Will Denmark have to appease American interests in Greenland?

By |2019-09-04T13:48:43+01:004th September, 2019|

The famous phrase ‘I came, I saw, I conquered or ‘veni, vidi, vici’ was awaiting its twitter revival approximately 2000 years after it was originally coined by Julius Caesar. If only Donald Trump had not cancelled his scheduled trip to Copenhagen, he could have tweeted those famous words after having met the Scandinavian Vikings, who now happen to control the area of Greenland.

Mr Trump tweeted: “Denmark is a very special country with incredible people, but based on Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen’s comments, that she would have no interest in discussing the purchase of Greenland, I will be postponing our meeting scheduled in two weeks for another time….”

Trump is neither coming, nor seeing nor willing to conquer Greenland. He wants to buy it and his real estate business strategy has backfired in Scandinavia. The Danes have no intention of selling any part of Greenland. US President Donald Trump thus cancelled his state visit to Denmark, after Denmark’s Prime Minister, Mette Frederiksen, categorically refused discussing the sale of Greenland, referring to it as an absurd idea. She said, “Greenland is not Danish. Greenland is Greenlandic. I sincerely hope that this is not something that is meant seriously,” referring to the unfeasible and unwelcome proposal of buying Greenland. Later, announcing the cancellation of his official visit to Denmark, Mr Trump tweeted: “Denmark is a very special country with incredible people, but based on Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen’s comments, that she would have no interest in discussing the purchase of Greenland, I will be postponing our meeting scheduled in two weeks for another time….”

Greenland harbours some of the largest deposits of rare-earth metals, which the American industry is desperately in need of. Scientific evidence proves that the Arctic contains approximately 13 per cent of the world’s undiscovered conventional oil resources and about 30 per cent of its undiscovered conventional natural gas resources. Besides its rich natural resources, the Arctic Sea would also make sea routes shorter for cargo ships. China has already made substantial inroads into Scandinavia, investing in companies, buying companies, and in fact increasing both its import and export for several years in all major Scandinavian countries, thereby increasing its stake in the region. This is raising eyebrows in Washington.

As superpowers hungry for natural resources are meddling more and more into the Arctic circle, Denmark might have to resort to some sort of integration of Greenland into Denmark. Similar to what Narendra Modi, India’s Prime Minister did in Kashmir.

The Indian government, headed by Narendra Modi, sent a shock wave throughout the world on August 5th by revoking article 370 and article 35A, thereby fully integrating the disputed region of Kashmir under the domain of the same constitution of India which applies to the rest of the States and Union territories.  Modi’s government enjoys an absolute majority and is principally in a congenial position to take historical decisions. India has the longest constitution in the world, and now it will be fully applicable to the territory of Jammu and Kashmir, which had enjoyed a large degree of autonomy since India’s Independence in 1947.

India moved towards further integration of Kashmir. The same political dilemma and description more or less applies to the relation of Denmark with Greenland.  Similar to the Kashmir-model, the defence and foreign policy is steered centrally from Copenhagen. Children in Greenland learn Danish in school, they are allowed to possess a Danish passport, giving them free access to the Danish territory, hospitals and universities. Greenland also has two permanent Members of Parliament in Copenhagen, representing their region. They are elected by the Greenlandic people, representing the Greenlandic interests in the Danish Parliament. Greenland is strategically as important to Denmark as Kashmir is to India. Greenland is not green as the name indicates, it is primarily white and covered in ice, especially in the central parts.

Strictly speaking in a historical context, Donald Trump is not the first President to attempt a sales deal on Greenland. In 1946, US President Harry Truman tried to buy Greenland from Denmark for a meagre $100m, a move which was politely refused. In 1917, the United States successfully acquired the Danish West Indies islands, renaming them the US Virgin Islands. The Danes also sold the Tranquebar Fort and part of the city to the British for 1,250,000 Indian Rupees in 1845. We are now in 2019, and the Danes have a deep sense of remorse for having lost so much of their territory to the British Raj, the Americans, and especially the Germans, who actually took a huge part of southern Denmark by force. Southern Sweden was also historically part of Denmark. Norway too, for a major part of its history was Danish. Enough is enough. Small may be beautiful, but the Danes are dreaming big now.

The presence of a major US military airbase on Greenland sends shivers down their Viking spines. America has successfully bought Alaska from Russia in 1867, and Greenland with its estimated millions of tonnes of rare earth oxides, attracts the attention of the American defence industry, especially after China has started hinting that it wants to curtail the supply of rare earth oxides to USA, as a tit for tat strategy in its ongoing trade war with USA.

The current President of the United States is well aware of the fact that Denmark annually expends 4.3 billion kroner a year, in the form of diverse aid to Greenland to help it to maintain a good living standard for its population of a meagre 55,000 people. His logic was to allow the Danes to save that amount in exchange for letting America govern Greenland. Greenland is the world’s largest island and because of global warming, the ice is melting in the Arctic region, thus making it attractive for global super powers like the USA, China and Russia, who are speculating about exploiting its reserves of oil and natural gas, once the ice has melted away from the surface.

It is a mystery, though, how a very democratic group of Nordic countries have been totally insensitive to Chinese business interests and strategic interests. They have allowed the Chinese influence to grow exponentially for over a decade now. The Americans have been occupied in the Middle-Eastern region, but now the foreign policy priorities are changing, bringing the Arctic Circle right into the middle of a hot spot. Americans may not take a no for an answer, escalating the tension between one of the largest democracies of the world, and one of the smallest well-functioning democracies in the world.

Denmark’s official position is: Greenland is an autonomous region and a partner of Denmark. Denmark, though, does have a right to decide the foreign policy of Greenland, another similarity it has with Kashmir vis-a-vis the Indian central government.

For India, the strategic heights of a mountainous region like Kashmir speaks volumes about why the Indian government could no longer put up with the slow but relentless incursion of Chinese influence. Pakistan has turned out to be a weak but cunning neighbour to India, willing to exchange territory for bartering more Chinese support for its clandestine low-scale war with India. Compelled by this undeniable quagmire, India had to take a drastic step. Revoking article 370 and 35 A has a huge unprecedented support in India across all states and regions of the country. The Indians understand the value of the military strategic heights of Kashmir.

The Danes are facing the same dilemma. They will have to make a choice. They cannot allow the Chinese influence to grow and not invite an American interference. Trump may not buy Greenland as he has jovially noted. He may not build a Trump Tower, as he indicated already in one of his tweets. But America has a legitimate interest and right to demand some kind of loyalty from the Kingdom of Denmark. The Danes will have to make a choice. They cannot act like Pakistan. They cannot allow the Chinese influence to grow, jeopardizing the American strategic interest in the region.

The Danes will now be compelled to make some difficult political decisions charting a course of a clear foreign policy. The Americans could help them by insisting that co-operation with a democracy is far better than a dictatorship like China, which is not willing to give people in Hong Kong their basic human rights and freedom of speech. America, despite its follies, does have free press and freedom of expression enshrined in its constitution.

Time will tell if the Danes will overlook the provoking remarks of the American President and maintain that they have had one of the longest diplomatic relations with America in Europe. More so, Denmark and USA are both democracies.

Until now, the Danish Prime Ministers have been more or less dancing to the tunes of a dominant rising China. The question is if they are equally receptive to the belligerent moves of Donald Trump.

The diplomatic farce which resulted in Donald Trump cancelling his visit to Copenhagen is a matter of concern for policy makers on both sides of the Atlantic.

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