Trump's botched grab for Greenland

By Sajjad Malik
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, August 27, 2019
Adjust font size:
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to reporters before leaving the White House in Washington D.C., the United States, on Aug. 21, 2019. [Photo/Xinhua]

President Donald Trump's attempt to buy Greenland from Denmark has failed to materialize. Instead, his series of actions have triggered a diplomatic row between the two countries. 

Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen, angered by Trump's boasting about his deal-making acumen, snubbed him by saying that the very idea of buying a part of Denmark was "absurd."

An incensed Trump proceeded to call off a visit to Denmark, after having been invited by the Danish Queen Margrethe II. This gesture came as a mighty slight to this small nation, coming from the leader of a powerful nation. 

Trump didn't mince words as to why he decided to forego the trip: "I thought that the (Danish) 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 no, we wouldn't be interested."

Located in the Arctic Circle, Greenland is the largest island in the world. But about 80% of its 811,000 square miles area is ice-capped, and the total population of the entire island is only about 58,000. The residents are Danish, and have enjoyed self-rule since 1979.

The island lies closer to Canada than the United States, but Trump is not the first American leader who is keen to purchase it for perceived strategic and economic advantages. Such attempts go back as far as 1867, with the most serious one made by President Harry Truman in 1946, when he tried to acquire it for $100 million in gold.

The history demonstrates Greenland's geo-strategic value, but at the same time, it makes the Danish government and people sensitive to the suggestion of any outside country's involvement, even in the development of the area. 

Icebergs float behind the town of Kulusuk in Greenland on August 16, 2019. [Photo/VCG]

The opening of the North Atlantic shipping trade following the melting of polar ice caps has only increased the importance of Greenland in recent years. The new sea route bypasses much longer voyages by which ships have to circumnavigate south all the way to the Panama and Suez canals.   

Greenland is also known to have vast natural resources that include coal, zinc, copper, iron ore and rare minerals. In actuality, however, the exact quantity of its mineral wealth has not been ascertained. But the rumors have put the island on the list of spots on earth holding great economic potential. 

Fishing and tourism are other key industries enhancing the commercial value of the area. A growing number of people are seeking out adventure tourism, and they often want to go to places hitherto unknown and unexplored. Greenland could be one such destination.  

American presence in Greenland is not a novel concept from a military and defense point of view. Since 1943, the U.S. has operated its northernmost air force base, Thule Air Base, in Greenland under a bilateral agreement, and has also established there an early warning system to detect ballistic missiles and a satellite tracking system. 

This diplomatic disturbance between the U.S. and Denmark will hopefully prove to be a momentary affair, but the future of Greenland is an issue that calls for greater attention. The impact of increased shipping and commercial activities, as well as of the melting ice caps, on the region's ecology and environment present serious challenges to the residents of the island.  

Whatever is done about President Trump's fumbled attempt to acquire this pristine island, the will of the local residents should always be respected. 

Sajjad Malik is a columnist with For more information please visit:

Opinion articles reflect the views of their authors, not necessarily those of

If you would like to contribute, please contact us at

Follow on Twitter and Facebook to join the conversation.
ChinaNews App Download
Print E-mail Bookmark and Share

Go to Forum >>0 Comment(s)

No comments.

Add your comments...

  • User Name Required
  • Your Comment
  • Enter the words you see:   
    Racist, abusive and off-topic comments may be removed by the moderator.
Send your storiesGet more from