The President of The United States Mr. Donald Trump made a controversial proposal to the Kingdom of Denmark to buy Greenland the previous week. After a quick and shocked Danish refusal he showed irritation and postponed his trip to Denmark. After a couple of days, the US Secretary of State Mr. Mike Pompeo made a phone call to his Danish colleague to calm things down.
The US bought Alaska in 1867 and looked simultaneously to an opportunity to buy Greenland. The former realised and nowadays there are many areas of co-operation across the Bering Strait. A concrete but unsuccessful proposal to acquire Greenland was made later by President Harry Truman in 1946.
It has become crystal clear by Danish and Greenlandic leaders, that a sale is not for real. Danes and Greenlanders are not willing to proceed. There have also been other initiatives to trade land areas between sovereign states in the modern era. Most of those have led nowhere.
What is the reasoning behind this tweet? Interestingly, this certifies that Mr. Trump is acknowledging the climate change. Chinese investors have invested in Greenland for several years already and China has a free trade agreement with Iceland. Northern sea routes are becoming more viable and Chinese fleet is taking advantage of the reduced travel times. Simultaneously, American investors have remained passive on Greenland. Hence the tweet can be considered as a wake-up call for American investors to rush for the rare earths, sand, oil and gas ahead Chinese.
The proposal can then be linked into the damaging trade war considering international trade dominance between the US and China and a potential continuum to the US message to Chinese by the Secretary of State Mr. Pompeo last May in Rovaniemi, Finland, to keep distance to the Arctic. “There are no near-Arctic states”, he stated denying the concept written in the Arctic Policy of China. The recent G7 meeting was controversial where at a certain point it was considered that Mr. Trump was regretting the trade war but soon afterwards it was messaged that he was ‘just’ regretting on not being tougher with China.
Theoretically, if Greenland would be under US jurisdiction, there would be maritime geostrategic consequences as well. The US has not ratified the United Convention on the Law of the Seas. Furthermore, with this the US would become a participant on the Lomonosov Ridge claims considering the future jurisdiction of the Arctic Ocean. There is a new legislative initiative in the US for fostering an Arctic marine transportation system and enhance marine safety, which would the apply for the Greenlandic sea area, if approved.
It is obvious, that a more dominant presence of the US in Greenland commercially and politically would also have geostrategic elements. Greenland is not within the European Union and hence potential shifts can be decided by the Kingdom of Denmark in conjunction with Greenlandic Government. Greenland air space is widely used for trans-continental flights and gaining the control could be compared to the control of the Russian air space for flights between Europe and Asia. However, the Thule air base in Greenland and the Canadian military base in Alert, Ellesmere Island have existed for decades. The proximity is there already up to a certain extent.