Greenland is open for business but not for sale. So Greenland’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced on Twitter today in response to the news that President Trump is mulling purchasing the autonomous territory that boasts 56,000 residents.
The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that sources close to President Trump say he has, in various conversations, dinners, and meetings, repeatedly expressed interest in buying Greenland. Individuals familiar with the conversations say that Trump has inquired whether the US could purchase Greenland and asked White House counsel to “look into the idea”. CNN reports that two sources confirmed the report of Trump’s ongoing interest in Greenland.
Greenland is a self-ruling territory of Denmark, but any offer to purchase it would be handled by Denmark. The US has strategic interests in the territory, with Greenland housing Thule Air Base and part of a ballistic missile early-warning system.
The news of Trump’s interest in Greenland comes just weeks before his first state visit to Denmark, although, the Journal’s sources say there is no connection between this visit and his real-estate inquiries regarding the Danish territory.
According to a real-estate agent in Greenland’s capital of Nuuk, Kenneth Mortensen, Trump would find the real-estate market in Greenland very different than in Manhattan because the government owns all the land. He told the WSJ, “You can never own land here. In Greenland, you get a right to use the land where you want to build a house, but you can’t buy.”
Bent Abeelsen, of Kulusuk, told CNN, “They tried to buy us in 1867, during Second World War, and now they are trying again. Not gonna happen.”
In 1867, then-secretary of state William Seward expressed interest in purchasing Greenland as did, apparently, Harry Truman, in 1946.
One individual, speaking to the WSJ, said the president’s comments regarding purchasing Greenland because Denmark faced financial difficulties from subsidies that Greenland relies on seemed to be a joke. This person, however, also said Trump was interested in Greenland because of its natural resources. Such a purchase would be a legacy in the vein of Eisenhower’s purchase of Alaska, the person said and persons outside the White House are pushing the concept.
The Journal points to White House advisers being unsure how far the president might push his fascination with Greenland or if it is a passing fancy. One source stated that, since the president has not mentioned it in one of his rally speeches, he probably was not serious about the idea.
The idea of the Greenland Purchase, in spite of the Journal’s reporting that some of the president’s advisers have supported the idea “as a good economic play”, received widespread mockery on social media.
Some Republicans joined in the joking, although their tweets seemed to give off an air of nervous twitching, lest the president is actually serious about buying Greenland and they have to decide whether to defend him.
Why It Matters
Leaving aside the bizarre idea of another vanity project for the furtherance of Donald Trump’s legacy, the simple fact that Greenland relies on subsidies of nearly $600 million each year should make anyone with a concern about the financial realities in this country take pause when the idea of purchasing a territory is floated.
We already have a neglected territory, Puerto Rico, that deserves to be brought into statehood rather than even considering a territory that isn’t asking to be purchased.
But, for some, Donald Trump could announce he is considering purchasing a bridge on Pluto and his supporters would nod, look at each other, and say, “Brilliant idea!”
If that doesn’t make you think of The Emperor’s New Clothes, where no one could tell the truth about the Emperor prancing around naked because they didn’t want to be the one to say it, then White House aides having no idea how serious the President of the United States is about an important policy decision but because he hadn’t brought it up in a campaign rally speech he probably isn’t serious about it probably should bring the Hans Christian Anderson tale to mind.
The conversation of the Greenland Purchase also brings to mind the jokes from the 2016 campaign about waking up and finding that Donald Trump had nuked Denmark. Hopefully Denmark finds a way to finesse Trump’s ego as they refuse his offer so the jokes don’t become reality.
Nothing about this administration is normal. Nothing. And heaven help us if we forget that.