The Alaska-Canada Rail Project Revives of the Wallace Doctrine: A Vital Alternative to Arctic Militarization

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The Alaska-Canada Rail Project Revives of the Wallace Doctrine: A Vital Alternative to Arctic Militarization
Published 29-10-2020, 09:11

By Matthew Ehret


By Matthew Ehret

According to the Department of Defense’s dismally short sighted vision for the Arctic, U.S. strategic interests were best maintained not by cooperation with Arctic partners, by rather by belligerent sabre rattling under the guise of "competition” with nations who have continuously professed a desire to work with the west as allies.

In recent weeks, this belligerence has taken the form of a new forward posture of 150 advanced U.S. fighter jets to be housed at the Eielson Airforce Base in Alaska including a mix of F22 Raptors and F35 Lighting II jets only 600 miles away from the Russia border. Each fighter plane carries the ability to launch strikes onto Russia after a brief flight across the 100 mile Bering Strait gap. Considering the entire American air force only has 187 F22s and 250 F35s, the proportions of this absurd build up can best be appreciated.

In the most recent

The Wallace Doctrine for the Arctic Must Be Revived

The last serious pro-development strategy to arise from a leading American politician took the form of President Franklin Roosevelt’s ardent anti-imperial Vice President Henry Wallace, who spent years with his Russian counterparts during WWII arranging the conditions of mutual development of both nations during the post-War age with a strong focus on the long awaited Bering Strait Rail connection and obvious Alaska-Canada transport corridors. In hisTwo Peoples One Friendship, Wallace described his discussions with Foreign Minister Molotov in 1942 saying:

"Of all nations, Russia has the most powerful combination of a rapidly increasing population, great natural resources and immediate expansion in technological skills. Siberia and China will furnish the greatest frontier of tomorrow… When Molotov [Russia’s Foreign Minister] was in Washington in the spring of 1942 I spoke to him about the combined highway and airway which I hope someday will link Chicago and Moscow via Canada, Alaska and Siberia. Molotov, after observing that no one nation could do this job by itself, said that he and I would live to see the day of its accomplishment. It would mean much to the peace of the future if there could be some tangible link of this sort between the pioneer spirit of our own West and the frontier spirit of the Russian East.”

The Molotov/Wallace vision wasn’t something entirely new.

Earlier programs for building the Bering Strait rail connection were advanced by Russian Prime Minister Sergei Witte and Czar Nicholas II who in 1906 sponsored teams of American engineers to conduct feasibility studies of the project, then estimated to costs $200 million.

On the American side of the project,

Exhibiting the stark raving fear of the renewal of this latent spirit of U.S.-Russian friendship in the build up to the November elections, Thomas Wright (senior Fellow at the Brookings Institute) wrote a panicky op ed in the Atlantic on September 30 called"What a Second Trump Term Would Mean for the World”. In this article, Wright echoes the broader fears of the deep state of a revival of the Henry Wallace doctrine which the author laments would have been just terrible had it not fortunately been sabotaged by the "great” figure of Harry Truman in January 1945. Wright says:

"Looking back on U.S. diplomatic history, one of the great counterfactuals is what would have happened if Franklin D. Roosevelt had not replaced his vice president Henry Wallace with Harry Truman in 1944. Wallace was sympathetic to the Soviet Union and became an ardent opponent of the Cold War. If he had become president when FDR died, in April 1945, the next half century could have gone very differently—likely no NATO, no Marshall Plan, no alliance with Japan, no overseas troop presence, and no European Union… The U.S. is now teetering on another historically important moment. With Trump, we would not only be deprived of our Truman. We would be saddled with our Wallace—a leader whose instincts and actions are diametrically opposed to what the moment requires. With few remaining constraints and a vulnerable world, a re-elected Trump could set the trajectory of world affairs for decades to come.”

It should be clear to all that the renewal of the Wallace-Gilpin spirit of development into North America’s Arctic is not only good business but also serves as a vital precondition to re-establishing a world order founded upon trust, win-win cooperation, and non-zero sum thinking. While it is fairly clear that Trump’s political instincts are vectored in this direction (giving rise to such frightful diatribes by emissaries of the Cold War at Brookings and the CFR), it still remains to be seen if sufficient political influence can be exerted to rein in the swamp before a hot war and military coup are unleashed.

Matthew Ehret is a Founding Director of the Rising Tide Foundation, Senior Fellow at the American University in Moscow and author of the Untold History of Canada.

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