As Trump Considers Making an Offer - Should the U.S. Buy Greenland?
Should the U.S. buy Greenland?
by Causes | 8.16.19
The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that President Donald Trump, “with varying degrees of seriousness,” has discussed with advisers the possibility of purchasing Greenland from Denmark.
If the Trump administration moves forward with the idea and makes an offer, it would be the latest expression of U.S. interest in acquiring the autonomous, glacier-covered Danish territory that dates back more than 150 years.
CNN reports that America’s first significant inquiry into buying Greenland came when Secretary of State William Seward expressed an interest in the summer of 1867 after he had secured the purchase of Alaska earlier that year (despite being mocked as "Seward's folly" & "Seward's icebox" Alaska eventually became the 49th state).
After World War II, the U.S. saw the geopolitical importance of Greenland given the island’s location adjacent to the Arctic and North Atlantic Oceans and in 1946 the Truman administration offered to buy Greenland from Denmark for $100 million ($1.3 billion in 2019 dollars).
Denmark declined to sell Greenland at the time, but given its status as a NATO ally the polar island has become an important part of the U.S. national defense strategy nonetheless. It’s home to Thule Air Force Base, the U.S. military’s northernmost outpost which has been in operation since 1943 and is home to missile warning & space surveillance facilities.
The geopolitical importance of Greenland will continue to grow in the future as nearby shipping lanes become increasingly accessible, and with Russia and China looking to strengthen their strategic posture in the Arctic. For example, the U.S. recently worked with Greenland’s government and Denmark to block the construction of several airports financed by China.
For now at least, it appears that Greenland's government is cool to the idea of being annexed:
Fun Facts About Greenland
- It’s home to 56,000 Greenlanders, of whom roughly 18,000 live in Nuuk, the capital & largest city.
- Greenland’s economy is heavily reliant on exports derived from its fishing industry (primarily shrimp & halibut) and features a large public sector, about half of which is funded by Denmark ($535 million in 2017).
- Greenland is 836,300 square miles (roughly the size of Alaska & California combined) and 80% of it is covered in ice, making it the second largest body of ice in the world behind Antarctica.
- It got its name from Norse settlers ― according to the Icelandic sagas a Viking known as Erik the Red named it “Greenland” after settling in a habitable area in an effort to attract more settlers.
— Eric Revell
(Photo Credit: iStock.com / nevereverro)
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