Amid rising Russian nationalism after the president’s annexation of Crimea, Putin responded to an audience member’s suggestion of annexing Alaska during the televised national phone-in, asking, “Faina Ivanovna, my dear, why do you want Alaska?"
Russia is a "northern country" and 70 percent of its territory lies in "Northern and extreme Northern regions," Putin said, according to Russian news agency RIA Novosti. "Is Alaska really in the Southern Hemisphere? It’s cold there, too. Let's not get hot-headed,” he added. Russia sold Alaska to the U.S. in 1867 for $7.2 million.
“Who needs Alaska?” Putin added.
A White House petition calling for Alaska to secede from the U.S. and rejoin Russia has garnered more than 42,000 signatures since the initiative launched in March.
Despite rising tensions between the two nations, Putin assured his audience Thursday that “growing relations with the United States” remains in Russia's best interest.
“I want to emphasize once again, Russia is interested in growing relations with the United States and will do everything to ensure that this confidence is restored," Putin said.
The U.S. levied sanctions against Russia and select government officials in response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea in March, and has warned that additional sanctions will be imposed if Russia further intervenes to destabilize Ukraine.