Vyacheslav Volodin, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin and chairman of the State Duma, the lower house of the country’s legislature, issued a stark warning Wednesday that Russia has something to reclaim from the US: the state of Alaska.
“When they [U.S. lawmakers] attempt to appropriate our assets abroad, they should be aware that we also have something to claim back, “Volodin said during a meeting with Russian officials on Wednesday, according to the Associated Press.
Tensions between the US and Russia have been mounting for months amid the ongoing war in Ukraine and the unprecedented sanctions that Western countries imposed in response to Putin’s invasion. Russia has gone so far as to threaten a direct conflict with the US and NATO, stoking fears that the war could spread beyond Ukraine’s borders. Volodin’s comments suggest that he could support Russia targeting Alaska in retaliation for freezing Russian assets, a move that could start a feared military confrontation between Russia and the US
Alaska was once part of Russia until the US purchased the territory on March 30, 1867, for a price tag of $ 7.2 million, according to the Library of Congress. In reference to then-Secretary of State William H. Seward, some criticized the deal by calling it “Seward’s folly” or “Seward’s icebox,” but criticism eased in the wake of the Klondike Gold Rush in 1896.
Alaska did not officially become a US state until January 1959, the same year that Hawaii also gained statehood, according to the Library of Congress.
Though Russia’s ownership of Alaska ended more than a century ago, the country and state share a close geographic proximity. Russia and Alaska, via Russia’s Big Diomede Island and Alaska’s Little Diomede Island, are less than three miles apart at their closest point in the Bering Strait, according to Alaska’s official website. Mainland Alaska and Russia are 55 miles apart at their closest point between Alaska’s Seward Peninsula and Russia’s Chukotka Peninsula.
Volodin is not the only Russian figure who has spoken about the prospect of Russia taking Alaska back from the US
Oleg Matveychev, a member of the Duma, told Russian state television earlier this year that Russia should seek the “return of all Russian properties, those of the Russian empire, the Soviet Union and current Russia, which has been seized in the United States, and so on. “
When asked if that included Alaska, Matveychev responded that it did.
Responding to Matveychev’s comments at the time, Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy tweeted: “Good luck with that! Not if we have something to say about it. We have hundreds of thousands of armed Alaskans and military members that will see it differently.”
Newsweek reached out to Russia’s foreign ministry, the US Defense Department and Volodin via the State Duma for comment.