An ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin lashed out at the U.S. for its freezing and seizing of Russian-owned assets over Moscow’s war in Ukraine. As if to remind Washington it can use a similar strategy, the same ally also appeared to suggest Moscow can reclaim Alaska.
During a meeting with Russian lawmakers on Wednesday, the speaker of the State Duma Vyacheslav Volodin railed against U.S. authorities for their actions to seize assets belonging to the Russian state and oligarchs since the Ukraine war began on Feb. 24. In response, he warned Russia can do the same and hinted it may include reclaiming Alaska.
“Let America always remember: there’s a piece of territory, Alaska,” Volodin told lawmakers in the final sessions of the Duma before a summer recess. “When they try to manage our resources abroad, let them think before they act that we, too, have something to take back.”
Since the war began, U.S. and Western officials have seized billions in assets belonging to Russia and Kremlin-aligned oligarchs, including yachts and villas. Altogether, the Department of Justice estimates that they managed to block or freeze nearly $30 billion in sanctioned Russian assets in the months since President Joe Biden directed it to target oligarchs’ “ill-begotten gains.”
Alaska was first “discovered” by Russian settlers in 1741, but it would not be until 1784 that Russia would establish a permanent settlement on the territory. Like European colonizers elsewhere in North America, Alaska’s native population suffered heavily from Old World diseases brought by Russian traders as well as fighting between the two groups.
The U.S. purchased Alaska in 1867 for $7.2 million dollars in gold or roughly two cents an acre. Alaska did not become a U.S. state until 1959.
It is unclear if Volodin’s remarks were meant to be taken as a serious threat against Alaska. In his speech, Volodin noted a fellow lawmaker suggested Russia sponsor a referendum in the state on rejoining, but held back laughter after saying, “Russia does not interfere in domestic affairs.”
But Volodin’s mirth comes against the backdrop of Russia both staging flawed referendums and documented interferences in other countries’ politics.
In 2014, Russia illegally annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine after staging a referendum that saw a ludicrously high 95.5% of the population vote in favor of joining Russia. After launching its war, it has been reported that Russian authorities in occupied portions of Ukraine, including the southern Kherson and Zaporozhye regions, are preparing for a similar referendum on joining Russia.
After sanctions were implemented over the annexation of Crimea, Russia in 2016 interfered in the U.S. presidential election, as well as the midterm elections in 2018 and the presidential election in 2020. Russian hackers and trolls also injected themselves into the 2017 presidential election in France and elections that same year in Germany.
Russia denied all claims of interference and accused the U.S. and the West of attempting to do the same.