Alaska senator proposes US consulate in Greenland

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A general view of a beach in Nuuk, Greenland June 1, 2016. (Alister Doyle / Reuters)
Could Greenland’s capital, Nuuk, shown here in a June 1, 2016, file photo, soon have a U.S. consular presence? (Alister Doyle / Reuters file photo)

In a speech in Washington, D.C., last week, a U.S. senator proposed the United States establish a consular presence in Greenland.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, the senior senator from Alaska and a prominent voice in Arctic affairs, suggested the move — “even if it’s just kind of a one-person shop.”

Greenland is autonomous within the Kingdom of Denmark and has recently seen a stepped-up push for full independence.

“If they do become independent, then we will have established a political representation on the island and we’ll have had some for several years and we’ll be in a good position to move forward with a new relationship,” Murkowski said. “And if they don’t: no harm, no foul.”

Sen. Lisa Murkowski speaks with reporters at the Alaska Dispatch News offices on Wednesday, October 14, 2015. (Loren Holmes / Alaska Dispatch News)
Sen. Lisa Murkowski speaks with reporters at the Alaska Dispatch News offices on Wednesday, October 14, 2015. (Loren Holmes / Alaska Dispatch News)

In an email, Greenland’s sole representative to the U.S. welcomed the possibility.

“Greenland has had a presence in Washington, D.C., since 2014 and we will welcome a U.S. presence in Greenland,” wrote Inuuteq Holm Olsen, who represents Greenland’s self-rule authority in the U.S. and Canada. “But we are also mindful that this is a decision solely that has to be taken by the U.S. government.”

A Murkowski spokeswoman said the senator had raised the possibility of opening a Greenland consulate with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. An inquiry to the State Department wasn’t immediately answered.

Murkowski called for a Greenland consulate during a speech last week at a two-day conference on U.S.-Russia relations in the Arctic hosted by the Wilson Center’s Polar Initiative and the Arctic Circle Assembly. (Disclosure: Arctic Now and Alaska Dispatch News publisher Alice Rogoff co-chairs the Polar Initiative and sits on the advisory board of the Arctic Circle Assembly.)

Murkowski’s suggestion for a consulate was one of four proposals listed in her speech aimed at maintaining, or even expanding, an American presence in the Arctic — even as some observers have expressed concerns about how engaged the U.S. will remain in the region now that the U.S. is no longer chairing the Arctic Council.

The other proposals were U.S. re-engagement at the former naval air station in Keflavik, Iceland, building a system of U.S. Arctic ports and boosting U.S. military Arctic training, including with other allies in the region, such as Norway.