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Could the United States Really Buy Greenland from Denmark?

Donald Trump abruptly announced that he would be postponing his upcoming scheduled state visit to Denmark after the country’s prime minister asserted that the island territory of Greenland is ‘Not for Sale.’

In a Twitter post, United States President called Denmark a ‘very special country with incredible people’, but in response to Danish prime minister’s comments that Greenland was not for sale, the president stated that he would be canceling his upcoming state visit that was set to take place on September 2nd.

Greenland would be a “large real estate deal”

According to news reports that were later confirmed by the president himself, United States President Donald Trump has actively discussed the possibility of purchasing Greenland from Denmark within his administration.

The president’s interest in the land transaction was met with little enthusiasm from the Danish people. Denmark’s prime minister, Mette Frederiksen, who happened to be on a state visit to Greenland, responded to Donald Trump’s comments in simple, direct terms saying that “Greenland is not for sale.” Frederiksen further reiterated her point stating, “Greenland is not Danish. Greenland belongs to Greenland.”

She characterized the President’s suggestion that the land could be bought as ‘absurd’, saying that she hoped Trump was not being serious. The premier of Greenland echoed PM Fredericksen’s words in an official statement saying, “Greenland is not for sale, but Greenland is open for trade and co-operation with other countries, including the USA.”

Trump’s abrupt cancellation of the trip suggests that, despite his repeated denials, the central purpose of the meeting was to negotiate the United States’ purchase of the island territory.

Why would the US want to buy Greenland?

Many may ask why the United States president would have an interest in a piece of land, currently a self-governing territory of Denmark, that is largely uninhabited and desolate. For Trump, who made a name for himself in the real estate business, this would be the deal of a lifetime. A land transaction of this size would be historic, effectively landing Donald Trump an entry in the history books next to the likes of Thomas Jefferson, who was responsible for the Louisiana Purchase and Andrew Johnson who secured the purchase of Alaska from Russia.

Speaking to reporters, the president stated that the island would have strategic value to the United States. The president’s assertion that Greenland has strategic value was likely in part due to its location between the Northern Atlantic and the Arctic Ocean. Russia’s renewed military ambitions could serve as the impetus for the Trump administration’s interest in the territory. Greenland would provide a buffer between Russia and the populated mainland United States. The US has operated an air force base on the island since the beginning of the Cold War.

Greenland’s strategic and economic potential

Greenland has a small population of 56,000 people and its government currently relies on Denmark for around 65 percent of its budget. Nearly 90% of Greenland’s territory is covered by ice. There are growing fears that these ice caps may melt, becoming victim to global warming. The recession of Greenland’s ice caps will likely increase access to the island’s mineral resources– another potential source of Trump’s attraction to the territory.

The acquisition of Greenland could help the United States challenge China’s growing dominance over the world’s mineral resources. In addition to coal, zinc, copper and iron ore, Greenland has large deposits of rare-earth metals neodymium, praseodymium, dysprosium and terbium, along with uranium. These valuable resources are used in the production of mobile phones, computers and electronic appliances, among other devices.

While the president may be encouraged by Greenland’s potential, the acquisition of the territory would likely pose challenges for the United States. Melting ice could potentially expose toxic nuclear wastes that were left behind by the US military during the Cold War. The residents of Greenland experience high levels of unemployment and the society suffers from elevated rates of alcoholism and suicide.

This is not the first time a US president has floated the idea of buying the territory from Denmark. President Andrew Johnson apparently once considered pursuing a deal to purchase the land and, in 1946, Harry Truman offered Denmark $100m for the island.

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