On Sunday, President Donald Trump confirmed reports that he is “looking at” purchasing Greenland from Denmark, what he characterized as “a large real estate deal.”
“We’re very good allies with Denmark. We protect Denmark like we protect large portions of the world. So the concept came up and I said certainly it’s strategically interesting,” Trump told reporters on his way back to the White House.
“We’re looking at it, it’s not number one on the burner,” the president said.
“It’s not number one on the burner, I can tell you that. … Essentially, it’s a large real estate deal,” the former real estate tycoon added. Former presidents Andrew Johnson and Harry Truman tried to buy Greenland from Denmark, but neither of them were real estate tycoons before entering the Oval Office.
It seems unlikely the Danish crown (yes, there are still kings in Denmark) will surrender the island. Rule over the island is a point of historical pride for Denmark. In 1397, Denmark, Sweden, and Norway united in the Kalmar Union, which aimed to counter the influence of the Hanseatic League, a coalition of Northern European cities. Sweden seceded in 1523, but Norway did not split from Denmark until 1814 — after Denmark sided with Napoleon and lost.
Greenland’s government has insisted that the island is not for sale.
The island has vast natural resources and a strategic position in the Arctic, but according to The Wall Street Journal, it relies on $591 million in annual subsidies from Denmark, which make up about 60 percent of its annual budget.
Importantly, the president noted that financial drain in his remarks.
“It’s hurting Denmark very badly because they’re losing almost $700 million a year carrying it, and strategically for the United States it would be nice,” he said.
Indeed, Truman tried to purchase the island in 1946, attempting to counter Soviet influence in the Arctic. The Danes refused to sell, but they did sign a defense treaty in 1951 granting the U.S. military virtually unlimited rights in Greenland at America’s northernmost base, Thule Air Base. The base, 750 miles north of the Arctic Circle, includes a radar station critical for the U.S. ballistic missile early-warning system. It also plays a role in space operations.
The purchase of Greenland may give Trump a key real estate presidential legacy, but it seems unnecessary. Rather than dwelling on that issue, the president emphasized America’s relationship with Denmark.
“We’re a big ally of Denmark, and we help Denmark, and we protect Denmark, and we will. We may be going to Denmark, not for this reason at all,” he said.
— CBS News (@CBSNews) August 18, 2019
Follow Tyler O’Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.