The Russians are coming, the Russians are coming!
If the headline looks familiar, you are either very old, a movie buff or happened to click on TCM (Turner Classic Movies). It is actually the title of a hilarious 1966 cold war movie with an all-star cast – headed up by Alan Arkin, Carl Reiner, Jonathan Winters, Eva Marie Saint and Brian Keith.
The basic story is about a disabled Soviet submarine that beaches on the shore of a nearby small American town. The locals believe it is a Russian invasion and organize a ragtag militia. If you like a good laugh, check it out.
No … I have not taken up a new career as a movie critic. I was reminded of the old movie by the latest news out of the Kremlin.
You may recall that the United States purchased Alaska from Russia in 1867 for $7.2 million. I would say that President Grant got a pretty good deal. You can hardly buy a successful upscale restaurant for that amount today.
Weeell … Russian dictator Vladimir Putin wants Alaska back. No, I am not writing for the satirical publication, The Onion. We all know that the Madman of Moscow is yearning to reassemble the ancient Russian empire. Most observers were inclined to believe that Putin was thinking about the old Soviet Union that encompassed portions of Europe and Asia. But he apparently has eyes on more.
He has already crushed the independence of Georgia (the country, not the state) and has launched a full-scale war to try to get Ukraine back. He has extended hegemony over Belarus and has his eyes on Moldova.
But no one – no one – had any idea that Putin had Alaska in his demented mind. And it is not just some romantic thought. He actually signed a decree declaring the sale of Alaska to the United States to be “illegal.” He is the first Russian leader in more than 150 years to have come up with that bit of absurdity. However, before we dismiss this as a Putin wet dream, we need to appreciate man’s madness.
It is not just an off-hand complaint. The chairman of the State Duma Vyacheslav Volodin – a Putin flunky – said that “Before Americans seize our properties abroad, they should remember, we also have something to claim.” Volodin was responding to U.S. sanctions on Russian for invading Ukraine.
In terms of Putin exercising his claim to Alaska with an invasion is remote to the point of zero (at the moment). However, signing a document that starts a process of international grievance is not a nothing burger. This is the same language Putin used to reclaim every other former piece of Russian real estate, such as the Crimea.
The location of Alaska creates the same paranoid anxieties Putin suffers over any potentially adversarial land that is on the border with Russia. His long-range plan for keeping adversarial nations off his border is to keep taking over those nations – which, of course, puts the next adversarial nation on his new border.
Alaska is just a short swim from the Russian border – and the United States would not even need its longest ranged missiles to hit Moscow. Alaska is the home to traditional Air Force bases and the American Arctic Military Forces. America could launch an attack on Russia – including nuclear weapons – within seconds.
Even though the idea of Russia invading the United States — or Alaska – is absurd by today’s standards, Putin is playing a propaganda card –mostly for home consumption. He is adding another grievance on the stack. That does not mean Putin does not consider the possibility of taking back Alaska at some time in the future. For now, he is too busy gobbling up less formidable nations. While Putin is a ridiculous as the movie, he is not as funny.
So, there ‘tis.