MOST DANES thought it was a joke when President Donald Trump mentioned America would possibly purchase Greenland, a self-governing island that types 98% of Danish territory. Denmark’s prime minister, Mette Frederiksen, dismissed the concept as “absurd”. When Mr Trump reacted by calling her “nasty” and cancelling a go to to Copenhagen, his would-be hosts had been shocked. However many Greenlanders weren’t.
“I knew from the beginning this was to be taken significantly,” says Aleqa Hammond, a former prime minister of Greenland. It was not the primary time an American president had prompt such a purchase order. In 1946 Harry Truman provided $100m for Greenland ($1.3bn in at the moment’s cash).
At the moment the island has solely 57,000 inhabitants, but it’s of rising strategic significance, as Russian submarines reappear within the Arctic and China desires of a “polar silk route” by means of newly ice-free seas. Denmark is chargeable for Greenland’s exterior affairs and defence. NATO membership as soon as allowed Greenlanders to sleep straightforward, however since Mr Trump has undermined that alliance, their safety is much less sure.
Greenland’s feisty legislators, together with Kim Kielsen, the present prime minister, all agree that the island’s sovereignty will not be on the market. However they’re flattered that outsiders have an interest, and demand on their proper to parley with all comers. As Ms Hammond says: “If Mr Trump desires to debate Greenland, let him come right here, to not Denmark.”
As Mr Trump noticed, Danish taxpayers ship Greenland greater than $600m a 12 months in subsidies. However that dependence doesn’t deter the island’s politicians from pursuing their very own bargains. Final 12 months Mr Kielsen discovered Chinese language contractors for an improve to the island’s airports. That terrified NATO, and Denmark pressed Greenland to seek out Danish contractors as an alternative. One of many events in Mr Kielsen’s coalition marched out in protest. Greenlanders who need independence say that widening the vary of financial companions might wean them off Danish assist.
Aqqaluk Lynge, a veteran leftist, mentioned the spat with Mr Trump would possibly make Danes and Greenlanders recognize each other extra. It’d, for instance, remind Danes who moan about subsidising their Arctic cousins to not take them as a right.
At the moment Greenland exports principally seafood. When Mr Trump joked that he didn’t need to construct a skyscraper along with his identify on it in Greenland, he was certainly telling the reality. The true financial alternative is that vanishing glaciers are opening up its mineral sources, together with uncommon earths and probably oil and fuel. Minik Rosing, a Greenland-born geologist, famous the irony in a person who as soon as known as world warming a “hoax” coveting territory that owes its rising worth to melting snows. But he additionally thinks a extra tactful American chief would possibly persuade Greenlanders to improve their hyperlinks with america on the expense of their Danish ones.
Maybe. However had been they ever to determine to grow to be a part of America, which for now appears extremely unlikely, they’d get a tradition shock. Not solely do Greenlanders have Nordic concepts about social welfare; additionally they ban personal possession of land. ■