Joe Miller blasts Obama for letting Russia keep oil-rich islands

Fairbanks lawyer Joe Miller, who's posturing like he'll take down Sen. Mark Begich in 2014, is now trying to take on the president.

In an argument on his "Restoring Liberty" blog, Miller claims President Obama's opposition to oil development is so deep he's refusing to reclaim several islands from Russia and the oil-rich seabed around them.

Some of the islands off the Kamchatka Peninsula and Russia's northern coast are hundreds of miles from Alaska, so they wouldn't be easy to maintain. They include Wrangel Island, where American naturalist John Muir once landed as part of an expedition that claimed the island for the U.S.

Miller, who lost to Sen. Lisa Murkowski's write-in campaign in Alaska's 2010 Senate election, says on his blog:

Part of Obama's apparent war against U.S. energy independence includes a foreign-aid program that directly threatens my state's sovereign territory. Obama's State Department is giving away seven strategic, resource-laden Alaskan islands to the Russians. Yes, to the Putin regime in the Kremlin.

Miller concedes that past presidents have also balked at the chance to reclaim the islands lying off Russia's coasts. The deal was struck in 1990 under the first George Bush. His son, G.W., and Bill Clinton are culpable, too.

According to Miller's argument, the islands were given to Russia in a 1990 maritime agreement approved by the U.S. State Department. But it was not ratified by treaty, he claims. Thus, Obama or Secretary of State Hillary Clinton can take those islands back with "the stroke of a pen." But they're not doing so, even though a group called State Department Watch has asked, according to Miller.


The idea that the U.S. can reclaim the islands is an old one in Alaska. The State Department has apparently said the U.S. has no legal claim to the islands.

But that's no problem for many Alaskans. Longtime residents may remember that Daniel DeNardo, a perennially losing candidate whose campaign themes centered on fears of a Russian takeover of Alaska, was also angered by the lost islands.

The late Daniel DeNardo talks about his theory of "Soviet control of Alaska."

DeNardo, who called himself a member of the Alaska Independence Party, died in 2009, leaving a void in the state's ample fringe-candidate category. Here's a video of Mr. DeNardo addressing some of his concerns about the Soviet Union, with home-drawn maps of the lost islands he loved to pull out in debates.

In the early 1990s, DeNardo tried to lay claim to the islands in the Nome recording district. Workers there refused to process his request. The Alaska Supreme Court upheld the rejection in 1994, noting that the islands are not within the Nome recording district's jurisdiction, or any district's jurisdiction in Alaska, for that matter.

"Until and unless the United States government indicates that the Arctic Islands are part of the State of Alaska, the State has no duty to accept for recording documents affecting title to real property on the islands," the Alaska Supreme Court ruled.

In the late 1990s, state lawmakers passed resolutions asking the U.S. to reopen treaty talks with Russia over the maritime border. President Bill Clinton wrote back, according to a web ite called State Department Watch, saying it wasn't happening under his watch.

Read more about Miller's reclamation efforts posted at examiner.com.

Contact Alex DeMarban at alex(at)alaskadispatch.com.

Alex DeMarban

Alex DeMarban is a longtime Alaska journalist who covers business, the oil and gas industries and general assignments. Reach him at 907-257-4317 or alex@adn.com.