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U. S. State Department's "Fact Sheet"
on "Status of Wrangel [sic*] and Other Arctic Islands"
and
STATE DEPARTMENT WATCH Comments


*Wrangell Island was named in honor of Baltic Baron Ferdinand Petrovich von Wrangell.



STATE DEPARTMENT WATCH News Release
For Immediate Release, June 9, 2003

  

FALSE “FACT SHEET” ISSUED BY U. S. STATE DEPARTMENT TO DISGUISE
ITS GIVEAWAY OF 8 ALASKAN ISLANDS AND VAST RESOURCE-RICH SEABEDS
TO THE RUSSIANS; LOSSES ESTIMATED IN BILLIONS OF BARRELS OF OIL
AND HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS OF POUNDS OF FISH ANNUALLY

             The U. S. State Department has issued a false “fact sheet” in order to disguise its giveaway
of eight Alaskan islands and vast resource-rich seabeds to the Russians, it was reported by Carl
Olson, Chairman of State Department Watch, a foreign policy watchdog group headquartered in Washington, D. C.

            Falsehoods about the American history of the eight islands, the negotiations over the
U.S.-Russia maritime boundary line, and the current status of demands by the Russians are in a
fact sheet titled “Status of Wrangel and Other Arctic Islands” issued May 20, 2003.

            The islands in contention are Wrangell, Herald, Bennett, Jeannette, and Henrietta in the
Arctic Ocean, and Copper Island, Sea Lion Rock, and Sea Otter Rock at the western end of
the Aleutian chain in the Bering Sea.  Along with these islands go all the resources in the
seaward 200-mile exclusive economic and fishery conservation zones that surround them.  The
estimated tens of thousands of square miles contain billions of barrels of oil and hundreds of
millions of pounds of fish.

             Completely untrue in the fact sheet is the statement, “None of these islands or rocks
above were included in the U. S. purchase of Alaska from Russia in 1867….”  The treaty in
1867  includes Copper Island along with its adjacent Sea Lion Rock and Sea Otter Rock.
In negotiating the treaty Secretary of State William Seward was willing to leave one Aleutian
island to the Russians, Bering Island, which is to the west of Copper.  The treaty language
states at the end of Article 1, “…to the meridian of one hundred and ninety-three degrees
west [167 degrees east] longitude, so as to include in the territory conveyed the whole of
the Aleutian islands east of that meridian.”  That meridian runs between Bering and Copper.

            Also untrue is the assertion, “…they have never been claimed by the United States,
although Americans were involved in the discovery and exploration of some of them.”
Wrangell Island was discovered and annexed into the United States in 1881 by Americans.
U. S. Revenue Marine ship Thomas Corwin under the commanded by Captain Calvin
Leighton Hooper landed on Wrangell Island.  Among the landing party was the famous
explorer John Muir, who wrote of this addition of a 3000-square mile island for America
in his book “The Cruise of the Corwin.”

            Navy Lieutenant George Washington DeLong led the Arctic expedition of USS
Jeannette in 1879-1881 which resulted in the discovery and annexation of Bennett, Jeannette,
Henrietta, and Herald Islands.  The cruise was co-sponsored by the prominent publisher of
the New York Herald James Gordon Bennett, and thus the islands were named after himself,
his sister, and his mother.  The three islands are called the DeLong Islands.  An excellent
account is contained in the book “Icebound” by Leonard Guttridge.

            The fact sheet presented the falsehood, “The negotiations that led to that agreement
[U.S.-USSR Maritime Boundary Agreement] did not address the status of [sic] Wrangel Island,
Herald Island, Bennett Island, Jeannette Island, or Henrietta Island, all of which lie off Russia’s
Arctic coast, or Mednyy (Copper) Island or rocks off the coast of Mednyy Island in the Bering
Sea.”  A maritime boundary agreement was necessary because the coastlines of Alaska and
Siberia came within 400 miles of each other, such that the 200-mile seaward zones would
overlap.  The maritime boundary line, which defines these seaward zones, was drawn with all
eight islands on the Soviet/Russian side.  Rights to seaward zones depend upon what country
has sovereignty over the land territory from which they are measured.  It is not possible for the
U. S. government to recognize Russian seaward zones that extend from these eight islands
without accepting Russian sovereignty over them.

            Another falsehood is the statement, “No negotiations regarding the U.S.-Russia maritime
boundary have occurred since 1990….”  The Russians have continually been complaining that
they were shortchanged.  In 1997 they demanded revisions of the maritime boundary line that
would give them additional fishing rights to 300,000,000 pounds per year from the U. S. side.
The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner of March 9, 1997, reported, “ ‘Opposition to the [maritime
boundary] treaty has emerged on the Russian side,’ a State Department source said. … ‘We
have engaged in informal negotiations to see if there is some way to deal with the opposition
on the political side, recognizing that some of the [fish] stocks are on both sides of the
boundary,’ the source said.  At stake is the Bering Sea’s huge pollock fishery….”

            The Russian newspaper Izvestia of September 1, 1997, carried a story “Russia Can
Lose One More Alaska”, and the Journal of Commerce of September 4, 1997, ran an
account with the headline “Russians set to go on the offensive in US fish dispute”.

            RIA Novosti, the official Russian government news agency, on July 12, 2002,
published the article “Russia Ready for Political Dialog with US on Revision of Bering Strait
Division Agreement”.  It noted, “The Federation Council, Russian parliament’s upper
chamber, intends to promote Evgeny Nazdratenko’s initiative to revise the Russian-US
agreement on Bering Strait division at the international level, Alexander Nazarov, chairman
of the chamber’s committee for northern and [sic] scant ethnicities affairs, has said in an
interview with RIA Novosti. … On Friday, chairman of the State Fishery Committee
Evgeny Nazdratenko called the division of the Bering Strait ‘absolutely illegal’ and the
8,253 square km of water surface given to the USA ‘a huge loss’ for Russia.”

            A September 3, 2002, radio report on “Revision of Baker-Shevardnadze Strait of
Bering Agreement Directed Neither Against US nor Georgia Rosblat” stated, “Today,
speaking on the air in a program of The Echo of Moscow radio, Aleaxander Torshin, a
Deputy Chairman of the Council of Federation of Russia, said, ‘The necessity of revising the
Baker-Shevardnadze agreement on the delimitation of the Strait of Bering became obvious
a long time ago. … Today the workgroup for revision of the agreement convened for the
first time.”

            A U. S. government agency that oversees fisheries in the Bering Sea, the North Pacific
Fishery Management Council, has reviewed numerous proposals to revise the boundary line
and its meaning over the past year.  Members of the council have received extensive briefings
in Moscow on various offers by the State Department to the Russians.

            State Department Watch Chairman Olson observed, “This vast giveaway of American
oil and fishery resources and the eight Alaskan islands must be brought out in public.  The State
Department has acted in secrecy long enough.  The state legislatures of Alaska and California
have objected to this secret process by which the State Department thinks it can unilaterally
cede parts of a state to a foreign power without the open consent of those states.  Numerous
military groups have also objected to the giveaway, citing the strategic location of these islands
for reconnaissance and strategic defense initiative purposes.”

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