Alaska and parts of the Soviet Far East may begin commercial trade, visa-free travel and joint retail businesses under agreements signed between the local governments, officials said.
"I see this as very significant," said Gov. Steve Cowper's chief of staff, Garrey Peska, who led an eight-person trade mission to the Soviet Far East Oct. 19-29. "We accomplished more than I expected."Some of the protocols announced Monday must be sanctioned by U.S. and Soviet federal governments, but if they are, Alaska and far eastern Siberia will join hands across the Bering Sea to become business partners.
Peska said in an interview from the capital in Juneau that "These are not just symbolic pieces of paper. This will implement real trade. We produced twice as much as I thought. Things are happening so fast."
Peska signed what was heralded as the first U.S.-Soviet sister state relationship between Alaska and the Khabarovsk region, but said the real accomplishment was signing protocols paving the way for commercial trade, travel, communication and retail business operations, such as a reindeer meat business.
Officials from Alaska and the long-closed Soviet Magadan Region agreed to seek approval from Washington and Moscow to initiate 72-hour visa-free travel between Nome, Alaska, and the Soviet Bering Sea port city of Provideniya.