Monday, May 8, 2000
In recent years several U.S. islands have been ceded to Russia and other
countries, without congressional approval or public debate.
These islands, many uninhabited, are significant because they hold potential
mineral, gas, oil and fishing rights – not to mention potential strategic
So where exactly are these disputed islands?
The Arctic islands, which lie west of Alaska and north of Siberia, include
islands of Wrangell, Herald, Bennett, Jeannette and Henrietta.
The islands in the Bering Sea make up the westernmost point in Alaska's
Aleutian chain and include Copper Island, Sea Otter Rock and Sea Lion
Rock. These islands together have more square mileage than the states
of Rhode Island and Delaware combined.
Though the United States had staked claim to these islands for more than
century, the State Department has been anxious to turn them back to Russia.
The transfer would have gone unnoticed were it not for State Department
Watch, a Washington-based group that monitors State Department
Retired U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Carl Olson, who heads State Department
Watch, recently checked with the Census Bureau, asking if it had plans
to count the inhabitants of these disputed islands in the current census.
Olson was stunned by the response he received from the Census Bureau.
"Census Bureau officials were informed by the U.S. Department of State
these islands remain under the jurisdiction of Russia," wrote Kenneth
Prewitt, director of the Census Bureau in a letter to Olson.
"Without confirmation and appropriate documentation from the Department
of State to the contrary, the Census Bureau cannot include these islands as
part of the State of Alaska," Prewitt concluded.
Americans Become Russians
Olson notes that the Census Bureau, with the approval of the State Dept.,
just stripped Americans of their citizenship.
Consider the inhabitants of Wrangell Island, the largest of eight disputed
islands – five lying in the Arctic Ocean and three in the Bering Sea.
Geographically speaking, the island's inhabitants would also be citizens
state of Alaska since no other American state comes even close to the
proximity of the islands.
But if anyone desired to visit Wrangell Island, they would be greeted not
the Stars and Stripes waving proudly in the brisk air but by a Russian
According to Olson, the islands including Wrangell have 18 Russian soldiers
and one officer and 50 to 100 inhabitants.
Olson insists these people have been made to endure foreign occupation
the Russian military and believes the U.S. government should do something
about taking the islands back.
NewsMax.com contacted Mark Seidenberg, a former senior traffic
management specialist within the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and asked
him if he believed the United States should pursue its sovereignty on the
islands. Seidenberg, without hesitation, said "yes."
U.S. Territory for Long Time
U.S. claims for these islands are strong.
When the United States purchased Alaska from Russia in 1867, the
impending treaty included all of the Aleutian Islands, including Copper
Island, Sea Otter Rock and Sea Lion Rock.
A number of years later, in 1881, U.S. Captain Calvin L. Hooper landed
Wrangell Island and claimed it for the United States. One of the landing
party was famed explorer John Muir.
Also in 1881, the U.S. Navy claimed Bennett, Jeannette and Henrietta islands
for the United States. Later that century, the British gave up their claim to
Herald Island, allowing the Americans to take it over.
Claims of these islands, however, didn't become an important issue between
the former Soviet Union and the United States until the 1970s, when the
concept of international fishing zones 200 miles from national coastlines went
With both the Soviet Union and Alaska having coastlines within a much
closer proximity than the needed 400-mile buffer zone, a maritime boundary
had to be established.
The resulting U.S.-U.S.S.R. Maritime Boundary Treaty was passed by the
Senate and ratified by former President George Bush in 1991. Russia,
however, never ratified the treaty because its leaders complained that the
U.S.S.R. didn't benefit enough from it.
Nevertheless, former U.S. Secretary of State Jim Baker and the Soviet
Union's Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze signed a secretive
executive agreement the year before that bound both governments to the
Currently, Russia is demanding hundreds of millions of pounds more
fishing rights from the United States that would undermine the Alaskan
fish industry and, subsequently, the state's economy.
A wealth of petroleum and natural gas hang in the balance as well.
When NewsMax.com contacted the State Department for an explanation, a
spokesman said he wasn't aware of any issue involving the Wrangell Islands
and the U.S. government and that it was his belief that the islands have been
recognized as a part of Russia since the 1800s. During the course of the
interview, the State Department official asked if he was being "put on."
Even though now recognizing Russian jurisdiction over the islands, the
State Department had testified at the June 13, 1991, treaty hearing that the
maritime boundary agreement "does not recognize Soviet sovereignty over
these [five Arctic] islands."
Enraged by the turnover of Alaska's sovereign land, Rep. John Coghill Jr.
that state's legislature sponsored House Joint Resolution 27, which beseeches
the Department of State to inform the Alaska Legislature of any decisions
regarding the maritime agreement.
The resolution further points out that setting a maritime boundary between
Alaska and Russia is a "constitutional issue of states’ rights."
One of the issues over these islands and the surrounding waters are the
fishing rights of Alaskan fishermen. Oil, of which Alaska has the largest
national reserves, may also be abundant in the disputed territory.
Olson notes the area's strategic value as well.
Beneath the icy waters around the islands, submarine warfare has taken
place in the past between the former Soviet Union and the United States.
The ice is now one of the last places for submarines to hide. The islands
could also be hosts to vital facilities tracking hostile government movements.
"Everybody knows that the shortest distance between the U.S. mainland and
Asia is the polar route, giving easy access to aircraft and whatever else,"
Olson explained. "And the Asian mainland doesn't just consist of Russia. It
More American Islands Lost
Olson adds that the Arctic islands are not the only American islands the
State Dept. has been giving away without congressional approval or treaty.
In recent years four American Pacific Islands – Washington, Fanning,
Makin and Little Makin – have been ceded to the island nation of Kiribati
without a treaty.
"Lost” islands include Nassau Island in the Pacific Ocean and Bajo Nuevo
and Serranilla Bank in the Caribbean Sea. The islands became American
territory under the Guano Act in the late 1800s.
Regarding these three lost islands, the Census Bureau's Prewitt, in a letter
dated March 15, stated, "With respect to Nassau Island, Bajo Nuevo, or
Serranilla Bank, the Department of State has not informed the Census
Bureau that claims to these islands have been certified."
In addition to the abandonment of the islands is the loss of all resources
within a 200-mile economic zone of each island. As is the case with most
of the Arctic islands, the economic zones around each of the islands may
be more important than the islands themselves.
Reproduced with the permission
of NewsMax.com. All rights reserved.
Russia/Us Treaty, 1867
The Alaska State Constitution
A Brief History of Alaska Statehood (1867-1959)
I wrote our two Senators, Frank
Murkowski and Ted Stevens and my Representative Don Young. I also
wrote to our Alaska State Senators and below we have posted their replies
to this article.
Senator Frank Murkowski's Response
to this article:
and he sent me a copy of the above article
Still waiting to hear from Senator Ted Stevens and Congressman Don
Subject: Islands transfer
Date: Fri, 26 May 2000 13:53:33 -0800
From: Senator Loren Leman <Senator_Loren_Leman@legis.state.ak.us>
Sadly, I believe the article you sent me is true.
I do not believe this
can or should be done without an act of Congress. The State of Alaska
Legislature has gone on record more than once expressing concern about
this. I have supported the resolutions that have passed the
Legislature. However, it appears that our U.S. State Department is
asleep at the switch on this one.
Subject: Re: State Dept. Turns Over Alaska Islands
Date: Fri, 26 May 2000 16:28:54 -0800
From: Senator Taylor <Senator_Taylor@legis.state.ak.us>
Organization: Alaska State Legislature
Yes they can give it away I don't like it but there is little
we can do to stop it -- look on a globe and you'll see that those islands
would be difficult to maintain an americam presence on as they sit just
off the Siberian mainland and are froze in with ice most of the year.
Sen. Robin Taylor
These are the only replies that
I received from all of the Alaska State Senators.
Still waiting to hear from Senator Georgianna Lincoln, my district senator.
|any all phrase|