Trump Offers Aid To Greenland, Creating Suspicion Among International Community

On Thursday, President Trump announced his plan to give Greenland $12.1 million in economic aid. The aid will be used to further economic development which will be distributed into industries such as tourism, mining, and education. This comes after President Trump’s decision to cut off more than $400 million in aid to the World Health Organization due to his distaste in the organization’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. President Trump’s decision to invest in Greenland and economic affairs is uneasy for some European actors.


Denmark, who delivers $740 million in aid to Greenland annually, currently has the closest ties to this arctic country. Denmark’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jeppe Kofod, said that he sees great benefit from U.S. aid in Greenland if it is for the right reasons. Carla Sands, the U.S. ambassador to Denmark said she hopes for a “secure and stable arctic,” after interest from China and Russia has prompted U.S. support. 


However, others remain skeptical after Trump attempted to buy the country last year. Denmark’s Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen called the President’s attempts to buy the country  “absurd,” stating; “Greenland is not Danish. Greenland is Greenlandic. I persistently hope that this is not something that is seriously meant.” 


Officials are wary of President Trump’s intentions behind the aid. Søren Espersen, a member of the Danish People’s Party said attempts to increase aid were “insulting,” viewing economic aid as “for developing countries.” Increasing aid could be a way for the U.S. to gain more of a stake into the mineral-rich land. These minerals are becoming more accessible due to climate change and could be a major source of conflict between countries.


It is a secret treasure with untapped economic potential. Michael Sfraga, director of the polar institute, pointed out that “if you invest a lot in a small island country, you could have a lot of sway there.” By increasing aid, Trump could be pushing Greenland’s economic dependence to increase political power over resources. 


Trump’s interest in Greenland comes from its abundance of rare-earth oxides. According to Mining Technology, Greenland holds the second largest deposit of rare-earth oxides and uranium, which are necessary for manufacturing technology. Currently, China provides 95% of the world’s supply of rare earths and with the U.S and China competing economically it could be of interest for the U.S to secure a supply of these minerals. 


Greenland has quickly become a geopolitical hotspot attracting countries such as China, who attempted to invest new mining facilities and airports into the region. Although China’s interest in Greenland has recently subsided, President Trump attempted to meet with Prime Minister Frederiksen to discuss Greenland, but was rejected.


U.S. attempts to acquire Greenland are not exclusive to the President Trump’s administration. In 1946 President Truman attempted to acquire the island for $100 million. His request was denied, but economic and military importance have kept Greenland on the radar for America. U.S.-Greenland ties date back to the Second World War when the country allowed the U.S. to house its military assets there. It is within the interest of the U.S. to keep strong relations with the country and avoid conflict from competing countries such as China. 


In order to not push any existing tensions, the U.S. and Denmark should create a settlement on Greenland investments. Greenland’s population is Danish but under independent rule in all areas except foreign affairs and defense, which Denmark has control over. While Greenland is in desperate need to reboot it’s economy after a hit from the COVID-19 pandemic, it is clear that the U.S. should not get involved in completely interfering with the region.


It is imperative that the United States should not undermine Greenland-Denmark connections. This could set the stage for future agreements on dealing with outside countries attempting to receive a chunk of economic prosperity from Greenland. Due to its lack of autonomy in foreign affairs and defense, the U.S. must ensure that any attempts to cooperate and make agreements with Greenland are made in collaboration with Denmark.

Paulina Colwell