A couple of months ago, U.S. President Donald Trump approached the government of Denmark with a real estate deal: sell Greenland. The negotiation turned sour when a Danish Prime Minister refused the offer – disrespectfully, according to the American leader.
Trump, a life-long businessman and Manhattan real estate developer who wrote The Art of the Deal, canceled a planned visit to the Kingdom of Denmark after PM Mette Frederiksen called the proposal “an absurd discussion.” Two weeks before he departed, the U.S. President opted out of dropping in on the Danes on September 2-3, 2019, during a diplomatic European tour.
Trump explained the schedule change:
“I looked forward to going but I thought that the prime minister’s statement that it was ‘absurd,’ that it was an ‘absurd’ idea was nasty. I thought it was an inappropriate statement. All she had to do is say we wouldn’t be interested.”
Situated in the North Atlantic Ocean, Greenland is the world’s largest island, noted for its icy glaciers and immense wilderness tundra. The majority of the approximate 56,000 residents are Inuit Eskimo natives who have lived near the Arctic Circle for some 800 years.
Ane Lone Bagger, foreign minister of Greenland, said:
“Greenland is rich in valuable resources such as minerals, the purest water and ice, fish stocks, seafood, renewable energy and is a new frontier for adventure tourism. We are open for business, but we’re not for sale.”
Denmark’s former prime minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen scoffed at the Trump administration’s interest in trading cash for the icy island:
“It has to be an April Fool’s joke. Totally out of season.”
Soren Espersen, foreign affairs spokesman for the Danish People’s Party, took the opportunity to trash-talk the Commander-in-Chief of the USA:
“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.”
It is not clear why Espersen equated a legitimate international business negotiation with mental illness. The Danish People’s Party is a right-leaning populist group that supports nativism and spurns immigration.
One nation buying another one is far from crazy. The U.S. and Denmark have concluded one successful negotiation already regarding the Virgin Islands:
“The United States originally contracted with the government of Denmark to buy the present-day US Virgin Islands for $7.5 million in 1867 — but before the US Senate could ratify the treaty, the islands were struck by a devastating hurricane, leading senators to balk at the price. Then in 1900, the US agreed to buy the islands again, this time for the bargain price of $5 million. But then the Danish parliament balked. Under pressure from World War I, the deal finally got done in 1917, and the US bought the islands for $25 million.”
Denmark granted Greenland sovereignty so its people decide their own fates by referendums. The legal acquisition of Greenland would require that its citizens approved of switching their allegiance to the U.S. Greenland is a poor country that depends for its subsistence on Danish subsidies.
Although colonialized by Denmark in 1721, the new Danish constitution granted Greeland residents Danish citizenship in 1953. Greenland has operated under home-rule government since 1979. In 2009, Greenland achieved increased autonomy when it became self-governing.
During World War II, the German National Socialists (Nazis) occupied Denmark. Unable to defend their protectorate, the United States established two large air bases in Greenland in 1941 to defend the strategic territory which lies to the north of the eastern U.S. After the second War to End All Wars ended in 1945, the U.S. extended an offer to Denmark to purchase Greenland for $100 million.
Denmark turned down the American bid for Greenland in 1946 but did allow the U.S. to construct Thule Air Base in 1952 as a refueling base for long-range bombing missions. Since 1961, Thule has provided U.S. ballistic missile early warning and space surveillance services.
The United States’ interest in acquiring Greenland lies in both its physical location as a way-station between the American and European continents and its vast reserves of mineral wealth.
U.S. mining and oil companies are currently in a position to purchase mineral rights from Greenland.
On August 20, 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.”
“The Prime Minister was able to save a great deal of expense and effort for both the United States and Denmark by being so direct. I thank her for that and look forward to rescheduling sometime in the future!”
The Republican president is changing the game established by his predecessor Democratic President Barack Obama. Trump stated that the U.S. won’t be treated “the way they treated us under Obama,” when he commented on the Danish PM’s rebuff of the Greenland purchase offer:
“I thought it was a very not nice way of saying something. She’s not talking to me, she’s talking to the United States of America. You don’t talk to the United States that way, at least under me.”