State Department Watch
Henry Kissinger, as Secretary of State for President Gerald Ford, ordered the de facto giveaway of sovereignty over 8 American Alaskan islands to the Soviet Union, along with the 200-mile fishery conservation zones around them.
He made the order secretly upon his own declaration in January 1977 without consultation with Congress, the State of Alaska, or the American public in general.
He ordered that a maritime boundary for the fishery conservation zones (later to be applied to exclusive economic zones) between Alaska and Siberia would follow a line in the Bering Sea and Arctic Ocean which was described in the treaty by which the United States obtained part of modern-day Alaska from Russia in 1867. Kissinger’s line ignored vast developments and additions to Alaska after 1867, including the American discovery and/or inclusion in the United States of Wrangell, Herald, Bennett, Henrietta, and Jeannette Islands in the Arctic Ocean in 1881. It placed these islands, plus Copper Island, Sea Lion Rock and Sea Otter Rock in the Bering Sea (which were ceded to the United States in the 1867 treaty), on the Soviet/Russian side of the maritime boundary. Thus effective sovereignty over them plus the tens of thousands of square miles of fishery/exclusive economic zones were surrendered.
Kissinger asked for nothing in return for the United States.
The diplomatic message traffic is presented below.
January 21, 1977: Kissinger instructed his Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Philip C. Habib to wire to the U. S. Embassy in Moscow the declaration that the United States, for maritime boundary purposes, would “respect the line set forth in the convention [treaty] signed at Washington March 30, 1867. The Government of the United States of course anticipates that the Government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics will follow a similar practice….”
January 25, 1977: The U. S. Embassy reported back that “…Khabarov [of the Soviet Treaty and Legal Division] went over the note carefully and looked up Soviet text of the 1867 convention on [sic] maritime boundaries between Alaska and Siberia. But he did not offer substantive comment. He did ask, as a personal aside, whether it was not customary to negotiate or at least discuss such matters before giving notice about enforcement provisions. He added that he was not aware that the question had been discussed in connection with the bilateral fishing agreement signed in November.”
February 24, 1977: The U. S. Embassy reported the position of the Soviet Government: “The Government of the USSR has taken into account the intention of the US side, in setting forth its fisheries jurisdiction, to respect the line established by the convention signed April [sic] 18(30), 1867 in Washington, D.C. The Government of the USSR in carrying out its measures ensuing from the decree of the presidium of the Supreme Soviet of December 10, 1976, Temporary Measures for the Protection of Living Resources and Regulation of Fisheries in Areas Adjacent to the USSR Coast, intends to adhere to the same line of the Convention of April 18, 1867, in the Arctic Ocean, Chukchi, and the Bering Seas.”
This policy has continued without any change under Presidents Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, William Clinton, and George W. Bush. All negotiations have been conducted in strict secrecy without the knowledge and/or participation of Congress, the State of Alaska, and the American public. No known quid pro quo for the United States has been identified.