The Irish Times view on Donald Trump and Greenland: diversionary tactics

The idea of buying the world’s largest island combines just enough plausibility to balance its diplomatic lunacy

US president Donald Trump has confirmed he is considering buying Greenland from Denmark but 'it's not number one on the burner.' Video: The White House

 

Donald Trump’s suggestion that the United States might purchase Greenland has caught the public imagination, illustrating once again his talent for diversionary tactics. The idea combines just enough plausibility to balance its diplomatic lunacy. Greenland is rich in resources and strategic importance, even though the Danes who control its sovereignty are appalled and deny it is for sale, while Greenlanders themselves believe any such notion would radically compromise their search for complete independence.

Trump is to visit Denmark early next month, helping explain why he is interested in the subject. He compares it to a large real estate deal but denies it is at the top of the political agenda for his talks there. The world’s largest island, Greenland contains a huge proportion of its water stored as ice. Climate heating melts the ice and drives up global sea levels, giving new opportunities for mineral and oil explorations. That has attracted Chinese and Russian interest and increased strategic superpower competition in the Arctic region. Its home rule government uses Greenland’s need for large-scale infrastructure and fishing investment to leverage its bargaining power.

Trump’s offer to purchase Greenland bids into this rapidly changing geopolitical and climatic scene and is not without precedent. It recalls the $15 million Louisiana Purchase in 1803 from Napoleonic France, the 1867 purchase by Andrew Johnson of Alaska from Russia, and an offer by the Truman administration of $100 million to Denmark for Greenland after the second World War. It recalls Woodrow Wilson’s purchase of the Danish West Indies in 1917 for $25 million to become the US Virgin Islands.

The recuperation of such imperial dealings in a new period of international turbulence by the US president helps explain why it is such a conversation piece. In response, those who reject his approach must focus instead on all the reasons why Greenland’s ecology and sovereignty need protection from such brazen initiatives.

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