Several U.S. islands ceded to Russia & other countries, without congressional approval or public debate. : LUSENET : TB2K spinoff uncensored : One Thread

Quietly State Dept. Turns Over American Islands to Russia, Others

Stephan Archer 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 military value.

So where exactly are these disputed islands?

The Arctic islands, which lie west of Alaska and north of Siberia, include the islands of Wrangell, Herald, Bennett, Jeannette and Henrietta.

The islands in the Bering Sea make up the westernmost point in Alaskas 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 a century, the State Department has been anxious to turn them back to Russia.

The tranfer would have gone unnoticed were it not for State Department Watch, a Washington-based group that monitors State Department acitivities.

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 that 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., has 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 islands inhabitants would also be citizens of the 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 by the Stars and Stripes waving proudly in the brisk air but by a Russian military tower.

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 by the Russian military and believes the U.S. government should do something about taking the islands back. zcontacted 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 on 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, didnt 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 into affect.

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.

Secret Transfer

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. didnt benefit enough from it.

Nevertheless, former U.S. Secretary of State Jim Baker and the Soviet Unions Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze signed a secretive executive agreement the year before that bound both governments to the treaty.

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 states economy.

A wealth of petroleum and natural gas hang in the balance as well.

When contacted the State Department for an explanation, a spokesman said he wasnt 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 Alaskas sovereign land, Rep. John Coghill Jr. of that states 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.

Military Value

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 doesnt just consist of Russia. It includes China."z

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.


-- Ain't Gonna Happen (Not Here, May 08, 2000


Oh, now, don't be such a poor loser. After all, life (and the politics of islands) is like that. After all, we won the last fight over islands in the Pacific Northwest.

Yes, I'm sure you all recall the famous Pig War of 1859 (the last armed confrontation between Great Britian and the US) over the islands in the Strait of San Juan de Fuca off of Seattle. And (through arbitration) we kicked their heathen butts and places such as Friday Island, WA are now populated by freedom loving Americans (and their vacation homes) rather than by Godless Canadians.

So, you win some; you lose some. See:

-- E.H. Porter (Just, May 08, 2000.

Not Wrangell Island, "Wrangel".

With two "ll"'s - no way it's south of juneau, but with one "l" sure looks like it:

Alaska House Joint Resolution 27

-- jth (, May 09, 2000.

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