Donald Trump wants to buy Greenland, an autonomous constituent part of the Kingdom of Denmark. If any other US president proffered such an idea, it would be viewed as a joke. But with Trump, it is a serious proposal, according to White House insiders who passed the information to The Wall Street Journal.
Danish and Greenlandic government officials immediately questioned Trump’s sanity after the Greenland proposal was confirmed as authentic. The news of Trump’s desire to own Greenland as a US territory came as bitter news to actual US territories that feel abandoned by Trump. These include Puerto Rico, Guam, and the US Virgin Islands, the latter having been purchased by the United States from Denmark in 1917. These and other US territories, including the Northern Marianas and American Samoa, are, in reality, considered foreign nations by the geopolitically challenged Trump. The draconian budget cutting actions of the undemocratic Financial Oversight and Management Board for Puerto Rico have spurred a popular rebellion in Puerto Rico. Two successive governors of the territory, the elected Ricardo Rossello and appointed Pedro Pierluisi, were driven from office by massive street demonstrations. There are demands for the second appointed governor, the pro-Trump Wanda Vázquez Garced, to follow her predecessors and also resign.
After the devastation wrought by Hurricane Maria in 2017, Trump visited Puerto Rico and showed his empathy by tossing rolls of paper towels to a group of assembled Puerto Ricans. Trump also showed his ignorance about the status of the neighboring US Virgin Islands when he referred to the territory’s Governor, Kenneth Mapp, as the “President of the Virgin Islands.” What steamed the Virgin Islanders even further is that Trump’s insult came as the islands were marking the 100th anniversary of the transfer of the Virgin Islands to the US from Denmark. Among some of the older Virgin Islanders there remains a lot of nostalgia about their rule by Denmark. Some even pine for retrocession back to the Kingdom of Denmark. After all, today, Greenlanders and the Faroese have two voting representatives in the Danish parliament and their own autonomous parliaments. Virgin Islanders, on the other hand, has a non-voting delegate in the US House of Representatives and their people, US citizens, cannot vote for in the US presidential election.
Although most Greenlandic and Danish political leaders scoffed at Trump’s notion of buying self-governing Greenland from Denmark – something that would violate the Danish Constitution – there is a very dark cloud looming over Copenhagen as Trump plans to visit the Danish capital for a state visit in September of this year. Trump has often sought to punish NATO members who have not dedicated at least 2 percent of their gross domestic product (GDP) for defense spending. Denmark, boosting its defense spending for fiscal year 2023 by 20 percent to reach 1.5 percent of GDP, does not reach Trump’s mandatory 2 percent threshold. Trump, like some medieval king demanding tribute from his vassal protectorates, may believe that Denmark owes the United States an exclusive deal to purchase Greenland. Trump, whose knowledge of business does not extend beyond the real estate world, sees Greenland as a target for a leveraged buy-out.
Trump, who appears ignorant of the fact that the Kingdom of Denmark is actually composed of three countries – Denmark, Greenland (known officially in the Inuit Greenlandic language as “Kalaallit Nunaat”), and the Faroe Islands – will obviously receive a harsh lesson on the reality of Denmark when he meets in Copenhagen on September 2-3 with Queen Margrethe II, Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen, Greenland Prime Minister Kim Kielsen, and Faroese Prime Minister Aksel Johannesen. Trump, who has railed against leftists and socialists as part of his pabulum designed for his political base of political neophytes and neo-Nazi bigots, will undoubtedly be nonplussed to learn that Frederiksen, Kielsen, and Johannesen are all left-of-center social democrats. Kielsen is the leader of Siumut, which favors eventual independence for Greenland. He said in response to Trump’s plan, “Greenland is not for sale and cannot be sold.”
US President Harry S Truman tried to buy Greenland in 1946 for $100 million. In the post-war years, the United States escaped the ravages of what had befallen Europe and Asia, so it was able to make demands of other countries merely because of its newfound political and economic clout. However, Denmark let it be known that Greenland was not for sale. When US Secretary of State James Byrnes made the pitch for Greenland in 1946 to visiting Danish Foreign Minister Gustav Rasmussen during a meeting in New York, Rasmussen was said to have been “shocked” by the proposal. On January 23, 1948, Denmark’s Social Democratic Prime Minister Hans Hedtoft gave a firm answer to those who were willing to part with Greenland, an answer that remains in effect today:
“Why not sell Greenland? Because it would not be in accordance with our honor and conscience to sell Greenland. The Greenlanders are and feel they are our countrymen and we feel tightly bound to them. It cannot be our generation’s task to make the Danish state smaller, and it is not in accordance with the policy of the Danish government or the wishes of the Danish people.”
Hedtoft was supported in his stance against Washington by the full array of the Danish political spectrum, from the Conservative People’s Party to the Communist Party, of which the leadership of the latter included this writer’s grandmother. Opposition to any transfer of Greenland today to the Americans remains just as strong in the Danish parliament as it was in 1946. From the far-right Danish People’s Party to the left-wing Red-Green Alliance, Danish political parties are united in rejecting Trump’s goofy proposal to buy Greenland.
Former Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen of the center right Venstre party tweeted: “It must be an April Fool’s Day joke . . . but totally out of season!” Conservative People’s Party MP Rasmus Jarlov tweeted: “Out of all things that are not going to happen, this is the most unlikely. Forget it.” Trump is scheduled to visit Denmark next month and if he brings up his Greenland proposal it will assuredly damage Washington-Copenhagen relations even further. Uffe Elbæk, the leader of the left-of-center Alternative Party, said Trump’s Greenland proposal coupled with his upcoming trip to Copenhagen will make the US presidential visit “the most absurd in living memory.” Former Foreign Minister Martin Lidegaard, leader of the Danish Social Liberal Party, said Trump’s idea was “a grotesque proposal” and not based in reality.
Pernille Skipper of the Red-Green Alliance said, “It says a lot about Trump that he actually thinks you can buy a whole country and a whole people. Greenland is the Greenlanders, and this is not the 19th century. Not for sale.” Christian Juhl of the Red-Green Alliance said, “Trump can instead offer to pay rent for the Thule base, which until now has been made available to the US for free.” Soren Espersen, foreign affairs spokesman for the nationalist Danish People’s Party told Danish Radio, “If he is truly contemplating this, then this is final proof, that he has gone mad. The thought of Denmark selling 50,000 citizens to the United States is completely ridiculous.”
Greenlandic political leaders were just as critical about Trump’s scheme. Greenland Foreign Minister Ane Lone Bagger stated that, “We’re open for business, but we’re not for sale.” Danish parliament member Aaja Chemnitz Larsen of the socialist pro-independence Inuit Ataqatigiit party of Greenland, said, “I am sure a majority in Greenland believes it is better to have a relation to Denmark than the United States, in the long term.” Her Siumut counterpart, Aki-Matilda Høegh-Dam, said, “Denmark doesn’t own Greenland in any way, and you can’t sell something you do not own.”
The US military presence at the Thule and Sondestrom airbases, as well as other locations on the island has left toxic and radioactive US trash being scattered about Greenland. As the Greenland ice sheet continues to rapidly melt, canisters of poisonous and radioactive material are becoming exposed to the air and water. Yet, Trump administration neocons are claiming that the US must supplant growing Chinese interest in Greenland by increasing the Pentagon’s trash-laden presence on the island.
Ask most Greenlanders what they think about the United States and they will tell you that Washington has used their island as a gigantic garbage dump. Trump’s proposal to buy Greenland should be tossed into one of Greenland’s numerous “Made-by-America” garbage heaps.