Trump Sees Green in Greenland
This is a diamond in the rough for this administration — a not bad forward-thinking idea.
In early August, when President Donald Trump announced his interest in purchasing Greenland, we were once again dumbfounded. The purchase of a tiny Arctic country with a population of 56,000 left many laughing uproariously, scratching their heads in confusion, blindly supporting the president or just plain angry. This was true regardless of political ideology. The biggest question of all was why Greenland?
But since political divisiveness is the norm now, there was no room to allow any objective discourse to take place. In the case of Greenland, it was warranted.
The country has long been of interest to the United States. When Secretary of State William Seward was negotiating the purchase of Alaska with Russia, in 1867, he was also exploring the purchase of Greenland. This also isn’t the first time a president of the United States has tried to purchase Greenland. President Truman offered up $100 million for it in 1946.
Last year, Republican Senator Tom Cotton from Arkansas brought up the purchase of Greenland with the Danish ambassador. And in May of this year, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the United States would re-establish a diplomatic presence in Greenland. The first time since the 1950s.
So, what’s so great about Greenland?
Its strategic location makes it an ideal hub for the military. On the one side is Russia, with China right below it. Representing North American on the other side is Canada and Alaska. And that makes the flight path over Greenland the shortest route for Russia and China — for both its bombers and intercontinental missiles. Naturally, this is something that North America would prefer to avoid.
Recognizing Greenland’s importance, China attempted to purchase an old American naval base there in 2016. The Danish government stepped in and prevented that. Then, in 2018, China made an attempt at building three airports before being shut down again by the Danish government (with much cajoling by the Trump administration).
Outside of its location, Greenland has a wide array of resources that hold appeal. So much so, that in a 2014 report from the Brookings Institute, they referred to a coming “gold rush” of energy and mineral resources. The report goes on to note that as the Arctic ice continues to disappear, due to global warming, access to lead, zinc, diamonds, gold and, of course, oil is becoming more available.
The Greenland politicians have made the extraction of natural resources and minerals central to its plans to extricate itself from the Kingdom of Denmark. Currently, Greenland receives about $700 million in subsidies annually from Denmark to help keep the country financially afloat. The Brookings report concludes that “large-scale mining” is an eventuality, but admits it’s about ten years away.
Of those resources, oil is oil; human beings are on a neverending search for more oil. Finding another country with untapped oil resources would send any oil searching countries political and capitalistic heart aflutter.
The importance of the other minerals on Greenland is almost incalculable. The country houses some of the world’s largest deposits of rare-earth minerals, like neodymium, praseodymium, and terbium. While not as fancy as diamonds or as coveted as oil, these are some of the minerals used in the manufacturing of mobile phones, computers, and electric cars. Three markets that China has a tight grip on.
These minerals are also used in technology and defense. Two of the most important, and identifiable, industries for both China and the United States. While the two countries are currently embroiled in a trade war, it’s easy to see why Greenland was appealing to President Trump.
It’s that rarest of things from the Trump administration, a forward-thinking not awful idea.
Naturally, Greenland is of particular interest to industrialists across the globe. Tapping into these resources would make any capitalist salivate. In May of 2014 then-Prime Minister Aleqa Hammond repealed a ban on uranium mining. Australian company, Greenland Minerals and Energy Limited wasted no time and began building mines for uranium.
For its part, Greenland has been preparing for large-scale mining projects. However, it’s safe to say that they’ve been moving at a glacial pace. They’ve slowly been building regulatory structures and environmental safeguards. At the same time, trying to foster an appealing investment climate for international investors.
As rare as the minerals themselves, it’s not often that “regulatory structures and environmental safeguards” and “appealing investment climate” work in tandem.
The inevitability of this large-scale mining would mean that this country of 56,000 could potentially see thousands of workers from all over the world. To accommodate this influx, the country must first develop the infrastructure to fit that kind of population increase.
While America has had a foot in Greenland for decades, it’s only Thules Air Base that remains. The other bases were abandoned years ago. The United States left Denmark the tab. That country is funding the clean up of all the decaying buildings, vehicles and old fuel barrels that America abandoned after World War II: to the tune of $29 million over six years.
Unfortunately, that $29 million excludes the cleaning up of the American deserted under-ice nuclear missile facility. In 1967, when America realized that the glaciers were moving faster than expected, they just left. This raises the real concern that continued ice melting could bring radioactive waste to the surface.
Let that sink in . . . Americans abandoned a nuclear missile facility in 1967 because glaciers were moving faster than expected. But “global warming” is a hoax.
So while this particular kerfuffle made for great media mania, on both conservative and liberal outlets, the reality is that purchasing Greenland isn’t a terrible idea. It’s that rarest of things from the Trump administration, a forward-thinking not awful idea.
At times it appears as though President Trump’s foreign policy resembles a combination of the board games Risk and Monopoly. After being rebuked by Prime Minister of Denmark, Mette Fredericksen, who said any discussion on the sale of Greenland was “absurd.”
In what will come as a surprise to almost no one, the presidents’ petulant behavior got the better of him. He referred to her comment of “absurd” as “nasty” — his favorite euphemism for a woman who has run afoul of him (see Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, Meghan Markle . . . well, here’s a running list of women).
Any type of civil discourse about what Greenland’s potential became impossible. It was the presidents’ behavior that ran the news cycle. As it often does. This was unfortunate because in this case Greenland, maybe not the purchase of it, warrants such a discussion.
Walking, or Tweeting, away from the table is a typical Donald Trump negotiation tactic. Each time he does this it strongly suggests that’s his only negotiating tactic. The “art of the deal” must simply be taking all your toys and going home.
Maybe that works in the world of real estate or licensing your brand.
However, two years into his administration, the effect of this type of petulant behavior is questionable geopolitically.