Georgia’s secretary of state is hoping companies won’t wait for sanctions to force them to sever business ties with Russia.
Instead, Republican Brad Raffensperger is urging all firms, even those who haven’t yet been impacted by the historic raft of measures designed to punish Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, to voluntarily boycott the country in solidarity with a fellow democracy under siege.
Mr. Raffensperger, whose office oversees the registration of 1.3 million businesses in Georgia, implied in a news release that such actions would adhere to the spirit of the international community’s effort to defend a rules-based global order.
“Putin has made clear his designs to roll back the progress of democracy and freedom in the world, and the people of Ukraine are bearing the brunt of his violent revisionism. I am calling on the people of Georgia to cease any business with Russia or investment in Russian assets, or companies that support Russia, to demonstrate our resolve on the side of liberty and freedom from tyranny.”
Some large Atlanta companies have already taken actions to limit their exposure to Russia. Delta Air Lines Inc. last Friday exited its codeshare agreement with Russia’s Aeroflot, joining a number of Western firms, including oil giants like Shell and British Petroleum, that have retreated abruptly from the country as its army advances on Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital, and bombards other cities like Kharkiv as it seeks to topple Ukraine’s elected government. Google disabled maps data in the country to avoid their use to monitor civilian and troop movements, while “demonetizing” ads from Russian state media.
Other Atlanta firms have so far been mum publicly on any response to the war. Coca-Cola Co. has yet to announce any reaction, perhaps due to the fact that much of its business in the market is conducted via a bottler with localized operations, including 10 manufacturing plants within Russia, a market that Coke’s annual report said was partly to thank for strong post-pandemic recovery in emerging markets during 2021.
Georgia-based tractor company AGCO Corp., is listed as a member of the American Chamber of Commerce in Russia, a major grain producer. The facilities list on its website includes an assembly operation and distribution center operated by AGCO Machinery LLC on the outskirts of Moscow. It also operates a sales office in the Russian capital, as well as an administrative office in Kyiv, Ukraine.
Georgia’s trade with Russia, however, remained relatively weak. Exports to Russia totaled $146 million, lower than to any of Peru, Argentina, Egypt or Honduras — as well as Ukraine. Some $50 million of the state’s total exports to Russia included aerospace parts, the next largest product category being engines, transmissions and power equipment at $14 million.
Meanwhile, the 32 of 34 Republicans in the Georgia State Senate co-signed a resolution to ban companies “owned or operated by Russia” from bidding on state contracts, echoing legislation targeting China that the State Senate passed recently. The bill may end up being largely symbolic, as it’s unlikely that many state-owned Russian firms have been engaged in business with the state of Georgia.
Axios reported Monday that Georgia’s retirement fund would divest from the one Russian asset that it held by the middle of this week after calls from speaker of the Georgia House David Ralston called for a look into whether taxpayer dollars were being used to support Vladimir Putin’s regime.