The reaction to President Trump’s sudden interest in buying Greenland from Denmark has been mostly one of derision. And Denmark, which owns the territory, appears to oppose any sale.
But don’t laugh — an American purchase of Greenland could represent an extraordinary deal in terms of America’s national security, economic interests, and environmental protection.
As much as it might seem out of the blue, U.S. acquisition of Greenland is not at all a strange or irrational idea. Following Denmark’s fall to Nazi Germany in 1940, American forces defended Greenland. The roots of American-Greenland comradeship are thus old and formal. In 1946, one Harry S. Truman even attempted to purchase Greenland for $100 million. Was Truman crazy? On the contrary, he was the president who ended a global war and set America on its ultimate course to defeat the Soviet Union.
As for the contemporary utility of purchasing Greenland, it has extraordinary strategic value. Through the U.S. Air Force base already present at Thule, Greenland offers critical intelligence capabilities to conduct satellite operations and to detect possible over-the-North-Pole nuclear missile launches from China or Russia. Thule better allows the U.S. to warn its citizens of an imminent attack.
And it does more than that. Thanks to Thule’s deep water port and long runway, the base provides a logistics hub for operations in the Arctic. And it gives the U.S. military the means to deter and defeat prospective aggression. Russia, in particular, has been working to secure territorial control over resource-rich areas of the Arctic. America’s presence in Greenland is increasingly relevant for that reason.
The purchase of Greenland would further strengthen these existing national security benefits. Unbound from political sensitivities in Denmark, for example, the U.S. could station missile forces in Greenland, including intermediate range missile forces. Russia’s Arctic ambitions would have to be put on ice.
Greenland also abounds with resources. An already energy independent U.S. would have unfettered access to a land rich not only in hydrocarbons but also in rare earth metals that are currently only available from an adversary, China. Greenland also controls flourishing fishing waters.
But this isn’t just about American interests. Greenland’s small population also has everything to gain from a massive influx of American investment. The surge in tourism alone would surely offer a vast untapped potential.
And Greenland offers many grand opportunities for environmental protection. Its waters are home to numerous species of Whale, its lands to numerous species of flower and animals, and its skies to numerous species of birds. Greenland offers the potential for vast new designated wildlife reserves, and it would give American scientists the chance to study the Arctic environment from a unique vantage point.
As odd as it might sound at first blush — and America’s purchase of Alaska also seemed very odd at the time — Americans of all political stripes would benefit from Greenland and its 56,000 inhabitants joining our national family.