There would be a lot of competitors. Imagine how many nations, even individuals, would rush to bid on the sale of the century, which would be held in the Treasury’s ornate Cash Room — whose very architecture of Italian-palazzo-style ceilings, bronze chandeliers and marble floors are a lavishness we can no longer afford.
First in line might be the Russian Federation, with its deep historical ties to the state. For 126 years, Russia governed Alaska, which has been part of the United States for just 145 years. Vladimir Putin, who is seeking to restore Russia’s power and glory, could reestablish the seat of government at the former Russian capital, Sitka, a southern seaside town that still has a Russian Orthodox church, St. Michael’s. First built in the 1840s, it houses icons from that era.
Russia already has plenty of space and oil. But if it hoisted its own red, white and blue flag over Alaska, Sarah Palin would actually be able to see Russia from her front porch.
Next would be the Chinese, flush with cash and starving for energy resources and open spaces. Why should China fiddle with acquisitions of companies such as Canada’s Nexen or U.S. battery-maker A123 Systems, hoping for approval from the government’s guardian of national security, the Committee for Foreign Investment in the United States?
It would be much simpler for Beijing to use its $3 trillion in foreign exchange reserves — a large chunk of it invested in U.S. Treasury debt — to vacuum up Alaska’s resources and to resettle some people from China’s overcrowded and heavily polluted cities. As the Arctic ice melts with climate change, Alaska could also serve as a valuable shipping route, saving time, fuel and money for cargo ships traveling from China to Europe.
The transaction could be done by simply canceling the Treasury debt, thus avoiding the financial upheaval that would result if China sold those securities on the open market.
How about an individual buyer? Donald Trump comes to mind. He could advertise on Mount McKinley — or just rebrand it Mount Trump, the highest peak in Trumpistan. He could even issue his own birth certificates to avoid any confusion about the national origin of public officials there. Of course, this 570,640.95-square-mile bauble would be a tad expensive for him, and he’d have to make it a very leveraged buyout, but he’s gambled big before.
Mideast oil exporters, sitting on large sovereign wealth investment funds, might want a place to cool off as the planet heats up. What’s more, if an OPEC nation bought Alaska, it would boost the cartel’s share of the world oil market and enhance the group’s pricing power.