Opinion

WHITON: What If Greenland Wants Trump More Than It Wants Denmark?

REUTERS/Svebor Kranjc

Christian Whiton Fmr. State Dept Sr. Advisor

The president’s musings about buying Greenland and his spat with the Danish prime minister met with the usual scoffs from experts. Lost amid the hubbub is a key question: What if Greenlanders might want to join America under the right circumstances?

After all, there has long been a movement in Greenland for independence from Denmark. In 2008, voters there passed a referendum overwhelmingly to increase their autonomy. In 2009, the country dropped Danish as an official language in favor of Greenlandic, and some major political parties favor making English supreme. The population is mostly Inuit — similar to Alaskan Eskimos — not Danish. Greenland was a U.S. protectorate in World War II when Denmark was occupied by Nazis. And some major political parties favor independence from Denmark.

The main holdup is that Denmark has Greenland hooked on handouts, which fund more than half of government expenditures and comprise more than a quarter of GDP. Those expenditures also cost Danish taxpayers more than half a billion dollars a year, which apparently they badly need. After all, Denmark promised NATO to spend no less than two percent of its GDP on its military, but only spends 1.35 percent, and says it needs until 2023 just to get to 1.5 percent. If Copenhagen can’t pay for its defense, it should not be running a poor man’s empire.

Joining America could provide big benefits to Greenlanders. In 2008, the U.S. Geological Survey estimated that there are 17 billion barrels of oil and 138 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in the Greenlandic basin. Reduced ice coverage and increased transit in the Arctic also give hope for greater prosperity from mining and seaborne commerce. By joining the U.S. economy, Greenland would enjoy a flood of investment from fellow Americans to exploit these resources. Better still, a resources-dividend program like the one in Alaska that pays citizens directly could enrich Greenlanders.

Adding Greenland to the United States would benefit Americans by further containing Russian or Chinese ambitions in the Arctic, expanding options for missile defense against Russia and Iran, and enhancing America’s position as an energy-exporting powerhouse.

Of course the foreign policy elite on both sides of the Atlantic could care less about these facts. Without consulting anyone in Greenland, left-leaning Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen dismissed Trump’s idea as “absurd” and thought she could leave it at that. Trump subsequently cancelled a planned trip to Denmark — a good move since visiting Old Europe for anything other than vacation is increasingly a waste of time for American presidents and diplomats.

Trump should continue to press the issue, shifting his language from “buying” Greenland to bringing its people greater security and prosperity under the U.S. flag. They should not have to suffer any longer under Old Europe’s pretensions of greatness or significance.

Christian Whiton (@ChristianWhiton) was a State Department senior adviser in the Donald J. Trump and George W. Bush administrations. He is a senior fellow at the Center for the National Interest and is the author of “Smart Power: Between Diplomacy and War.”


The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.