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Burgum talks Russian ties to legacy fund, and putting pressure on the country's oil economy

The North Dakota governor is calling for looser oil restrictions to put more pressure on Russia. This is happening as lawmakers are calling on the state to pull Russian investments from the Legacy Fund.

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North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum sits with a smile in front of a large US flag backdrop at the Summit Carbon Solutions announcement in Casselton on Wednesday.
Nick Broadway / WDAY-TV
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CASSELTON, N.D. — After the Summit Carbon Solutions announcement, Wednesday, March 2, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum took time to speak with reporters about Russian ties to the state Legacy Fund and putting more pressure on the Kremlin's oil economy. Burgum believes the state should not be giving money to Russia, but explained why pulling these Legacy Fund investments too soon could be a hasty decision.

He said those Russian bonds make up less than a tenth of a percent of the total Legacy Fund. If the state investment board rushes to sell those bonds now, Burgum says someone could quickly buy them on the secondary market — a situation where Russia would not lose any money.

"We are aligned, we don't want to give money to the Russian government, we also don't want to be panic sellers at a time when if we dump these resources right now, that it wouldn't do a thing to the Russian government," he said. "It would only hurt us."

He is more focused on oil, adding that more sanctions that would hurt the Russian oil economy should go in place. The U.S. reportedly bought about 245 million barrels from Russia in 2021.

"Sell energy to our friends and allies versus buy it from our enemies, and if we were selling it to Western Europe, they wouldn't be dependent on Russia," Burgum said. "They're talking about sanctions, but nobody is sanctioning oil and gas purchases from Russia. That's where Putin gets all of his money, he invades Ukraine and the price of oil goes up, he's actually getting more money because he's invading."

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Burgum wants the Biden administration to lighten up on oil restrictions so North Dakota can produce more oil for European allies. This may allow those countries to stop importing gas from Russia.

"Russia has a smaller GDP than Texas, smaller than the state of Texas, it's like one state with an army, and they're more dependent," Burgum described. "Russia is more dependent on oil and gas than Texas is dependent on oil and gas."

WDAY News asked if he would consider joining the states that ban Russian vodka. He said it could happen, but calls those bans "symbolic." He said he wants the state to focus on hitting Russia's economy where it hurts — their oil revenue.

"Everyone's got to stand up and not just count on the U.S. to be the policemen of the world, but the U.S. has got to be strong and we got to lead," he said.

The State Investment Board is holding a special meeting on Thursday to talk about Russian bonds in the Legacy Fund.

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