Blinken’s stop-over in Greenland highlights its importance to the US

“We see the relationship is as a partnership,” Blinken said

By Kevin McGwin - May 21, 2021
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Greenland Premier Mute Egede and Dr. Mie Wingding, a scientist at Greenland’s Climate Research Center visit the Black Ridge Viewing site in Kangerlussuaq, Greenland on May 20, 2021. (Saul Loeb / Pool via Reuters)

The re-opening of a consulate in Nuuk last year should be seen as signal of the United States’ commitment to its relationship with Greenland and the Arctic, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Thursday during a several-hour stop-over in the country after attending a meeting of the Arctic Council in Reykjavík.

“What was important, I think, about coming here today was to demonstrate that the way we see the relationship is as a partnership,” Blinken said during comments to the press. “We have shared interests; we have shared values. At a time when the world is ever more complicated and challenging, it’s very important to reinvigorate our — not only our alliances, but our partnerships with countries that share our interests and values. And that’s why we’ve sought to deepen our engagement here in Greenland.”

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During the visit, Blinken toured the area around Kangerlussuaq Airport, a facility built by U.S. forces during World War II, where he saw how warming temperatures have caused Greenland’s ice sheet to recede.

He was accompanied by Greenland’s prime minister, Múte B. Egede, the country’s foreign minister, Pele Brobeg, and the Danish foreign minister, Jeppe Kofod.

Although the U.S. has had a permanent presence in Greenland for eight decades, it is only in recent years — with the establishment of the consulate, and the stationing, in 2014, of a Greenlandic diplomat in Washington — that the two countries have sought to develop a relationship independent of Denmark.

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Greenland is a self-governing member of the Kingdom of Denmark. According to its devolution agreement with Copenhagen, Denmark remains responsible for foreign affairs, though Nuuk is pushing to be allowed to follow its own course internationally, particularly in the Arctic.

In addition to the opening of the consulate, the U.S. and Greenland saw their relationship expand during the administration of former President Donald Trump, striking deals on things such as education, trade and investment, science, minerals and energy and economic growth.

Blinken expected more agreements of the sort during the years to come as Greenland and the U.S. expand their ties.

“This is something that is not like flipping a light switch. It’s going to develop over time. But there’s one fundamental thing that we both have in mind in talking to the prime minister and to my colleagues — is we both feel a strong obligation in everything that we’re doing to think about how it is what we’re doing is going to have a practical impact in bettering the lives of the citizens that we work for.”

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Thursday’s meeting did not produce any new agreements, but Broberg said the visit itself should be taken as a sign of how important Greenland is for the U.S.

“We have a lot of competent people working behind the scenes,” he said. “And these guys are helping put together how we work together between countries. But what this visit means for us in the first instance is that occasionally you need to show the rest of the world we are actually working together.”