ and 'Russia,’ he said. “Anyone that gives aid and comfort to the enemy like that, I’m going to tell you something: They are not deserving of the title to be called an ‘American.’”
His comments seemed to be referring to a white nationalist rally in Florida, where Georgia U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene spoke in front of a crowd that cheered in support of Putin.