EUROPEUM Institute for European Policy

President Trump’s proposition to purchase Greenland in what he termed was “essentially a large real estate deal” was brought up in relation to an upcoming visit to Denmark by President Trump – a visit that he had invited himself to unannounced a few weeks ago, prompting a subsequent invitation by the Danish Queen Margrethe II to accommodate an ally’s desire to visit. The ludicrous proposition to purchase Greenland was understandably dismissed as absurd by both the Danish and Greenlandic political establishment, who instead sought to emphasize other, more pressing concerns that warranted discussion; transatlantic relations, climate change, Arctic geopolitical situation, and more.

Trump eventually announced on twitter that he had canceled his visit due to Greenland not being for sale. To Denmark and Greenland, this came as a surprise; Greenland was not on the agenda of his visit, and the idea of purchasing another country and the territory of an ally is, frankly, beyond ridiculous. Furthermore, partially given how the US treated Puerto Rico in its recent hour of need, but most importantly because Greenland is a country with its own population and not a colony to be bargained with, the Greenlandic people strongly opposed Trump’s proposal. With friends like these, who needs enemies?

To understand the degeneracy of Trump’s recent antics, context is needed. Denmark has proven to be one of the US’ most reliable allies in recent decades. Denmark has stood by the US in all its wars. Relative to population, Denmark has suffered more losses than the US in those wars due to having troops deployed in the harshest conflict zones in both Afghanistan and Iraq, such as the Helmand province. Denmark furthermore provides specialized radar equipment and logistical expertise to various other US missions, enabling vital intelligence gathering and supply lines to the US.

During the Cold War, Denmark allowed the US to establish the Thule Air Base on Greenland, giving the US a potential edge against the Soviet Union, and which later led to the secret US Project Iceworm, in which nuclear missile launch sites were networked under the ice sheet. In sum, Denmark can be categorized as one of the US’ closest allies in terms of actions and commitment in recent times, and one that has sacrificed much for the US to show solidarity in the aftermath of 9/11.

To treat an ally like that is, naturally, deeply inappropriate, but given Trump’s history of deranged behavior, it is not unexpected. Denmark has emphasized that the US President is still welcome and that the US is a strong ally, yet also stressed diplomatically that the country is not prepared to entertain absurdities, such as the US buying Greenland. Apparently, this touched a sore point for the President, as Trump subsequently described the Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen as “nasty”, saying that her response – particularly the use of the word ‘absurd’ – was inappropriate.

No US ally can be blamed for considering Transatlantic relations tenuous at best if decades of sacrifice and support can be so callously dismissed on a whim the moment a US President’s frail ego is bruised.

For now, Denmark will have to ride out this diplomatic debacle while preparing for the upcoming visit by Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, who is extremely popular amongst the Danish public, in late September. Perhaps the true cause of the cancellation lies in Trump’s fear of drawing a smaller crowd than Obama. Perhaps it lies in the counterproposal by Greenlandic Premier Kim Kielsen, who offered to buy the US cheaply courtesy of the astronomical US government debt. Whatever the case, Denmark – and the rest of the world – can only hope that the American people will elect a sane President in 2020. The prospect of Trump getting another term to reach new lows and fits of hysteria towards close allies. For the American people, it is undignified.

 

Christian K. Lassen

 

 

 

 

 

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