President Donald Trump has floated the idea of buying Greenland multiple times in the last two weeks. Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen has called the notion “absurd.” Even so, there are sound reasons why major powers are more than a little interested in this huge piece of real estate.
The widespread interest in Greenland is just the latest indication of the island’s increasing geopolitical and economic importance.
- Conversation about the value of Greenland is taking place in many places including among China’s leadership, Russias leadership, the EU’s leadership, the mega-trade industry, international shipping services and raw material profiteers. Trump has simply picked up on it.
- Greenland’s growing strategic value is linked tightly to new North Atlantic shipping lanes opening up due to melting polar ice caps.
- Its largely ice-capped land mass is also rich in untapped natural resources.
- As a staging platform for military action from established bases, especially when formerly ice clogged waters are open, its strategic value is inestimable.
Greenland s an autonomous state that is part of the Kingdom of Denmark. Greenlanders have extensive self-rule and manage their own affairs in everything but defense and foreign policy. They have their own parliament and are also represented in the Danish parliament with two members. They recognize the Danish queen as head of state.
Greenland’s strategic value is linked tightly to new North Atlantic shipping lanes opening up due to melting polar ice caps (so I guess there is some good news when it comes to global warming). The new lanes have dramatically decreased maritime trade travel times, which generally includes traveling through the Panama or Suez canals to circumnavigate the world.
Greenland is the largest islant in the world with 80 percent of its 811,000 square ice-capped. It is the home to nearly 58,000 people who are mix of native Greenlanders, indigenous peoples, and immigrants from Denmark.
Greenland’s largest economic drivers are fishing and tourism, but the island has drawn rising interest due to its vast natural resources including coal, zinc, copper, iron ore and rare minerals.
There have been expeditions to assess the extent of the nation’s resources, but the true quantity is unknown. Studies also show that it has world’s largest remaining oil resources. Of note….nearly all of Greenland’s energy needs are addressed using renewable sources.
Greenland and Denmark have both expressed major reservations about development of natural resources having a significant negative impact on the environment and could provide inroads into the exploitation of the Arctic.
China, which is embroiled in a trade battle with the U.S., is looking to develop a “Polar Silk Road” of trade through the North Atlantic shipping lanes. China proposed building new airports and mining facilities on Greenland in 2018 but faced opposition across Europe, especially from NATO leadership and the EU and withdrew its offer.
The U.S. and Greenland have low level economic interaction but they have had an agreement since World War II to house American military assets at several bases on the island.
Thule Air Base, America’s northernmost Air Force base, has operated since 1943 in Greenland and has a ballistic missile early warning system and satellite tracking system.