Not many here would ever side with Russian member of Parliament Oleg Matveychev, an outlandish wacko known to parrot Putin propaganda. For good and ill, comically-bizarre, revisionist delusions spread faster than super-sonic missiles. Fortunately, the Matveychev (perhaps Putin) whopper—that the “Russian empire” could retrieve Alaska (and more)—comes alongside his breezy overconfidence for an easy, nearly wrapped up Ukrainian conquest.
Considering similar populations of Alaska and D.C., this progressive would thrill to take hard cash (no rubles) for a weird red state assuredly filled with right-wing embrace of violence to “save our country.” Why not an exchange that grants D.C. statehood, where pained victims know political violence all too well? And at a big profit, as taxpayers already own D.C. That combines enlightened politics with great symbolism, reminding regressive states the cost for marching backwards, stomping on innocents in the process.
Assuming that in latter-day capitalism everything has its price, let’s see the color of Russian money. Let’s test what our bargain prize after the Civil War (by a highly motivated seller) now fetches on the open market. Why not a global auction, including China? What progressive objects to having two fewer Republican senators and one less House member, erasing three fewer Electoral College votes for the bad guys. D.C. would then have three votes of its own, a neat six vote reversal and Democratic control of the Senate in sync with clear majority viewpoints. What a boost for sagging democracy.
Bonanza of Seward’s Folly
Many called buying Alaska after the Civil War “Seward’s Folly” (well before Palin surfaced), an under-populated, extremely remote land mass of limited perceived worth, namely lumber, fish and furs. Still remote, just over 700K residents, but now with huge oil deposits and western investments. In 1867, America bought 586,412 square miles (a territory) for $7.2 million (equivalent roughly to a piddling $300 million today). For the record, the expanding but war-shy US had to buy Florida and the Louisiana Purchase, plus a forced sale (after the Mexican-American War) of the Southwest (1848, $15 million); five years later we paid a whopping ten million ($350 million today) for the puny Gadsden Purchase wasteland.
Gosh, I wonder what Spain or France would pay money to retrieve a few decidedly unpleasant red states. My nominations would say good riddance to the worse half of the Old South and backward midwesterners. I’d put Texas up for sale but, aping Florida’s dismal government, it’s way too crazy for Mexico or anyone to want to own.
Modest Russian proposals
Before the full appraisal of Alaska the asset, here’s a mercifully compact version of bizarro make-believe from Matveychev, an actual Russian official: because (dumb, weak?) America’s so “easily manipulated,” [after the presumed Ukrainian] victory and “demilitarization” is done, “we’re going to raise the stakes… [not just] lifting of all sanctions” [but] “dissolution of NATO” [and] “extradition of all war criminals” like Zelensky. These laughable ploys parallel Russian delusions for “reparations” to offset mean-spirited sanctions, even “the war itself,” whose cost “we should get” back, plus (brace yourself) “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.”
“Are you including Alaska and Fort Ross?” the interviewer/host asked. Yes, “as well as the Antarctic,” bellowed Matveychev, “We discovered it, so it belongs to us . . . you didn’t want to talk” about merely “something small, like Ukraine’s neutrality.” And all doable, says the Putin puppet, without nuclear weapons, tactical or strategic. “What for? We can take them down without it,” he continued, “I still think that those who took our money should be told, you have 24 hours to unfreeze our funds, or else we’ll send you what you know we’ve got,” according to the translation. “Your choice. Tactical or strategic, take a pick. You took our money, you’re the thieves, our talk is short with you: a bullet to the head.” Well, maybe nukes have their “diplomatic” place after all, oversized bullets to the head. Such facile modesty turns mere delusions of grandeur into cosmic nothingness.
Gosh, Trump isn’t alone, strutting like an all-powerful mafia crime boss. Isn’t it reassuring that Russia has its own unhinged Marjorie Taylor Green-types? By the way, buster the blustery, we didn’t “seize” Alaska; we bought it because your Czar pushed the sale (remoteness made defense expensive, plus needing money to fight imperial European wars). Ironically, the U.S. was acceptable because of our second order, less imperial presumptions, vs. major expansionist powers like England, France, and Germany.
Let’s make a deal
If we simply total Alaska’s oil and mining sales and reserves, we’re talking tens of billions, with world-class holdings in coal, gold, lead, silver, zinc, plus construction sand, gravel, and rock. Add in fishing, hunting, tourism and agriculture, and we’re talking real money. In 2020, Alaska’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) surpassed $50 billion, with state income a record $30 billion (resource sales plus tourism, plus lucrative federal subsidies). Figuring ten times income as starting point, that’s $300 billion. Intangibles are worth another $200 billion (undiscovered minerals, greater ag production as the planet warms, buckets of clean water, northern lights, polar bears, great vistas). Finally, Russia must compensate private property owners or face a real war. Okay, Putin, think you’re going to have a free trillion bucks after destroying your own economy?
On the other hand, we’ll have to adjust the price because of the ungovernable undesirables. Hardly alone, Sarah Palin’s weird family is only one liability as backwoods are filled intractable rednecks. Forget about replacing your fleeing high tech workers, Russia, with unskilled Alaskans. Of course, were Russia to “take” Alaska back, Palin wouldn’t just get to “see Russia,” her infamous brag. She’d have a shot at Russian citizenship, more appealing than one ever imagined to the Putin-loving extreme right.
Go for it, goons: you may come to love autocracy—without the Democratic Party to kick around. Hey, who said big life decisions don’t involve tradeoffs? Of course, Alaska may become an oppressed Russian colony, then locals can practice Palin’s mantra: “don’t retreat, reload,” even kick off another insurrection, then a revolution. Better than betraying the Constitution you agreed to defend.
Of course, Matveychev is talking nonsense, so bereft of reality he makes Trump appear nearly normal. Not quite. Even unhinged fantasists get media time. And there’s one final benefit: If Alaska did become Russian, then a fugitive Trump could flee there without leaving the western hemisphere. He could become a land speculator and pal around with Putin (retired we hope). What stable genius wouldn’t dream of socializing with the other earthling marvel with his smarts? Perhaps a tad bit more brainpower, though with even less stability.