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Explained: Why US’s offer of financial aid to Greenland has angered Denmark

Should the plans for acquiring Greenland ever materialise, it would secure Donald Trump’s position in US history of having been the third president to add land to the country’s territory.

Written by Neha Banka , Edited by Explained Desk | Kolkata | Updated: April 23, 2020 10:03:52 pm
Explained: Why US’s offer of financial aid to Greenland has angered Denmark In eastern Greenland. The Trump administration has offered financial aid to the autonomous island that falls within the territory of the Kingdom of Denmark. (AP Photo: Mstyslav Chernov)

Months after stirring a row with Denmark last August over a proposal to “purchase” Greenland from the Nordic nation, the US has caused consternation once again with its offers of financial aid to the autonomous island that falls within the territory of the Kingdom of Denmark. “Essentially it’s a large real estate deal,” Trump had said in August 2019.

This proposal follows plans by the US government to open a consulate in Suuk, Greenland’s capital. Members of Denmark’s parliament expressed outrage at the US government’s attempts to provide financial aid to Greenland with some politicians considering the steps to be “extremely provocative” interference by the US.

Why is Trump offering Greenland financial aid?

This week, US Ambassador to Denmark Carla Sands appeared to defend her government’s offer of aid to Greenland in an op-ed published in Danish news outlet Altinget. Claiming that a reason for this decision was to aid “sustainable growth” in the autonomous island, Sands also cited Russia’s “aggressive behavior and increased militarisation in the Arctic” and China’s “predatory economic interests” as reasons for the US government’s decision.

In Denmark, the US government’s repeated moves concerning Greenland have become a cause for concern and have been criticised in political circles as well as in the news media since Trump first made references to the territory last year. In August 2019, Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen had dismissed the possibility of the US acquiring Greenland, calling it an “absurd discussion”. Frederiksen had responded to Trump’s statements saying: “Greenland is not for sale. Greenland is not Danish. Greenland belongs to Greenland. I strongly hope that this is not meant seriously.”

Denmark appears to have considered the US government’s offers for financial aid a hostile move.

Why is Trump obsessed with Greenland?

Trump’s interest in Greenland is almost an extension of his world view and US foreign policy in his administration. Purchasing another country or territory is unusual, but the US government has done this twice before — once when President Thomas Jefferson acquired Louisiana from the French in 1803 and the second time when President Andrew Johnson purchased Alaska from Russia in 1867.

There are many reasons at play here; for many among Trump’s voter base in the US, the country acquiring new territory under this administration would appeal to their nationalistic and imperialistic views. Should the plans for acquiring Greenland ever materialise, it would also secure Trump’s position in US history of having been the third president to add land to the country’s territory.

Explained: Why US’s offer of financial aid to Greenland has angered Denmark Location of Greenland, in the Kingdom of Denmark. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Interestingly, Greenland, though the world’s largest island, is geographically a part of the North American continent. However, it has always been culturally aligned with Europe. Greenland is also a resource rich land mass, strategically located between the Arctic Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, with some of the largest deposits of rare-earth metals, including iron-ore, uranium, byproducts of zinc, neodymium, praseodymium, dysprosium and terbium. These rare-earth metals are used in the production of electric cars, mobile phones and computers. For the longest time, China has been the world’s largest supplier of these rare-earth metals and has expanded its acquisitory plans by excavating mines across the African continent.

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China’s nationalistic and aggressive foreign policies have consistently clashed with the US, with both fighting for dominance and prominence on the global platform. An acquisition of Greenland would make the US less reliant on China for these rare-earth metals. Observers say Greenland, as a part of the Arctic region, also has large deposits of undiscovered oil and gas, resources that the US always wants more of.

Why is the US opening a consulate in Greenland?

The US is opening a consulate in Greenland after nearly seven decades of closing its first consulate after the Second World War. Foreign policy experts believe Trump’s push to open a consulate again can be chalked up to Russia and China’s aggressive foriegn policy moves to gain more influence in the region. Russia has been steadily expanding its military presence in the Arctic and China has done its bit on the economic front. Due to climate change, the Arctic ice is melting at an accelerated rate, opening up water routes for military and maritime trade. This is in addition to global superpowers and regional players vying for control over Greeland’s vast untapped natural resources.

Although Greenland and Denmark are well-aware of the shifting geo-politics in the region, Trump’s aggressive statements and conduct that reek of colonial aggression have not been appreciated. Last August, Trump tweeted a photo of one of his hotels and wrote “I promise not to do this to Greenland!”, a statement that many in Denmark found particularly hostile and provocative. Now, the US government’s offers of financial aid to Greenland have added to the belief among many in Denmark’s political circles that these actions are an extension of the Trump administration’s colonial policies towards the island.

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Following these developments, Karsten Honge, a member of the foreign affairs committee with the Socialist People’s Party in Denmark said the US had “clearly crossed the line” with its actions concerning Greenland.

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