Is Russian President Vladimir Putin seeking to reclaim his nation’s one-time colony of Alaska? A vaguely worded Kremlin decree might be considered as an attempt to launch the largest real estate transaction of the 21st century, although the State Department insisted the U.S. will not be reverting back to 49 states.
In 1867, the financially struggling government of Tsar Alexander II sold its sparsely populated Alaskan colony to the U.S. government for $7.2 million – roughly $125 million in today’s funds. Last week, Russia’s TASS news agency reported Putin was allocating funds “for an effort to find, register and ensure legal protection of Russia’s property abroad, including property of the Soviet Union and the Russian Empire.” The Russian leader decided the funds will be used to finance “the process of searching the real estate property owned by the Russian Federation, the former Russian Empire, the former USSR,” along with the “due registration of [property] rights” and “legal protection of this property.”
While the Putin announcement report was most likely a thinly veiled attempt to justify the seizure of Ukrainian territory in the ongoing war started by Russia two years ago, State Department principal deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel fielded a question in a Monday press conference questioning how the Biden administration would react if Russia sought to acquire Alaska.
“Well, I think I can speak for all of us in the U.S. government to say that certainly he’s not getting it back,” Patel said.
Patel’s response sparked a facetious reply from former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, who wrote on X (formerly Twitter), “According to a State Department representative, Russia is not getting back Alaska, which was sold to the U.S. in the 19th century. This is it, then. And we’ve been waiting for it to be returned any day. Now war is unavoidable.” Medvedev added a laughing emoji to his tweet, lest anyone think Russian forces were heading across the Bering Strait.