Is Trump’s Idea of Acquiring Greenland Folly or Genius?

President Donald Trump rolled the dice and landed on Greenland. Now he wants to buy it.

No, this is not a new version of Monopoly he’s playing with Cabinet members in the Oval Office.

It’s real. It’s strategic. Anyone who thought Trump was joking when he floated the idea doesn’t know him very well.

Of course, it’s probably impossible. But it’s making for interesting water cooler conversations around the world.

Danish PM Calls Idea ‘Absurd’

First let’s take a look at Greenland. Then we’ll examine why Trump wants to make a purchase that Denmark Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen labeled as “absurd.”

Greenland is the world’s largest island at 811,000 square miles. Approximately 80 percent of the Danish territory is ice-capped. It’s located between the Arctic and Atlantic oceans.

There’s something that comes as a surprise to people who have not looked at a globe recently. It is part of the North American continent.

For many years it has been more closely associated with Europe. Especially Norway and Denmark. As well as Iceland. But it’s actually in North America.

U.S. Has Air Force Base There

The population of Greenland is roughly 58,000. That makes it the least densely populated territory in the world.

The majority of residents are Inuit. They are concentrated on the southwest coast of the island. Residents have been self-governed for the past 40 years.

Greenland is divided into five municipalities. One of the two unincorporated areas – Thule Air Base – is controlled by Denmark. But it’s administered by the U.S. Air Force.

The U.S. base has operated in Greenland since 1943. And thanks to a 1951 treaty, it’s rent-free. We have a ballistic missile early warning system there. Plus a satellite tracking system.

It’s All About Natural Resources

Fishing and tourism are the country’s two main economic drivers. But that’s not what makes Trump intrigued about acquiring the island.

He’s much more interested in the potential financial impact of the island’s natural resources. These resources include zinc, copper, iron ore, coal and rare minerals.

Nobody really knows how many resources exist. But the country’s geopolitical influence is on the rise. Countries including China are very interested in it.

As recently as last year, China proposed building new airports and mining facilities on Greenland.

Shipping Lanes Opening

Another reason Greenland is coming into the spotlight in recent years is what’s happening around it.

With polar ice caps melting, North Atlantic shipping lanes are opening. These lanes reduce travel times and expenditures. And they provide a way to “borrow” natural resources.

Frederiksen insists Greenland is not on the market. As an outcome, Trump cancelled a recent trip to meet with her.

Many are criticizing Trump for even discussing the idea of acquiring Greenland. But President Harry Truman did the same thing in 1946. In fact, he proposed $100 million in gold for the island. Some say the country is worth at least $1 billion today.

Long-Term Investment

Acquiring land from Denmark is not without precedent. In 1917, the U.S. got the Virgin Islands from the Danish for $25 million in gold. That would be about $500 million today.

But even if Frederiksen were willing to consider anything, the negotiations could get very complicated.

Iwan Morgan is with the University College of London’s Institute of the Americas. He said such a deal would involve treaties and legislative processes in Denmark. As well as in Greenland and the U.S. The European Union would also want to get involved.

And any potential reward would be years in the future. If not decades. Much of Greenland is undeveloped, and the conditions are harsh.

Greenland Citizens Hopeful

Even if it never happens, Greenland residents may benefit from the interest and publicity.

Verner Hammeken is chief executive of Greenland’s Royal Arctic Line. He says: “When you stimulate investment in an area like Greenland, magic wonders can happen in mining, tourism and infrastructure.”

Greenland has only one commercial airport. And no roads between its 17 cities. If a deal leads to improvements in roads, airports, mines and tourism, that means job creation. That would be welcome in a country where unemployment is 9 percent.

“We’ve seen that when the United States catches interest in certain areas around the world, investments from private American companies follow,” Hammeken added.

What Do You Think?

Back in 1867, U.S. Secretary of State William Seward suggested acquiring Alaska from the Russian Empire. At the time of the $7.2 million deal, many Americans called it “Seward’s Folly.”

In hindsight, it was a steal. And one of the most strategic moves the U.S. has ever made.

If Trump somehow succeeds in acquiring Greenland, will we eventually look at it the same way? Will we see repercussions or will we gain from a deal?

Chime in with your thoughts in the comments section below. We’d love to hear from you.

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