National Journal Review
“An intriguing look at the impact of unofficial international diplomacy,” is the conclusion of a new academic review of Melting the Ice Curtain. The review is published in the February edition of Choice, a journal of the Association of College Research Libraries by B.T. Browne, an emeritus Florida’s Broward College, who recommends the book for all levels of readers. Here’s the full review:
“Published on the 150th anniversary of the US purchase of Alaska from Russia in 1867, this book is a fascinating study of the role played by Alaska and Alaskans in Soviet/Russian-US relations during and immediately after the Cold War. Ramseur, an Alaska resident and political reporter since 1979, first presents in a well-written narrative a brief recounting of Russian-American relations before the Cold War; he then examines the shifting relationship between Alaska and its near neighbor across the Bering Strait in the 1980s.
“Ramseur focuses on the years during which glasnost offered an opportunity to initiate non-governmental overtures to Gorbachev's Soviet Union. As he notes, beginning with the ‘Friendship Flight’ of June 1988, the Russian door was open to a parade of US scientists, educators, musicians, artists, Native Alaskans, environmentalists, and others interested in establishing contact with the long-feared foe.
"The collapse of communism in the early 1990s presented opportunities for US businessmen, not all of which turned out well. The chaos of the Yeltsin years followed by the uncertainty of the Putin era proved problematic for many of the new associations that Alaskans had taken the lead in establishing. An intriguing look at the impact of unofficial international diplomacy.”
Sept. 21, 2017; The Mountain (NC) Times
I'm honored by the favorable reviews "Melting the Ice Curtain" is receiving but it's a special privilege to get your own hand-drawn posters in Alaska's best coffee shop, Side Street Espresso in Anchorage. Each day owner George Gee arrives early to create the day's poster profiling a person, event or offer a commentary. August 16 was my turn, a real treat! Thanks much to owners George and Deb.
Aug. 3, 2017
July 14, 2017
Top 25 Best-Selling Books
Melting the Ice Curtainis among the top 25 best-selling books in the first half of 2017, after being on the street only six weeks.
Melting the Ice Curtain tops the best-seller list . . . at Fireside Books, one of Alaska’s fabulous locally owned bookstores in Palmer. Thanks to owner David Cheezem for hosting me for a book-signing in June, pushing my book on Alaska-Russia relations to the top of his sales list.
Anchorage TV interviews David
See David's June 30 interview on Anchorage's KTVA-TV talking about Melting the Ice Curtain:
David has been selected as the June 2017 guest blogger for 49 Writers, Alaska's premier nonprofit organization promoting writers and the craft of writing. Read four weekly installments about how David researched, wrote and is now marketing Melting the Ice Curtain.
Columnist Charles Wohlforth says the book "documents its amazing intensity" of Alaska-Russia relations
Russian bombers routinely fly along Alaska’s coast
It’s been entertaining to see national media stories about the April 17 intercept of two Russian bombers off Alaska’s southern coast by Anchorage-based Air Force pilots. Some of the breathless coverage suggested the Russian sight-seeing of its former fur colony is continued evidence of bad US-Russian relations.
As most Alaskans know, such intercepts are fairly routine. Research for my upcoming book found that 306 Soviet aircraft were intercepted along Alaska’s coast between 1961 and 1991. And for the past five years, the Air Force’s Alaska Command tells me an average of five intercepts a year occurred between Alaska and the Russian Far East, just 2.5 miles apart at the closest point. That number doubled to 10 intercepts in 2014.
The most dramatic interaction between Alaska and Soviet aircraft occurred at the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. Then a US U2- spy plane took a wrong turn over the USSR and was nearly shot down by Soviet MiG fighters. After the missile crisis, President Kennedy and Soviet leader Khrushchev traded messages about how that Alaska incident could have pushed the world into nuclear war. Read about it in my book, due out June 1.
More than 20 people attended the first Knik Lecture on a sunny spring April 13 in Eagle River, Alaska. An enthusiastic audience listened to me talk about contemporary Alaska-Russia relations, the topic of my upcoming book, Melting the Ice Curtain. Thanks to lecture organizer, University of Alaska history professor Katie Ringsmuth, and Talis Colberg, director of the university’s campus in the Mat-Su Valley. Colberg, who served as Alaska’s attorney general under former Gov. Sarah Palin, was especially gracious in his introduction. He talked about my emergence “from the shadows” of the three statewide political leaders I have worked for with my book.
Anchorage Museum Hosts Book Talk
Thanks to the approximately 100 Alaskans who attended my first public presentation on my upcoming book, Melting the Ice Curtain, at the Anchorage Museum March 31. The talk was part of the museum’s fascinating year-long display marking the 150th anniversary of Alaska’s purchase from Russia. Called “Polar Bear Garden” - one of the critical 19th century terms used by those who opposed Alaska’s purchase – the display is a must-see for anyone interested in Alaska history and US-Russia relations.
Attendees had great questions, especially about current US-Russia relations which are in the news daily. Rather than pay too much attention to the daily headlines, I argued that Americans can better understand Russian actions by understanding the country’s history. Many Russians believe their country deserves superpower status, as it had before the 1990 collapse of the Soviet Union. President Putin plays to that by portraying himself a strong leader willing to stand up to the West to make Russia great again.
My book addresses these factors which drive Russian behavior and includes suggestions for areas of cooperation between the US and Russia. The book hits the streets June 1.
A worthy tribute for Russian democratic leader Boris Nemtsov
Nearly a quarter-century ago, I arrived by overnight train in Nizhny Novgorod, a Russian city I had never heard of about 260 miles east of Moscow. I was there on a four-month stint as a volunteer media advisor for a US democracy-building institute.
I selected Nizhny because its regional governor was a 32-year-old physicist named Boris Nemtsov, one of his country’s leading reformers during the perestroika era. Nemtsov won international attention privatizing hundreds of declining Soviet enterprises and making life better for his constituents. Five years later, Russian President Boris Yeltsin brought him to Moscow as first deputy prime minister to help reform the entire country.
With Vladimir Putin’s rise to power, Nemtsov evolved into an inspirational voice for democracy and human rights. While working for Alaska US Senator Mark Begich in Washington, DC beginning in 2009, I was honored to host Nemtsov and his colleague Vladimir Kara-Murza to our offices to work on Russian human rights initiatives.
Tragically, Nemtsov was assassinated in the shadow of Moscow’s Red Square in 2015. Kara-Murza has continued the good fight against enormous odds, recovering from two suspected poisonings while working in Russia.
Kara-Murza has just published this Washington Post column endorsing legislation pending in Congress to name the street in front of the Russian Embassy in Washington for Nemtsov. It would be a fitting tribute and reminder of Nemtsov’s courageous work for his nation.
“Yes, you can see Russia from Alaska in at least two ways. You can fly from Anchorage to St. Lawrence Island in the Bering Sea, and from there the Chukotka Peninsula of Siberia is visible on the western horizon. Or you can read David Ramseur’s engagingly personal book, which opens our eyes to the affinities and possibilities for cooperation between America and its neighbor at the top of the world.”
— Strobe Talbott,
former US deputy secretary of state,
“In Melting the Ice Curtain, David Ramseur tells the fascinating story of US-Russian relations at the border where our two nations have been linked for centuries. He focuses on a rare opening that began during the Reagan-Gorbachev years, when Alaska Natives, artists and entrepreneurs moved faster than diplomats or politicians to bring the two peoples together. It's terrific story-telling about an era that has profound lessons for American policy today.”
— Corey Flintoff,
National Public Radio Moscow correspondent, 2012-2016
“David Ramseur’s book recalls a more hopeful time when Russia was striving for democratic reforms, and when U.S.–Russia relations were defined by cooperation and goodwill. It is also a valuable reminder that nothing is predetermined, and that we should never cease to work for a better tomorrow.”
— Vladimir Kara-Murza, Chairman
Boris Nemtsov Foundation for Freedom
“Those of us who have lived in Alaska know the hulking presence Russia plays less than three miles away at the closet point. Journalist and political aide David Ramseur tells a compelling story of a colorful era when Alaska and Russia helped end the Cold War across the Bering Strait. The lessons Ramseur draws from these productive decades of northern good will are instructive for today’s uneasy relations between Washington and Moscow.”
— Peter Rouse, chief of staff
To President Barack Obama
“For nearly three decades, David Ramseur has been one of Alaska’s most persistent advocates for productive relations with Russia across the Bering Strait. Thanks to his tenacity in my Senate office, I eagerly stood up for human rights and against Russia’s escalating dictatorship. Ramseur’s fascinating account of this era is a must-read for anyone who cares about Russia or its former fur colony.”
— Alaska U.S. Senator Mark Begich
“This compelling, well written account of a productive period in US-Russia relations is timely and invaluable. David Ramseur’s experience as a journalist makes him a keen and meticulous observer of a colorful but chaotic era. Melting the Ice Curtain dramatically shows how people of the Arctic have surmounted enormous obstacles to achieve high levels of cooperation, a model needed today.”
— Vic Fischer, author
To Russia With Love: An Alaskan’s Journey
“For Alaskans who want to better understand their state's history, and for Americans who need to better understand the complicated US-Russia relationship, this book is an invaluable read. With the insight of an insider, Ramseur traces the highs and lows of Alaska-Russia interactions with lively stories about people and places on both sides of the Bering Strait. He rightly concludes the Arctic is the most promising area for future US-Russian cooperation and draws a roadmap for getting there.”
— Fran Ulmer
Chair, US Arctic Research Commission
Former Alaska Lieutenant Governor
“The US and Russia need one another's help to tackle the problems that will matter beyond today's news cycle. Ramseur’s book outlines a blueprint for cooperation in the Arctic region, which is vital not only for managing the region's precious resources, but for addressing looming threats to national and global security.”
— Matt Rojansky, director
Kennan Institute at the Woodrow Wilson Center
“United States-Russia military relations have varied widely, from the enormously beneficial in World War II to the dangerously tense during the Cold War. We are now at another critical turning point in our history. While it is vitally important to remain firm in our values and defense of our national interests, we must also recognize that communication and collaboration are foundational to preventing conflict. Russia and the United States share deep native roots and cultural ties in the Arctic that can be embraced and leveraged. Melting the Ice Curtain tells a compelling story of the success of grassroots citizen diplomacy and details lessons for today’s perilously poor relations between the world’s superpowers. Ramseur is one of Alaska’s experts on this topic and he offers valuable insights on how we may turn our challenges into opportunities. I was honored to have him address my command staff.”
— Russell J. Handy
Lieutenant General, USAF
Retired Commander, Alaskan Command
“For 40 years, Cold War politics banned Alaska and Russia indigenous peoples from practicing the sacred traditions they had pursued across the Bering Strait since time immemorial. With impeccable research, David Ramseur documents how these peoples pressured Moscow and Washington to reopen the border as they struggle to keep endangered cultures alive. Ice Curtain is must reading for anyone who cares about the ancient people of the Arctic.”
— Julie Kitka, president
Alaska Federation of Natives
A delegation of Alaskans, including the author, visited the border guard listening post on Soviet Big Diomede Island with Gov. Cowper in 1989.