Why would Trump want to buy Greenland?


The coastline of Greenland in 2018. (Helen, via Flickr Creative Commons)

Why would Trump want to buy Greenland?

In the space of five days, the United States’ idea of ​​buying Greenland went from the upper stage to the rumor of why a state visit to Denmark was canceled.

Speaking to reporters in the White House’s South Garden on August 21, President Donald Trump said it was “just an idea,” but a good one. Then he turned to the Danish reaction to the sale of his territory.

“I thought the Prime Minister’s statement that it was an absurd idea was unpleasant,” he said. “All they had to do was say,” No, we’d rather not do it “or” We’d rather not talk about it. “Do not say” what an absurd idea. “Excuse me, she’s not talking to me, she’s talking to the US United of America, you do not talk to the US that way.”

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Trump had to travel to Denmark but tweeted on August 20th. “In the words of Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen, who would have no interest in discussing the purchase of Greenland, I will postpone our scheduled meeting in two weeks for another time.”

How did we get here
On August 16, the Wall Street Journal published an article citing unidentified government officials that Trump was showing interest in buying Greenland. After appearing at the dinner table and in the discussions in the corridors, the idea had come to the point, the newspaper said, where Trump had asked the White House lawyer to investigate.

At first, there was no official confirmation, but on August 19, Trump told reporters: “Strategically, it’s interesting, and we’d be interested, we’ll talk to them a little bit.”

Trump added, “This is not the number 1 on the stove, I can tell you.”

Trump later made a visual joke on Twitter, posting on August 19 a photo of a high-rise Trump tower in a bucolic village in Greenland, with the words: “I promise not to do that in Greenland!”


Since the Danish territory of the island is three times larger than Texas, it would not be an incidental acquisition of the United States. Which raises the question, what does Greenland offer to the United States?

Pompeo talks about deliveries, China and Russia
Greenland could only have 56,000 inhabitants and 80% ice cover, but the United States sees it as a way to thwart Chinese and Russian interests. A few years ago, Greenland announced plans to build a new airport and expand two more. China intervened to provide funding. In 2018, then-EE. UU. Defense Secretary James Mattis intervened personally.

“When a Chinese entrepreneur was selected for the airport project, it created anxiety in Denmark and the United States, which led Denmark to partly finance and co-own projects”, said Dwayne Ryan Menezes. , Managing Director of the Polar Research and Policy Initiative, a UK-based private research group.

When Arctic sea ice melts, Greenland is located along or near two new shipping routes, the Northwest Passage and the Northeast Passage. Menezes said the second could cut nearly a quarter of the distance a Shanghai cargo ship to Rotterdam would have to cover.

At an Arctic Council meeting in May 2019, an intergovernmental body, the US Secretary of State. UU. Mike Pompeo warned about China’s presence and the need to control shipping routes.

“Do we want the Arctic Ocean to become the new South China Sea, loaded with militarization and competitive territorial claims?” Said Pompeo.

In the same speech, Pompeo said: “Russia already leaves traces of snow in the form of military boots” in the region.

Pompeo announced that the United States would establish a permanent diplomatic presence in Greenland, a situation they have not had since the 1950s.

Beyond its geostrategic role, it is thought that the Arctic is rich in gas and oil and that Greenland has significant mineral reserves.

“While China is facing a decline in rare earth reserves, Greenland has only enough to meet at least a quarter of global demand in the future,” said Menezes.

Denmark disdainful
On the day when Trump acknowledged his interest, Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said: “Greenland is not for sale”.

Frederiksen was in Greenland that day and went further, calling it “an absurd discussion”.

“Fortunately, the time you buy and sell other countries and populations is over,” Frederiksen said. “Leave that aside, joking aside, of course, we would like to have an even closer strategic relationship with the United States.”

Trump noticed these words when he told reporters in the White House Garden why he had canceled a trip to Denmark scheduled for early September.

Ice vs. The beaches
As Trump and his assistants have said, President Harry Truman has explored the idea of ​​buying Greenland. In 1946 he offered Denmark $ 100 million for the largest island in the world. When the cold war took root, it was central to the United States and the Soviet Union. He later became the home of a major US Air Force base. UU.

Interestingly, the last purchase of land in the United States also involved Denmark and an island or even more than one island. The United States bought the Danish Virgin Islands in 1917 for $ 25 million. (Under United Nations auspices, the United States acquired several island groups in the Pacific after the Second World War, but these were not financial operations.)

We performed the numbers and the threat protection of the Soviet Union did not match the attractiveness of the Virgin Islands. Ignoring inflation, Truman offered about $ 120 per square mile for Greenland and its ices. In 1917, the United States paid nearly $ 190,000 per square mile for the Virgin Islands and its beaches.

Since Greenland is not for sale, no firm offer from Trump has been presented on the table.