Since buying Greenland from Denmark is apparently off the table for now, the Trump administration is doing the next best thing and tightening economic and security ties with the Danish protectorate. The primary goal? To keep China out of the Arctic.
The Wall Street Journal reports that “high-level officials from the United States met with their counterparts from the autonomous territory of Denmark and are close to finalizing a number of deals” with Greenland on “security and diplomatic cooperation as well as trade and investment initiatives.”
Greenland, the world’s largest island is strategically located in the North Atlantic bordering the Arctic. Denmark and the U.S. are also NATO allies and have a decades-old defense treaty. The United States has its northernmost military base, Thule Air Base, in Greenland.
That base includes a missile early-warning system, part of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD).
The Arctic has long been a preserve of the nations bordering it – the U.S., Canada, Sweden, Denmark/Greenland, Finland, and Russia. However, recently China has shown its intent to push its way into the Arctic as well.
In January 2018, China released its Arctic policy declaring itself a “near-Artic state.” The U.S. has strongly rejected that classification, saying there are only Arctic countries and non-Arctic countries.
As part of its effort to expand into the frozen North, Chinese Communist officials have attempted to gain influence in Greenland, notes WSJ. One effort in 2018, derailed by the Pentagon, would have seen China finance three airports on the island.
Thankfully the locals are wise to the China threat and have taken steps to avoid financial dealings with China. As WSJ quoted a U.S. official, “Greenlanders are a free market, open economy. But they have their eyes wide open to the Chinese and how they do business.”
As part of the U.S. move to strengthen ties, and reinforce the Greenland economy, reports WSJ, “the U.S. agreed to let Greenlanders take over the maintenance of the Thule Air Base, a U.S. Air Force base where the U.S. houses radar equipment and missile-defense capabilities, a move that will help the local economy.”
The Journal noted several other U.S. steps to more closely bind itself to Greenland, and impede Chinese influence, including a $12 million aid package earlier this year.
Additionally, according to WSJ:
The U.S. also disclosed that it would post a senior adviser from the United States Agency for International Development in Greenland to help facilitate programs that could bolster Greenland’s fishing industry.
Other measures by the U.S. appear designed to blunt Chinese investments by providing support to Greenland to help assess foreign investments. A future joint declaration, between the U.S. and Greenland, could further align the U.S. and Greenland, the official said.